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. Hebrews 12:1
The faithful believers throughout the centuries are now stood as a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith. They do not “witness” as if they were merely spectators, looking down from heaven and watching believers’ lives; instead, they witness through the historical record of their faithfulness that constantly encourages those who follow them. These great believers’ lives, examples, and faithfulness in God, without seeing his promises, speak to all believers of the rewards of staying in “the race.” This metaphor is a marathon, a test of stamina and commitment, an apt description of the lives of these suffering believers.
The first step of preparation to run the race requires that the racers strip off every weight that might slow them down. Christians must be “spiritually trim” and able to run the race unencumbered. Many “weights” may not be necessarily sinful acts, but could be things that hold us back, such as the use of time, some forms of entertainment, or certain relationships. But it is especially important to strip off the sin that so easily hinders our progress. Sins such as greed, pride, arrogance, lust, gossip, dishonesty, and stealing can cause believers to drift off spiritual course. Then they must run with endurance the race that God has set before them. They do not select the course; God marks it out.
Therefore, the Christian life is here likened to a Greek race. Christ is the way to God, and along the way, the Christian as a soldier is to stand firm, as a believer is to walk, but as an athlete, he is to run the race. And one day we are going to fly, my friend—that will be at the Rapture. We are going to do a little space travel to the New Jerusalem.
When someone becomes lost in the extreme cold of the far north, there is grave danger of freezing to death. The first step in that process is to fall asleep. You must fight sleep, and you must keep moving, or you will freeze to death. In a spiritual sense, the danger is the same for us as believers. We must force ourselves to stay awake and keep moving forward in our relationship with Christ. Otherwise, we will just fall asleep.
The Christian life involves hard work. It requires us to give up whatever endangers our relationship with God, to run with endurance, and to struggle against sin with the power of the Holy Spirit. To live effectively, we must keep our eyes on Jesus. We will stumble if we look away from him to stare at ourselves or the circumstances surrounding us. We should be running for Christ, not ourselves, and we must always keep Him in sight.
Lord, I realize that there is nothing will hold me back as unbelief will. I must confess that it has held me back more than anything else in my Christian life. Help me to lay aside every weight. And let me run with endurance the race that is set before me until it is accomplished. Amen.