"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)."
A little digging into this verse says something about the Christian struggle.
The verb "run", trecw (trecho), has the meaning, "to exert oneself to the limit of one's powers in an attempt to go forward, strive to advance." This word was used for "rushing into battle (Rev 9:9)," for someone who would "run in a race (1 Cor 9:24)," and for evangelism - "pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly...(2 Thess 3:1)."
The noun "race", agwn (agon) and it's verb form agonizomai (agonizomai), means "struggle, fight, strain." It is interesting that our English word, "agony" comes from this word.
Our experience with "agony" or "struggle" does not seem positive. In fact, we often wish we could be removed from it. However, the New Testament paints a positive picture of the Christian "agon." For example,
"For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you say in me...(Phil 1:30)"
So, conflict, struggle, "agon," is an inherent part of the Christian faith. That is why Paul also says,
"Fight the good fight of faith (1 Tim 6:12)."
Paul qualifies the "agon" with the word, "good." The struggle, fight, and agony of our struggle is "good." That is why Paul uses the verb, "trecho" with the word, "agon." The only way to struggle the good struggle is through pressing forward with all you've got. You cannot run a race without that gut wrenching determination to advance quickly.
Determination is not enough. Without a finish line, there can be no race. That is why Paul says, "let us strive forward in the struggle laying ahead of us, fixing our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:1b-2a)." It is why he writes, "I run in such a way, as not without aim...(1 Cor 9:26)." We must have focus and aim, or we will do nothing more than run on a exercise wheel in a cage.
Aim and focus will help to struggle the struggle. Without focus, the struggle will overwhelm us in a sea of aimlessness. As a matter in fact, without aim, we would not struggle at all. Who in their right mind would embrace a meaningless struggle?
As we look a new year in the face, let us reflect on what our aim and focus is. Let us take aim in a direction that both builds and proclaims our faith. Let us leave our comfort zone and embrace our struggle through focusing on Jesus as our model on how we should worship God, minister to others, and share the good news.