Even with all the aches and pains that go along with running
this race, it is a race worth running.
Years ago I used to love to run. I didn’t like to run for speed but for distance. I always tried to run farther and farther each time I would run. I really didn’t care how long I took to run, I just enjoyed running. After a few knee surgeries, a broken ankle, and aches and pains that come with getting older, I began to make excuses. The pain I felt running outweighed the joy I got by running. To me running in a race against myself just wasn’t worth running anymore because of the pain it caused.
Have you ever felt this way about life? Have you come to a place where you are ready for the world to stop so you can get off? I’ve been there. I get tired of some of the junk of life and those who shovel it around. But each time I get discouraged, my mind is brought back to a particular passage of Scripture that encourages me. I hope this encourages oyou.
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, 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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB
Whenever we see a “therefore” in Scripture, we need to know what it is there for. In this passage the author of Hebrews had just penned the “Hall of Fame of Faith” in chapter 11. That forms the basis of this passage. The “therefore” in v. 1 makes us look back on chapter 11 and remember all these persons of faith. Were they perfect? Had they lived an easy life? Uh, the answer would be an emphatic “No”. In chapter eleven you had a liar (Abraham), a murderer (Moses), a harlot (Rahab), and an adulterer (David). Perfect? No. Easy livin’ folks? No. But all listed as ones who lived their life by faith. So how does this affect chapter 12? Let’s take a look.
“since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us…”
The author states in v. 1 that we have a “great cloud of witnesses surrounding us”. These witnesses must the ones listed in chapter 11. The “therefore” in v. 1 makes this so. So the author is saying because of these witnesses surrounding us, we should do some things.
Before we get to the things we should do, what are these witnesses doing? Well picture a stadium filled with these witnesses. Now picture you are running on the track below. The witnesses are so much cheering you on as much as they are inspiring you on. They are examples of those who ran their race by faith. This life run by faith should inspire us to look for the One in whom these folks placed their faith. I believe that all these lives, if properly understood, point not to themselves but to the One who perfected them.
“let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us…”
First we need to lay aside everything that encumbers us. This is clarified by the next phrase “and the sin that so easily entangles us…” Do you have something that is always tripping you up? Get rid of it! The idea is not that we are sinless or perfect. In fact the text makes clear that the runners have sin issues. If you want proof, just look back at chapter 11. The idea here is to strip off anything and everything that causes us to stumble. So if you have issues with things on the internet, get off the internet. The same goes for TV. No matter what it is that causes you problems, you must get rid of it. After all, isn’t your love of Christ greater than your love of whatever thrill received through a particular sin.
Now recognizing a sin and ridding oneself from that sin are different things. Recognizing sin should be pretty easy. At least I want to believe it should be easy. Sometimes sin can become so ingrained in us that it is hard to recognize it. Has that ever happened to you? Honestly it has happened to me. Sin is sin no matter what we call it. We can get a little too comfortable with sin, can’t we? Well the author says that we need to get rid of these encumbrances and the sin that “easily” entangles us. We have to make a decision to rid ourselves of THAT sin. And once we rid ourselves of THAT sin, we need to move on to the other sins that will invariably come to the forefront.
“let us run with endurance the race …”
We are to run with endurance that which has been laid before us. Look at this again: run with endurance. We are not to run quickly, crazily, or in spurts. We are to run with endurance. The Greek word for endurance here is hupomone. It means “to remain under”. The idea is to remain in the stressful situation and not to look for an escape. This is the essence of endurance. Staying under pressure until the pressure achieves its purpose. Does this hurt? Yeah. Would I rather not be under pressure? Honestly, no. I have learned to embrace the difficulties. I’ve learned that the pressure is meant to purify me. While the pressure is not so pleasant, I’ve learned that it is necessary if I am to mature as a believer.
Have you learned to embrace the difficulties of life? Perhaps you have a “Mr. Helper” like me. He (or she) is always looking to remind you of past failures, real or imagined. These folks are everywhere. They have no other reason to live other than to try to knock you off your stride. They want to discourage you. They want to stop you. When you have a Mr. Helper in your life, embrace the challenge. And rely on your family in Christ. We need to be about encouraging one another, especially when there is a Mr. Helper involved.
“that is set before us…”
So endure as you run your race set before you. Did you see that? You don’t choose your race course. It is set before you. Your race—the road you take in life—may be quite different than the race set before me. That is fine. Actually that is better than fine! God is sovereign and we need to recognize that fact. When we submit to His sovereignty, things that previously made no sense and discouraged us now become part (somehow) of God’s plan for us. I can rest in His sovereignty knowing that nothing surprises Him.
“fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, ”
But not only are we to put off sin and run with endurance, we are to fix our eyes on Christ. We are to place our gaze on Him—the One who authored our faith and the One who will make our faith complete. That is a “for sure” thing. So what is the bummer here? Through trials and tribulations our faith is perfected. We will one day be perfect. That day may not be today, but it will surely happen. It is guaranteed to happen.
“who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus, who is the one who authored our faith and the One who will perfect it, is our example. Just like Jesus endured the cross with its shame because of the joy set before Him, we should all endure the temporary pain of running this race of life because of the joy that is set before us: we are being used by the creator of the universe in glorifying Him.
So, have you had a tough day? Week? Year? Are you finding the pressure of life getting to you? Do you have a Mr. Helper who just loves to ridicule you and harass you? Well, you’re in good company because if you don’t have struggles and difficulties, you need to examine if you are even on the race course. Those who are engaged in the race of life will have difficult times. We will struggle. We will be tested. And we will be refined. The refining process, while hot and pressure filled, is rewarding. So submit yourself to the sovereignty of God, stand up, live under the pressure with grace. And experience God perfecting the faith He has already given you.
Even with all the aches and pains that go along with running this race, it is a race worth running. Run your race well.