The prize is also in the running

I try to be a runner. I really do. I have tried to be runner for about 15 years and I think running and I have finally made friends. Running used to be part of my eating disordered behavior since I considered running the only exercise worth doing because it burned the most calories. Nevermind the fact that I hated every minute of it and my knees and ankles complained for hours after I was finished. My latest attempt at running on a regular basis has lasted almost 9 months and it finally feels right because I’m doing it for the right reasons. I’m doing it because I allow myself to go at my own pace. I allow myself to be patient and enjoy the solitude. And best of all, I’ve found running to be very conducive to spending time with God. I think He likes the opportunity to talk to me while I’m pounding the pavement.

There are many references in New Testament Scripture to running, the race, and the prize. I remember in high school, the theme of one of our Fellowship of Christian Athletes conferences was Philippians 3:14: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” The message being that we should view our Christian life in the same way that we viewed our efforts to win the game/race/match — the ultimate goal of our running (ie, our Christian life) was winning the prize (ie, Christ). However, I don’t recall that we actually talked much about the quality of the running. So, I ask myself, is the prize the whole point of running the race? or could the prize also be in the running itself?

Of course, our reconciliation to God through Christ is the “point” of this life, but I think that God cares very much how we run the race set before us. Hebrews 12:1-2 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

I notice that in my ESV the word “endurance” (in some versions “patience”) is used in verse 1 to characterize our running and in verse 2 the word “endured” is used to characterize Christ’s work on the cross. Reading the Bible in English, I think it is easy to mistake these words as being the same or similar. I think it is important to learn that, in the Greek, two different words are used in these verses and the differences between these words are important. 

In verse 1, the word “endurance” – used to describe us – is translated from the Greek word “hupomone” which Strong’s dictionary describes as “cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy: enduring, patience, patient continuance (waiting).” Thayer’s dictionary goes further in describing this word as “steadfastness, constancy, endurance: in the New Testament the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” In verse 2, the word “endured” – used to described Christ – is translated from  slightly different Greek word “hupomeno” which Strong’s describes as “to stay under (behind), that is, remain; figuratively to undergo, that is, bear (trials), have fortitude, persevere: abide, endure (take) patient (-ly), suffer, tarry behind.” Again, Thayer’s dictionary goes a bit further to describe this word as “to remain, ie, abide, not recede or flee, to preserve, to endure, bear bravely and calmly ill treatments.”

Do you see the difference? It makes my heart ache. While we struggle daily running our race, complaining that our burdens are too much to bear, there is a hopeful and even cheerful nature to our enduring because we are waiting, after all, on the promise that is eternity with the Lord. Christ’s endurance, however, was marked by remaining behind, patiently suffering His unimaginable burden because He would not forsake us and leave us without salvation.

I will run. I will endure. And it will all be because of the endurance of my Savior.

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