Nike is not something that you wear on your body but rather “Nike” is something that you possess in your heart.
It is apparent that both of these writers in 1 Corinthians and the Book of Hebrews are using sports metaphors to illustrate what the Christian life is all about. First of all, it is so fitting that they would use sports metaphors because the world or culture in which the New Testament was written was a sports enthusiast world. Many of the sports terms that we have in our current culture emanate from the 1st Century. Words like “coliseum” are derived from the Greek word “colosso.”
Another example would be “nike.” We say Nike® shoes or Nike® products. The term “Nike” is a New Testament word that means “victory.” So when Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be unto God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Paul is literally saying, “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the “Nike” through our Lord.” Nike® is not something that you wear on your body but rather “Nike” is something that you possess in your heart. Victory is in your heart – run to win.
So here the writers of our text who have been influenced by the sports of their day, borrow an analogy from the world of sports to helps us as believers to understand what it means to be a Christian. The writers of the text obviously had attended one of the track meets of that day in the Coliseum of Rome that seated thousands of people. The writers must have been watching the runners as they “stretched” and “strained” and as they “agonized” to run the race. Lifting that metaphor from the world of sports, the writer made applicable for us as Christians when he said, “Just as they ran their race, they ran not just to run, but they ran to win.”
The application he makes is that God has placed each and every one of us in a race and that He wants us to run with the intent of winning the race! God tells us in the last sentence of 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Run to Win!” Run with the intent to win! You are not just running in the race. You are running with the objective to win! He is telling you that your objective is to do whatever it is the Lord has called you to do to accomplish and achieve the “purpose” for which He has called you; “Run to Win!” The word “run” in our text in the Greek translation is the word “agon,” which is where we get our word “Agony.”
So when the writer of our text says “run,” he is saying that he understands that to be a Christian means that there are times when it gets tough! He understands that if you are a Christian, it’s not all fun and happy days. God has not called us to a resort of comfort. This is not easy believe-ism or cheap grace. To be a Christian means to “Agon.” This means when you’re a Christian, sometimes it gets rough, sometimes it gets tough, and sometimes it gets difficult, but the writer encourages us when he says, “We have to keep on running.” And you have to run to the point that at the end of the race you can hold your hands up in victory for the race the Lord has placed you in.
Run to win!
Notice in Hebrews 12:1, the writer tells us how as believers not only to run, but he tells us how we can win! He tells us how at the end of the day, when we have finished our assignment, we can look back over our lives with great satisfaction and say, “God you put me in a particular race and Lord I have won the race you placed me in.” Notice if you will, the writer gives us some ways to do it.
Now before I tell you how to win, let me tell you this; each of us has our own unique race to run. If you are going to be an effective runner, you have to put blinders on your eyes and stop looking in the other lane at the other runners because the race that God has called them to run is not the race the Lord has called you to run. Too many persons are trying to run somebody else’s race! You will never be effective until you know what track you’re supposed to be on. You will never be successful until you know what lane you’re supposed to be running in.
Here is something else you need to know. You are not competing with anyone else; you are competing with yourself. Simply run the race that God has put before you! Look at Hebrews 12:1; “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.” (marked out for us) Nobody should be running your race. And you shouldn’t be running anyone else’s race.
God has a particular race that has been marked out just for you. Mind your own business and run your own race. He wants you to win. He didn’t just put you on the track just to look cute., rather he put you on the track in order for you to be effective, productive and to be a winner!
The good news about this is that the writer of Hebrews teaches us a lesson on how we can be winners. All of us can be winners. Notice what he says in verse 1. “…since we are surrounded with such a great cloud of witnesses…” The way we as believers learn how to “Run to Win” is first, we are to lift our own beliefs by those who went before us. We are to lift our own confidence and our own faith by observing runners who have gone before us. Notice the first word you see in verse 1 of chapter 12. It’s the word “Therefore” or “Wherefore,” depending on your translation. That word serves as a connector. That word connects the 11th chapter to the 12th chapter.
The 12th chapter is a continuation of a theme that the writer began to give to us in the 11th chapter. In the 11th chapter, the writer is talking about men and women in the Old Testament who ran the race that God put them in. They were ordinary people but they won the race. They ran their race so effective that they ended up in Heaven’s Hall of Faith. And He gives us a list of the runners so that they may inspire us to know that when the race gets agonizing and tough and we don’t feel like we can keep on going, He tells us that we have some witnesses of the past that we can look at and see how they won their race!
This list is given beginning in Hebrews, chapter 11 around the 4th verse with Abel. Abel had a brother by the name of Cain and their parents were Adam and Eve. One day Cain and Abel went to church to worship. Now part of their worship was to give. Cain gave produce and Abel gave an offering from his livestock. The Bible tells us that God approved Abel’s offering but rejected Cain’s. Abel offered God a better offering and a better sacrifice. Therefore he made it into the Hall of Faith.
Verse 5 tells us about a man named Enoch who was an ancestor of Noah’s. Enoch, we are told, in an age of moral depravity and moral debauchery, that Enoch had fellowship with God. He was the only one that had fellowship with God, so much so, that he didn’t die. Enoch just walked with God one day and he just walked on away. He didn’t die; he was translated. By faith, Enoch was able to walk with God during such a difficult period that he didn’t experience death.
Continuing with verse 7, we are given another name, Noah. Noah is in the Hall of Faith because he had enough faith to build the Ark in preparation for the rain God was planning to send. Even though Noah didn’t know what an Ark or even what rain was, he just trusted God with his determination to build the Ark in spite of everyone else who were calling him foolish, stupid and crazy. God blessed him for his faithfulness and so Noah was entered into the Hall of Faith.
Moving on to verse 8, we see where Abraham was called to a place where he would later receive an inheritance. God told him to pack up his things and go to the place where He would show him. He told him not to leave a forwarding address, have faith and follow Him. And so it was by faith, Abraham followed God and the Bible said that Abraham was placed in the Hall of Faith.
As you can see thus far, Hebrews 11 showcases a list of the people placed in the Hall of Faith. Some were prominent persons, some were not so prominent or people we think should not have been there. Persons like Rehab, who was the Madam of a Kitty Kat Club in Jericho, made it to the Hall of Faith. Each person that made it to the Hall of Faith all had Faith! No one will ever win the Christian race unless you have faith. Listen, we have already established that the word “run” means “agon” and “agon” is “agony” and sometimes being a Christian gets difficult and can be agonizing. The only thing that will get you through during difficult times is your Faith! You need faith. Faith will get you through.
The chaplain for Timothy Partners, Ltd., Pastor Anthony E. Moore is a native of Baltimore, Maryland and his lovely wife, First Lady, Cynthia A. Moore a native of Dallas, Texas. Pastor Moore has served Carolina Missionary Baptist Church since 1987 and has been proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ for over thirty years. His latest book is “One Moore Minute” a devotional series. No matter your age, the color of your skin, your circumstance, your economic plight in life, it’s a fact, that through the love of Jesus Christ – you can do all things.