Running a Race with Endurance
The Christian life is a race, a race that we are called to run with endurance – for good reason. All Saints Day helps strengthen us in this race by keeping our eye on the prize 9 After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”.
Eyes Fixed on the Goal
So as we are running this race, why is it that our Jesus has to remind us to fix our eyes on him, or why is it that the saints that have gone before us do the same? Pretty simple answer: we are too often tempted to take our eye of the goal and look around. That is harmful for the race.
The Danger of Looking Back
When you look behind, you see a bunch of people not running the race at all. They seem to have forgotten that there is a race, that they are accountable to God, but think this is the only destination. These are people you know, and this hurts. But God promises that He will not lose one that is his own. He does not desire the death of a sinner but that all come to repentance, that he is gracious and merciful and though he can be rejected, he can also bring faith to even the hardest of hearts (just ask Saul/Paul). So keep praying, gently answering, and sharing the hope that you have, because if you stay looking back, you will have a difficult time running the race with endurance.
The Danger of Looking Around – Differences
When we look around, we also see a bunch of people running this race with us, too. That can be frustrating. They look different, they talk different, they act different. Some are sinful differences, absolutely. However we are not running this race against them, but with them, encouraging one another in repentance and love. We can also acknowledge there might not be a right or wrong, but there almost always is a wrong way of speaking (behind their back – with contempt or judgment).
The Danger of Looking Around –Anger and Jealousy
But keeping your eyes focused on the ones who are running the race with you, rather than the lamb in the midst of the throne will make you trip, out of passions like jealousy or anger. You might be tempted to rewrite the beatitudes to sound like, “Blessed are the rich, the powerful and the popular,” “Blessed are the ones who have everything together,” “Blessed are the people pleasers,” or “Blessed are those who revile you and persecute you because you are so much smarter than they.”
Who is Blessed?
But Jesus blesses the ones who are the peacemakers in this life, the ones who are constantly examining their heart for selfishness and sin and anything that doesn’t match up with his purity. Jesus blesses the one who is persecuted on his account, the ones who stands up for life, marriage, injustice, defends the reputation and name of another being slandered, or speaks any of God’s truths in the midst of so many lies. Jesus blesses the one who is humble, the one who doesn’t have it all together and who mourns over their sin and a failure to live according to what he desires – theirs is the Kingdom of God, they shall be comforted, they shall inherit the earth. You don’t have to make up ways of being blessed by God, he lays it out clearly in his Word. Keep your eyes focused on his Words and count your blessings the way Jesus would have you do. That is running the race with your endurance.
Resetting our Sight
This day helps us realize that we are not able to see this life, other people, our troubles and suffering as clearly as we sometimes think we do. This day resets that sight and also helps us realize that we are not just running to attain a prize that is only way up ahead, to a Lamb who was once slain and is now only locked up in heaven waiting for us to get there.
The Lamb in Your Midst Now
John sees saints wearing white robes because they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. Are you any less? You are clothed with Christ, your Father sees you as a holy, your pastor calls you a saint all the time only because Scripture does that, too. John sees saints who are sheltered with the presence of God. Is this promise not also for you? Has he not promised, “I will be with you”? He is here, and when you leave he is in you and he is with you and he and his holy angels are protecting you and guiding you. John sees the Lamb in the midst of the throne who will be their Shepherd, and God who will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Is he not also your Good Shepherd? Has he not wiped away tears that you have shed for your sin by announcing that he has died for you and that you are a child, loved and listened to by the Father? Has he not wiped away tears that you have shed from living in this life of death and chaos? He has comforted you. Do not despair. He will again.
Receiving the Goal Even as Your Run Toward the Goal
So as you’re running this race, close your eyes and hear him. Then open your eyes and look around for a second. Know that the differences that separate you from other Christians are incomparable to the things that you have in common, in communion with them. The devil separates but the Holy Spirit gathers, unites, builds and preserves the holy Christian church. Run the race with endurance and be welcomed here, the place where the Lamb on his throne meets sinners with his rich blood, makes your robes white again, satisfies the hungry heart and strengthens the wobbly knees and steadies the trembling hands with his own strength. He did this by taking away our death and giving us his life. You get to be in a place of betweenness as Heaven is opened, you hear a heavenly voice and eat heavenly food. You get a little of the destination even as your are running there.