I thought I would begin this blog with the verses God gave me for my life soon after I became a Christian. These verses have ministered to me and helped me to continue though trials and difficulties. They are among the very first verses I ever memorized and I know I quote them to myself several times a week, especially when I am tempted to “become weary in doing good.”
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The chapter right before this one is a picture of enduring faith and the people who exhibited this faith. This is the great cloud of witnesses referred to in verse one here. The feeling here is that there are two senses in which the crowd witnesses the great Christian race. The crowd, the heroes of the faith from the previous chapter, has participated in the race. They have run and finished the race themselves and won. Therefore, they are examples for us. But not only are they participants, they are also spectators who are vitally interested in how we run the race. They are cheering us on, encouraging us, and watching our progress.
The race requires two disciplines:
- We must lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily traps us. The words “lay aside” (apothemenoi) mean to take off, to strip off and to remove as in taking off clothes. We must take off “every weight” (ogkon panta). All serious athletes train to “make weight.” Anything that does not build us up and make us stronger is excess weight that slows us down. We, as Christian athletes, must do the same thing Olympic athletes do; strain to remove all excess weight. The weight referred to is the excessive closeness with the things of this world. Anything in the world which holds us down, keeps us back, slows us down in the Christian race must be taken off and left behind.
- We must take off the sin which so “easily besets” (euperistaton) us. This is the sin which clings, distracts, entangles, and trips us up as we run. It’s the picture of cloth flapping around a runner as he runs, entangling and tripping him, causing him to fall.
We must run with patience. I confess that this is the part with which I struggle the most. Patience (hupomone) means endurance, fortitude, steadfastness, constancy, and perseverance. This is an active patience, not a passive one, but one that stands up and faces the trials of life. When trials confront us, we are to set out to conquer these trials. I remember the term “true grit” whenever I hear this passage.
Jesus is the supreme example of how this race is to be run. We should always be looking to Him for our example. Jesus participated in the race Himself – He is the very Author and Finisher of faith. He began, originated, created, and gave birth to the Christian race and He perfected, completed, and consummated that race, running it to the finish. He ran this race perfectly.
Jesus had a great inspiration – the joy that was set before Him. This is the glorious day when he would be united and exalted with all believers; the day when He would realize all the glory and joy for which He died.
Jesus is the supreme example in discipline. He followed the rules of the race, being ignored and despising the shame of the cross in order to finish the race of perfect obedience to God.
Life can get overwhelming and difficult sometimes. Living as God would have us live seems to become harder each day in our world. But it’s good to remember that there is a race set out before each one of us – marked out specifically for us before the foundation of the world – and that we have the supreme example of Jesus to follow. We are being encouraged from the cloud of witnesses and Jesus’ example shows us the glory that awaits us at the end. He’s there waiting for us. We just need to continue running the race until we cross that glorious finish line.