Run Your Race with Perseverance

Soon after my mother’s death, I found Hebrews 12:1–2 written on a sticky note in the front of her Bible. I call it her “sticky note legacy.” It was the Bible my dad gave her in the midst of her battle with Alzheimer’s, so her handwriting was childlike and some words were spelled incorrectly.

A woman who can write, “Paise the Lored” by her favorite Bible verses—even as Alzheimer’s ravaged her mind—is a woman who knew what it meant to “run with perseverance” until the very end.

Just one week into the new year, my mother passed away on January 8, 2013. God knew that I needed to begin that year with the truths of Hebrews 12:1–2 clearly in focus. As a women’s ministry director at a large church at that time, I was struggling with burnout and considering resigning. I had grown weary of running with perseverance the race marked out for me and even questioned my calling.

As you enter another new year as a busy ministry leader, perhaps you can relate. Perhaps being told to persevere while running your ministry race makes you want to run the opposite direction.

Let’s push pause together and take time to dwell in Hebrews 12:1–2 to see what God might have for us as we begin this new year.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (emphasis added).

Great Cloud of Witnesses

The opening verses of Hebrews 12 follow the long list of persevering heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. Heroes like Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Rahab, and a most-reluctant leader Moses.

Those men and women, and others unnamed, are the “great cloud of witnesses” who surround the readers of Hebrews 12:1–2, including us! And their ancient stories offer us inspiration today to persevere—with faith—in the midst of our own busy ministry callings.

Throw Off Everything That Hinders

Back when I wanted to quit my leadership role due to burnout, a dear mentor boldly asked me if I was trying to “do” ministry in my own strength. I was a bit defensive at first, but I knew she was right. Like most women, I was trying to be all things to the people I served: mentor, administrator, event planner, teacher, counselor . . . not to mention a wife, mom, and loyal friend!

I knew I had to “throw off” things that hindered me from walking in the true calling He had placed on my life. I faced the sin of perfectionism I had placed on myself; I realized I had assumed a “messiah complex,” thinking God needed me to meet the needs of the women I served. God had called me to disciple others through His Word and prayer, and yet I had strayed from that calling as I tried to “run” a large ministry in my own strength.

Surrounded by a supportive group of women on my leadership team, I began to let go and trust them more to lead in their respective callings. We looked carefully at the crowded ministry calendar. A renewed focus on making disciples helped us weed out the fluff—or other ministry options—that were just keeping women busy but not truly discipled. We all agreed that that year had the greatest ripple effect with new believers coming to Christ and more women being reached in our community.

Run the Race Marked Out for You

During the last Olympics, actor-comedian Bill Murray tweeted, “Every Olympic event should include one average person competing for reference.” That made me laugh out loud as I tried to picture myself swimming the relays or running the hurdles alongside Olympic athletes.

Within our ministry callings, too often we try to run a race that is not marked out for us, which can only lead to exhaustion and burnout. As leaders, we need to make sure we are running the race He has marked out . . . for us.

Fix Your Eyes on Jesus

Dear sister in Christ, your calling to serve in women’s ministry is a high and holy one. Your faithful service is a gift to the women you serve. And such a calling can make you a target of the enemy who is always threatened by humble, servant leaders. It is easy to grow weary, and ministry fatigue can be confusing as you wonder if it comes from the enemy or if it’s God’s way of closing a door.

I want to encourage you to begin this new year by carefully seeking His heart for your ministry and the calling He has on your life. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Find time to get away with Him alone, even for a day retreat. Take your Bible, prayer journal, and worship music, and run to Him. Ask trusted friends and mentors to pray over you. He is not a God of confusion, and He will make your next steps clear for you!

My “race” in that burnout year of 2013 actually became more about slowing down and spending more time with God in His Word and in prayer. Remember I shared that we had a new discipleship focus that year and probably our most fruitful year in terms of decisions for Christ? However, the sense of burnout persisted, so I continued to seek Him as to what His best plan was for my gifting.

One year later, God opened a new door for me that I know was the next race He marked out for me. That’s how I ended up in my current role at Moody Publishers as an acquiring editor of women’s books and discipleship resources. A new calling that I am loving.

I’m praying for you as you run the race He has marked out just for you!

About the Author

Judy Dunagan

Judy Dunagan is an acquisitions editor for women's books and Bible studies at Moody Publishers. She has a heart for discipleship and making God's Word and prayer come alive in everyday life. She is the author of the book The Loudest Roar: Living in the Unshakable Victory of Christ. Judy and her husband Rick live in Colorado. Connect at