“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).
In some ways wouldn’t it be nice if living the Christian life was like running a 50-yard dash? You could just sprint that short distance, cross the finish line, and be done. However, it is not described as a 50-yard dash or even an 800-yard race. Instead, as the opening verses above describe, the Christian life is compared to a long-distance race and for this one needs to develop endurance.
In writing to the Hebrew Christians, the writer mentions that they were in need of endurance. He states, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise” (Hebrews 10:36). These Christians were in danger of giving up on the Christian faith and not finishing the race so the writer warns, “But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39).
Keeping faith in God is essential to being able to have endurance (Hebrews 10:38). He defines what faith is: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Furthermore, he describes the essentiality of faith in our relationship with God: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). He then gives example upon example of those who endured living godly lives because they maintained faith in God (Hebrews 11:4-39).
The Hebrew writer then describes the picture of these faithful witnesses encouraging us to continue to press on towards the finish line. They were able to reach the finish line because they were willing to let go of those things which could weigh them down as they ran the godly race and forsook those sins which could ensnare them (Hebrews 12:1). Earlier he describes how they died keeping the faith: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11:13-16).
Not only is this cloud of faithful witnesses encouraging us to keep running with endurance, but so is Jesus. He too is pictured as having crossed the finish line and is waiting for us to do the same. We are encouraged to keep our eyes fixed on Him as we run the Christian race. After Christ ran His race with endurance He sat down at the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2). To help us run with endurance we need to continually reflect upon Christ: “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:3).
I understand that the Christian race is not a sprint, but more like a long-distance marathon. As such, it is tempting to become weary and want to give up. Keeping faith is important to running this race (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:7). However, it is encouraging to have faithful witnesses and my Savior Jesus to spur me on to the finish line. Today, I will strive to run the Christians race with endurance!
“And you will be hated by all for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22).