“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1–2, AV)
In 2014, I decided to get back in shape after gaining a lot of weight. After a time of dieting and mild exercise, I got into running. After a while I decided to shoot for a 5k race, that is 3.1 miles. Later I did a 10k and then a half-marathon which is 13.1 miles. For the half, I trained for three months. One of the things I learned was that to finish the race, you needed to train for endurance, ensure you only carried the essentials for the race, and keep your eyes on the goal.
In these two verses, the author likens the Christian life to an endurance race. Frankly, there is so much content in these two verses, that it will take some time to unpack it all. First, he mentions that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Here he is referring to those who came before us, the heroes of the faith, many of whom he listed in the previous chapter. Some consider these witnesses to be spectators watching us. However, it seems preferrable to view this differently. These heroes of the faith rather than being spectators are witnesses to us of what true faith looks like. To understand true faith, we need to look at their witness. Since we have such examples, we then need to learn from them and run the race properly.
Second, the author tells us that in order to run this race, we must remove every weight and sin that easily takes hold of us. From personal experience I can tell you that carrying excess weight is very detrimental to running a race. One of the races I ran was called the Pack and Boots, to honor our military personnel. The first part was a 5k race in regular running attire. The second part was a one-mile race in combat boots and carrying a weighted rucksack. Let me tell you that was one of the most difficult miles I ever ran. To run well we need to shed the weight.
So, what weighs us down? The author mentions two things. One is sin. I liken sin to the excess flab we gain when we are lazy and eat too much junk food. Every excess pound makes running more difficult. In addition to sin, the author also mentions “every weight.” There are things that we do not generally consider as sin that can interfere with us running this Christian race. These are innocent things, so to speak, that can distract us from our devotion to God in this race. They can be hobbies, entertainment, social-media, relationships, etc. These things are not bad unless they consume us and steal our devotion to the Lord. This is really a matter of priorities. So, we must forsake sin and ensure our priorities are right.
Third, we are to run with patient endurance. I was in a race once where one of the guys I knew blasted out at the start line. I tried to call and have him set a pace, but he did not listen. About a mile out, he was totally out of gas and hurting. The Christian race is not a sprint, but an endurance race. We must run it by faith. When we do, we will run it patiently and persistently. We will not give up even with the pain for we will keep our eyes on “Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”
(To be continued.)