Paul compares the life of a believer to that of an athlete in a race.
The Race of Faith
Heb 12:1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
CLOUD OF WITNESSES
The great cloud of witnesses are the examples in the Bible from the Hall of Faith in the previous chapter, Hebrews 11, such as Noah who built an ark even though he hadn’t yet seen rain, though he was mocked by people around him, he persevered in following God, thus saving his family. Others like Noah also kept on looking at the goal of following God despite trials, sufferings, and persecutions along the way. Together, they are like our unseen cheering squad rooting for us to finish our own race.
SIN THAT EASILY ENSNARES
We are supposed to lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily ensnares us: two differentiated things. Sin may be easier to identify. It easily ensnares us and we may gravitate towards the same sin. The enemy knows our weakness and will keep on putting this customized temptation that appeals to each person, he may dress it a bit differently, or present it in a more subtle way but definitely intended to ensnare like a mousetrap and he will try to get us to a state of captivity if he can. We need to pray that we will come to our senses and escape from the trap of the devil who intends to take us captive to do his will.
2 Timothy 2:26
and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.
The Almighty God the Creator’s Holy Spirit in us is a world greater than Satan, the Created. God gives us the power to conquer and overcome.
The weight (differentiated from sin) may not be sin. It may be a relationship or a duty or God’s blessing or use of a talent or anything that is not necessarily sinful but takes away our appetite for the things of God or serves as a hindrance that keeps us from running the race effectively.
RUNNING WITH ENDURANCE
In Verse 1 it says “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” This is meant not to be a one time sprint like an accepting Jesus and we’re done kind of thing. We are supposed to have an endurance run, more like a marathon. God wants us to finish well.
THE RACE SET BEFORE US
The word “race” in the ancient Greek is the word “agona” used for conflict or struggle. We are called to conquer these conflicts and struggles that we encounter as we run our own race to the finish. Paul never teaches to compete against other believers. Instead, he teaches in
Gal 6: 4
Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else.
This is an individual race and other believers are not our competitors but our own teammates. Paul writes:
May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had
LOOKING TO JESUS
2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith
If we look to the side, to the cheerers, we will be hindered in our race. We will have many internal and external struggles, distractions in the race. We need to look unto Jesus, or fix our eyes on Him as our goal. Even when we keep focusing on ourselves we can get filled with feelings of inadequacy or pride, we need to press on towards Him. And we have this promise on our side:
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
ENDURING ODDS TO THE FINISH
“who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Beyond our crosses, shame, and the many things that will hinder our running, there is joy. Focusing on Jesus helps us to endure the race. Others have endured crucifixion, getting boiled, being beaten to near-death, getting shipwrecked, and other blood-drawing crosses. Does this lighten our perspective of what it will take for us today to endure in the race?
Because Jesus has risen from the dead, we too have this hope:
just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.