On Holding Fast and Drawing Near
Many people seem drawn to the strenuous action verbs of the Bible (strive, run the race, fight the fight, etc.), but in fact I think these often metaphorical passages suffer the violence of being wrenched from their contexts and made to serve purposes other than that for which they were intended. Men especially (and men's groups) are singularly noted for this. We don't seem to want to hear about resting, abiding, drawing near, so much as working, running, fighting, and winning prizes.
I've been reading Hebrews lately, and I find there that the characteristic imperatives, repeated many times, are 1) to enter or draw near, and 2) to hold fast (to our faith). And in fact these two action verbs are closely related. We do not draw near except by faith. Drawing near (to the throne of grace, to God) is an action we are only able to take through faith. So, we must hold fast to our faith (or to our confession, or to our confidence, or to our hope), and thereby, trusting that Jesus has made a way for us to approach the throne of grace, we draw near.
This is the basis of our relationship with God. It seems to me that much of Hebrews is spent elucidating this fundamental framework. All talk of "running races," then, must be embedded in this foundational understanding that any good thing we can ever do comes as a grace-gift from the throne of grace to a people who never deserved such largesse, but have received it nonetheless, through the blood of Jesus.
Well, as you may have noticed by now, I've got a "thing" about sermonic exhortations to work hard, to win the prize, etc., which seem to skimp on Jesus and his cross. These kinds of sermons seem to be adrift in the language of self-help, with a Christian gloss painted on. They lead at best to flurries of church activity followed by periods of exhaustion, frustration, or drift. I am convinced that the only real foundation for any such exhortation is the blood of Jesus. Our walk of love and obedience, if we are to walk it consistently, is going to be a response to the great love with which the Father has loved us. Come what may, I'm going to hold fast to this confession.