Photo by Brad Pearson

The Race (Hebrews 12:1-4)

… 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 …

Moving on from the descriptions of enduring faith demonstrated by the “great cloud of witnesses” in Hebrews chapter 11, the author links us to them by saying that we too are in the very same race; and he exhorts us to faithfully endure in like manner as they. As we learned in the end of chapter 11, the believers receiving this letter, as well as we, have an advantage that the previous witnesses did not have. We have Jesus. In a sense, Jesus is the final witness of enduring faith who takes our attention away from the prior characters and fastens it on Him. It is with “eyes on the prize,” so to speak, that we as Christians can run this race to completion, without giving up. We look to the Man of faith, who carried the cross up Golgotha’s hill; we see the nails pierce His hands and feet and the spear pierce His side; we see Him trusting His Father even in excruciating pain; and we see Jesus faithful to the end.  We learn in verse 2 that the motivation for Jesus’s enduring the cross was “the joy set before him.” This refers to more than just His final exultation in glory, but the joy of having his brethren see all this and enjoy it with him forever.  

Just as our Lord endured the hostility of sinners, we too are called to endure and finish this race in which we too will find resistance and hostility. There is one enemy that our text highlights that will resist and drag us down – it is sin (vs. 1,4). In verse 1 sin is likened to a weight, holding us back, tiring us out, and, if possible, keeping us from finishing the race. In verse 4, we find that the race is not easy; there is a costly and real struggle. We must actively be putting sin to death in our lives. If you are not struggling against sin, then you better start, lest it get the best of you.  Sin is powerful, dreadful and insidious; the only way we could ever be set free from its power was for God to intervene and do the necessary work to declare us holy. But as we are progressively sanctified, it would be to our peril to underestimate the power of sin. Our endurance may not cost us our lives (as it has for many martyrs before us), but nevertheless we must resist sin at all costs.