[On July 4th my twin sons joined me, my dad and my nephew to participate in the annual Peachtree Road Race. We were joined by about 49, 995 others who ran/jogged/walked the 6.1 miles through the streets of Atlanta to get a congratulations and the race’s unique T shirt. We were cheered along by countless spectators who lined the course. I’m a bit stiff the day after, but dare not complain since my dad took it in stride… As I reflect on that event, the theme of running the Christian race inspires me to heed the challenge of Hebrews 12:1,2:
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
After the race, I relaxed in my dad’s study and pulled off his shelf a classic commentary on Hebrews by John Owen. Here are some of Owen’s insights penned many years ago…- JBW ]
Our whole evangelical obedience being compared to a race, our performance of it is expressed by “running,” which is proper and necessary unto a race. And the obedience of faith is often so expressed: Psalm 119:32; Song of Solomon 1:4; Isaiah 40:31; 1 Corinthians 9:24; Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16; Galatians 5:7.
And there are two things required unto running: 1). Strength; 2). Speed; the one unto it, the other in it.
There is nothing that more strength is required unto than unto running in a race: “Rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race,” (Psalm 19:5). He had need be a strong man, who undertakes to run a race for a prize or victory. And speed is included in the signification of the word. To “run,” is to go swiftly and speedily. The first is opposed unto weakness, and the other to sloth and negligence. And these are the things required unto our Christian race: 1). Strength in grace; 2). Diligence with exercise.
The due performance of gospel obedience, especially in the times of trial and temptation, is not a thing to be attended in an ordinary manner. Spiritual strength, put forth in our utmost diligence, is required unto it.
Seeing, therefore, that we are called unto the running of a race, we should greatly consider the things which may enable us so to do, that we may “so run as that we may obtain.” But our weakness, through our want [lack] of improving the principles of spiritual life, and our sloth in the exercise of grace, for the most part, cannot sufficiently be bewailed; and I am sure are inconsistent with this exhortation of the apostle.
The last thing to be considered in the words, is the necessary adjunct or concomitant of this running the race, namely, that it be “with patience.”
Patience is either a quiet, submissive suffering of evil things, or a quiet waiting for good things future with perseverance and continuance, unto the conquest of the one, or the enjoyment of the other. The word here used is by most translated “tolerantia,” and so principally respects the suffering of evil and persecution, which they were to undergo. But these things may be distinguished, though they cannot be separated, where patience is a fruit of faith. He who suffereth quietly, submissively, with content and satisfaction, what he is called unto for the profession of the gospel, doth also quietly wait for and expect the accomplishment of the promises made unto them which so suffer, which are great and many.
[At the conclusion of his race, Paul declared, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
The strength for the race comes by waiting on the Lord in faith whereby He renews (literally “exchanges”) our strength for His (Isaiah 40:31). However, this “not I, but Christ” experience is not one of passivity. Paul affirmed that we are to discipline ourselves for the purpose of godliness (1 Tim. 4:7). The spiritual exercises of Bible reading, prayer, worship, giving, fasting, etc. need not be done legalistically; rather, these responsibilities of discipleship keep the soul oriented to the indwelling Christ. In a word, we are to cooperate!
This balance is seen in Philippians 2:12,13: “Therefore, … work out your own salvation [which has been received by grace in the spirit but should be confirmed and demonstrated in the believer’s character and behavior] … for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”
Dear fellow runner, be inspired by the great cloud of witnesses. Lay aside any entanglements and look to the finish line!]
 from Owen’s commentary at Hebrews 12:1. Online at http://www.godrules.net/library/owen/131-295owen_w3.htm
About John Owen: “Born in 1616, he entered Queen’s College, Oxford, at the age of twelve and secured his M.A. in 1635, when he was nineteen. In his early twenties, conviction of sin threw him into such turmoil that for three months he could scarcely utter a coherent word on anything; but slowly he learned to trust Christ, and so found peace. In 1637 he became a pastor; in the 1640s he was chaplain to Oliver Cromwell, and in 1651 he was made Dean of Christ Church, Oxford’s largest college. In 1652 he was given the additional post of Vice-Chancellor of the University, which he then reorganized with conspicuous success. After 1660 he led the Independents through the bitter years of persecution till his death in 1683. – J.I. Packer. http://www.johnowen.org/
 “I will run the course of Your commandments, For You shall enlarge my heart.” Psalms 119:32. “Draw me away! THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM We will run after you…” Song of Solomon 1:4. “But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31. “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.” 1 Corinthians 9:24. “And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.” Galatians 2:2. “holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” Philippians 2:16. “You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Galatians 5:7, (NKJV).
Bracketed material – JBW. Scripture quotations in brackets are from the New King James version.
The theme of balance is further developed in Grace Note, “Balancing Our Walk.”