"...let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us," Heb 12:1
When the epistles of the New Testament were written, they were done so in a language that the common person could understand. They often used parables, analogies, stories and turns of phrase that though contemporary for them, may be lost to us. In this case however, we certainly can understand the analogy of a race as it relates to Christian living.
The reader is invited to think in terms of the Olympic games. We can easily make this connection since we still celebrate a form of those games. Note how that in the "a" part of the verse it talks about a cloud of witnesses. Picture a stadium full of fans urging the runners on. The picture then shifts to us as the competing athletes. In order to run our fastest, it is necessary for us to shed some things. Those who study history may be aware that in the original games, athletes competed without clothing. Attire was considered an encumbrance that would serve to easily slow them down.
We are likewise encouraged to discard everything that would in any way hinder us from doing the will of the Lord. Certainly sin can and does prevent us from running an efficient race (living an effective Christian life) but there are other things that distract us that may not be sinful at all. Do you have the habit of missing worship because of your season tickets for the games of a local sports franchise? Does focusing all of your time and effort on the upkeep of your own home prevent you from using your ability to help someone less able with theirs? Does disposable income spent on self prevent you from giving more to the cause of Christ.
Beloved our desire must be to gain the approval of the Lord. We can do so by being diligent in our Christian living and continually striving for the prize.
Remember that "cloud of witnesses?" They ran the race before us and are now cheering us. That makes this race a relay. Not only was the gospel baton handed off to us, but we must hand it off to those who come after us. While we are running, however; we must endure and we must keep our eye on the prize.
Loving Like Jesus,