Running the Good Race
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
I was short for my age, when growing up, and have always lamented the fact that I only achieved the height of 5 foot 8 and 7/8. I couldn’t quite achieve the height 5 foot 9. Yet despite my short legs, I could run fast. At a time when the world record for the 100-yard dash was 9.3 seconds, I could run it consistently at 10.0 and occasionally at 9.92 seconds., Yes I’m dating myself by saying 100 yard dash instead of 100 meter dash. If need be I could also run the 220-yard dash as well, at a time of 22.0 to 22.3 seconds.
Yes, I could run fast, but I certainly could not run long distances. I was a sprinter, built to run short distances and run them faster than my friends but had no endurance for the long distance races.
I admire those that can run long distances because I have a tendency of loosing my focus, loosing wind and falling to the back of the pack and eventually so far behind there is no way to catch up.
In Hebrews chapter 11 Paul has given us evidence of the many who lived by faith. By faith they overcame the obstacles before them and triumphed in Christ by faith. Paul points out toward the end of Hebrews 11 that this faith can bring about people mocking us, placing us in prison and even death. So it would appear faith is not for the faint in heart.
Verse 1 of Chapter 12 gives us the assurance that there is this cloud or group of people who have gone before us, giving us witness to the principle that faith and faithfulness can triumph over every obstacle.
Paul uses the word cloud as a metaphor to describe the host of people who have gone before, and he uses the metaphor of running a race.
Imagine the image of Christians being athletes making final preparations to run a race in an ancient stadium, with the spectators seated on benches rising tier above tier on all sides. The athlete, intent upon winning the race, glances momentarily at the mass of faces that surrounds him like a cloud. Here, the witnesses are the uncounted worthies of faith mentioned in chapter 11 each of whom, despite handicaps and hindrances of every kind, finished his course with joy. Their faithfulness and endurance brought them victory in the race of life, which I might point out is a marathon and not a sprint. The Christian, conscious that the eyes of the faithful of all ages are now intently fixed upon him, as it were, the Christian athlete experiences an urgent impulse to put forth every effort to win the race that has been marked out for him. What Paul is saying is the witness of their lives and what they endured should be an inspiration to us all.
To the early Christian church reading these worlds of Paul, they would have been familiar with the Greek athletic contest which had long been popular throughout the Mediterranean world, and the illustration would have been vary familiar to every reader. Therefore Paul often makes use of the metaphor of race to represent his career as missionary to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:2; Philippians 2:16; II Timothy 4:7) or, as here, to represent the life experience of the Christian (See I Corinthians 9:24-27).
Satan attempts to weight us down with guilt, the importance of self, and self-appearance. However, men and women who are motivated by faith will not hesitate to dispose of anything and everything that might keep them from achieving their goal. Yet Paul does not tell us what these things that weight us down are, instead he leaves that to his reader to discover as they by faith establish a relationship with their Lord and creator.
Unlike when I used to run the race and there was only one winner, in this race, every participant or entrant may win, for he is not competing with others, but with himself. He is not required to excel his competitors or to surpass a mark made by some previous contestant. Self is his only competitor, and the only requirement that he exercise faithfulness and patience in his contest with self, and by the grace of Christ, overcome every “weight” every tendency to evil.
The process of separating us from sin requires Patience and is often painful and thus requires perseverance, perseverance even in the face of successive difficulties and disappointments and patience to await the reward at the end of the course. You see, the Christian Race is the experience by means of which character is developed.
Vs 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.
It is by looking unto Jesus that grace and strength to overcome every difficulty and to endure all things comes from. As Peter found when he essayed to walk on the wind tossed waves of Galilee (see Matthew 14:24-32), it is dangerous to turn one’s eyes away from the Saviour, even for a moment. To keep the eye of faith fixed upon Jesus is our only hope of maintaining an uninterrupted contact with Him who is the source of our power and strength, so we can endure and overcome.
Christ is the author, “Leader” “originator,” “Founder” and “pioneer” and “Prince” of our faith. And in Hebrews 2:10 he is called the “Captain” of our faith. Christ is the center of the plan of salvation and the source of every Christian grace. It is He who calls fallen men out of the dismal darkness of sin and into the glorious light of the gospel. It is He who cleanses us from our previous life of sin and qualifies us to become sons and daughters of God. It is He who justifies them by his grace, by virtue of His atonement on Calvary. It is He who plants our feet on the Path to heaven and then gives us the strength and endurance to run the race on the path to heaven.
Therefore the work which He has begun, He will finish. We are not left to do it on our own, but by faith we look upon Him who suffered more, endured more, bore more, than all off us combined, therefore He being one like us, understands our suffering and will sustain us. He will represent us before the Father, who also loves us with an everlasting love, who sent Jesus to become one like us, so that Christ could comprehend the difficulties we endure. Because through Christ suffering and death we gain faith and receive grace and continue on our race to eventually share eternity with all the ransomed from all ages who also ran the race of faith and received their strength from Him who is the author and finisher of theirs and our faith.
Therefore do not sprint to the finish line but determine that from this point forward and for the rest of our life to look only upon Christ who will give you the strength, courage and endurance to complete the race. Then we to like Christ can come into the Presence of our God and Father, all victorious in Christ.