Run the Race (Article)
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. (Hebrews 12:1–2)
Hebrews chapter 12 begins by connecting to the previous chapter. The reality is that those who have gone before us in the faith surround us. They are not geographically surrounding us, like the neighboring towns and communities. Nor are they historically proximate like the generation before and after. Nor are they a familial connection or nationality linking us (unless we recognize we are part of the family of faith and citizens of heaven). They are witnesses of what? I think they were looking forward to God’s promises kept: a city whose foundation is the Lord (11:10, 14–16). They had faith: faith in God, especially in hard times. They saw God’s work and believed his work would continue. They didn’t know the exact timing of when God’s promises would be answered, but that is just like faith. Faith is the conviction of things not seen (11:1).
They are now experiencing the benefit of being with God through Jesus as they await the resurrection. They are not far off. In a short time, we will join them, then our children, and their children. Generation after generation will be in heaven by faith.
In another sense, they are witnesses of the race of life that God has set before us. They are a cheering squad like the angels rooting for that one straying sheep to return (Luke 15:7, 10).
That being the case, what does the author of Hebrews want us to do? He uses a running image to invite us to streamline our effort. Let’s run our spiritual race efficiently. What does that mean? There may be hobbies and habits that distract us from following God. But, that is not all; the author says there may be sin we need to throw off that is dragging us down. So, instead, he calls us to run with endurance. We are ultramarathoners. This is a long-distance race for most of us.
How do we run with stamina? The author invites us to look to our pace-setter, Jesus. He is the one who gave us faith and purifies our faith. Who models what endurance under trial looks like. He despised the shame of the cross. We can hate the shame of the cross and persevere. He saw the future joy before him in the resurrection and reunion with God. So, likewise, we can see the future joy with God and the reunion with God.
Where are we in the race? Do we have distractions we need to throw off? The sin we need to get rid of? Are we looking to Jesus? Do we see the joy that is before us? Do we understand the shame of the cross? So let us ponder, wonder, and run.