Hebrews 12 is about running the race of faith successfully, yet the word winning isn’t mentioned once. Rather, the writer emphasized endurance and discipline. Without these qualities, the race can’t be won.

Winning a race is pleasurable, but running is often painful. To be spiritual athletes, we must get rid of every weight and sin that ensnares us. That takes discipline. We must accept the “burn” of endurance for the joy that is set before us—finishing the race.

Our family took in an addict named Derek, who for years had been ensnared by drugs. Derek began his race of faith by accepting Christ and His forgiveness. Formerly he had been ruled by the law of Satan’s kingdom: Enjoy an unruly life now and pay the cost later. Now he was learning the law of Christ’s kingdom: Pay the cost of God’s discipline now and enjoy the fruit of righteousness later (see Heb. 12:11). One day Derek said, “It’s amazing what you can endure when you know you’re winning!”

The race of faith is unique because we’re competing against ourselves, not others. To win over sin and self, we must endure God’s loving discipline. But knowing we’re winning instead of sinning makes the pain of discipline worthwhile.