Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
I think my faith life began more like a childlike skip – I assumed it was all fun and enjoyment. When life proved that faith wasn’t child’s play, I grew weary of running the faith race and assumed I must have never really started. In high school, I would attend a mid-winter youth retreat or summer camp and leave on a mountaintop of faith, and then return home only to plummet right back into a valley of self-confidence and despair.
One of the most pivotal points of my faith was when I realized that faith wasn’t childish skipping; it was running and running hard. But, I had a cheerleading squad in the book of Hebrews. During a Beth Moore study about ten years ago, I remember Moore posing a question: “What will your ‘by faith’ story look like?” I chuckled at the question, but it stuck with me. “What parts of my current life required any faith at all?” I questioned.
The eleventh chapter of Hebrews hold up great men and women of the faith: by faith, Abel offered a better sacrifice, by faith Noah constructed an ark in reverent fear and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith, by faith Abraham obeyed, by faith Sarah received the power to conceive, by faith, by faith, by faith.
One thing is clear, our faith matters to God.
This cloud of witnesses demonstrates that regular men and women can do mighty things through faith when they trust in God’s faithfulness. But it won’t be easy. It will be a hard race that requires dedication and endurance. The very word for “race” comes from the Greek word “agon” – the same Greek word from which we get “agony.” Running this faith race at times will seem like agony. But we can do it, because we have a cloud of witnesses in Enoch, Moses, Jacob, Isaac, and the rest – cheering us on and reminding us it is Christ who is strengthening us.
We must learn from the example of these witnesses to throw off the weights and the sin keeping us from running. Imagine an olympic runner attempting to run a race wearing heavy winter clothes, a trench coat, and snow boots: it wouldn’t work. Instead he strips himself of all clothing hinderances and wears only the minimum amount of clothing he needs.
Some hindrances are simply weights: they aren’t sinful in and of themselves, but they weigh us down. Other encumbrances are sinful – they disobey the commands of scripture and dishonor God. Both weights and sin must be shed to run with endurance. Through the Holy Spirit, we must learn to discern what our heavy winter coats are: too much television, a distracting friendship, disorderly priorities, the drive to be the “best”, our need for approval of others, pride, envy, greed, comfort. We must each identify our own hindrances and besetting sins, if we are hoping to throw them off.
In our own strength, we have no endurance. Even the most hard-core, determined, “A+” Student will give out at some point. We need the endurance that only Christ can offer. In our weakness, we look to the humanity of Christ – who when he was tempted, resisted every time. Christ lived the perfect life we could never live and was faithful unto death. And when he was crucified, he despised the shame – counting it as insignificant when faced with the joy set before him. The joy of being united with God forever in His presence (), the joy of reward and being crowned with honor and glory (), and the joy of bringing many sons to glory () far outweighed the shame of the cross.
Our endurance comes from Christ’s ability to persevere. He is interceding on our behalf and He is with us. His word says, “fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand ().” We can run the race that He sets before us, with faith and confidence knowing He is with us and upholds us.
Where are you today, believer? Are you weary? Are you standing in your own strength? Or, are you encouraged and running the race of faith relying on Christ’s strength? If your faith is weak, would you pray and ask the Lord to strengthen your weak knees so you might run this race with endurance? God is faithful. He is able to sustain you even in your faithlessness.
Run by faith, believer.
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (ESV)
11 You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. (ESV)
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
4 what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
5 Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet, (ESV)
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth. (ESV)
10 fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (ESV)
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (ESV)