1 Therefore since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us, and run with endurance the race that lies before us, 2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-3; HCSB)
The “therefore” in verse 1 ties us back to chapter 11. The writer of Hebrews is going to draw some conclusions for his readers based upon the faith exhibited by the heroes. In the last lesson we noted the lessons that great faith does great things and great faith makes great sacrifices. So how can we get the same great faith as the heroes we have read about of whom the world was not worthy? How can we do great things for God? How can we make great sacrifices for God? The writer of Hebrews answers these questions as he concludes with some important instructions.
The Cloud of Witnesses
The names that we have learned about in Hebrews 11 were intended to make an impact. We have a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. The picture is that there have been many other people who have successfully made this journey of faith. Look at all the people who have already run the race. Their testimony has stood the test of time. We are surrounded by great examples of faith. Now, it is our turn to take the journey of faith. Now it is our turn to do great things for God. Now it is our turn to make great sacrifices for God. The writer of Hebrews tells us four things that need to be done to be successful as these who are great examples of faith.
(1) Lay aside every weight.
There are so many things in life that can slow us down and hinder us from having great faith. Our schedules are many of the weights that we carry on this journey of faith, preventing us from having great faith to do great things and make great sacrifices. What are the weights that you are carrying in life that are slowing you down from doing God’s will effectively? We need to make arrangements to turn things that are life hindrances into helps. Often, people will look at their home life as a hindrance. Marriage and family cannot be hindrances to serving God. We need to do some work to not let these things hinder us. Serve others as a family. My children enjoyed visiting Kay Butterfield while she was recovering from her broken leg. When we got back into the car, Jenna wanted to know if we could go again. Don’t use the excuse that I have my children and I can’t do something. Turn your hindrance into an advantage. Bring your spouse. Work together to serve the Lord, so that you are still spending time together, but you are redeeming the time.
Further, do not focus on your own difficulties and challenges. Focus on other people’s difficulties. It is easy to let our own life problems interfere with our service to God. We can get down and be depressed about our troubles. Lay aside that weight and focus on how you can help others. You will find that your attitude and disposition will change will you are looking out for others, not for self. Sometimes work interferes. But don’t give up. Try to make arrangements so that work does not interfere. Express the importance of your service to God. Don’t show them that work is more important. Show them that you want to be serving God. Perhaps you had a terrible childhood. Why let that be a hindrance today? You have the power to move forward and serve the Lord. The point is that many times we want to have weights on us so that we have an excuse to not do great things and make great sacrifices for the Lord. But there are not excuses before God. Stop wanting to hold those weights. Drop them and run the race of faith.
(2) Lay aside the sin that so easily ensnares us.
The second thing that holds us back from great things for God is sin. We have to lay aside the sin. Quite simply, we are not going to make it if we continue to let sin reign in our lives. Why are we trying to do great things for God while maintain sins in our lives without making the effort to cut them out?
19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar, about which I tell you in advance—as I told you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21; HCSB)
8 But now you must also put away all the following: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and filthy language from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his practices 10 and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of his Creator. (Colossians 3:8-10; HCSB)
What sins are you clinging to? What temptations are clinging to you? It is time to deal with those sins and fight against those temptations. We need to have the resolve to fight against Satan, desiring to not fall into sin any longer. Be accountable with your sins. Have someone that you are confessing your sins to, as James 5:16 commands. This way you will maintain an incentive to not fall into those temptations.
The writer is telling us that we need to travel light in this journey. Lay aside the sin and every weight that hinders us. Shed the baggage that you are carrying.
(3) Run with endurance.
The race is not short and the race is not easy. Look at what the witnesses before us had to endure. Understand that we will need to fortify our minds to endure the challenges and obstacles that Satan will present to us on this faith journey. We need to hunker down. Brace ourselves. As the apostle Paul used, gird the loins for battle. If you walk into this journey lightly, Satan is going to smack you in the face and drop you to your knees. Brace yourself for the journey. Things are going to be hard. We are going to lose our loved ones. We are going to suffer from diseases and illnesses. People are going to let us down. But we must endure through the obstacles. In fact, do not forget how this discussion began:
So don’t throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36; HCSB)
Look at what the witnesses endured before us. Don’t throw away your confidence and your reward because of the difficulties you face on this journey. We must let our difficulties make us stronger, not destroy our faith, so that we can receive God’s promised reward. Keep doing God’s will, even when Satan is throwing his fiery darts at you.
(4) Keeping our eyes on Jesus.
There is one more thing we need to do to have the endurance that the writer of Hebrews is encouraging us to have. Get our eyes fixed on Jesus. What are to be focusing upon as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus? Look at what Jesus did. “For the joy that lay before him…” tells us that Jesus did not do the things he did because there was immediate joy or pleasure. Rather, knowing the joy that he would obtain in the future, he endured the cross. When life gets difficult and we begin to lose our strength, fix your eyes upon Jesus hanging on the cross. See the Savior with the nails through the hands and feet suffering the torture of the cross. Jesus fulfilled God’s will by enduring the suffering of the cross by seeing the joy that was laid before him.
Further, Jesus disregarded the shame. When we look to Jesus, consider how he handled the shame of the cross. Consider the mocking the people made as they passed by. Consider how they spit upon him. There was no respect in the treatment of criminals on the cross. When you look at Jesus, see the shame that he endured. But notice that did not cause Jesus to waiver because he saw the joy laid before him. But there is greater shame that he endured. Dying on a cross meant that you were cursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:23). Dying on the cross meant that you were ought of God’s favor. The cross was the Jewish leaders’ attempt to discredit Jesus. “If he is really the son of God, let him come down from the cross.”
In the end, Jesus was rewarded because he sat down at the right hand of God. After enduring the cross and dealing with the shame placed upon him, Jesus was exalted. Jesus was given the reward as he sat down at the right hand of God, being vindicated of the shame placed upon him. But the writer is not done telling us what we need to see when we fix our eyes upon Jesus. “For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart.” Fix your eyes upon Jesus and see the hostility that Jesus endured. The sentence concludes by reminding us that Jesus did this for us. Jesus endured the cross, disregarded the shame, and dealt with the hostility of sinners so that we would not grow weary and we would not lose heart.
Essentially, look at all that Jesus endured so that you would have endurance! How can we be giving up? Look at the great cloud of witnesses that stand before us and who have run the race successfully! Look at Jesus who endured death so that we could endure to the end. Jesus is the source and the perfecter of our faith. Look to him because he has gone through this human life and knows what we are suffering. Jesus perfects our faith because we know that he went through far more than what we must endure. In fact, that is the point the writer closes with in talking about great faith.
In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:4)
How can you be giving up? How can you lack endurance? We have not been put to the test like those who have lived before us. We have not shed blood like Jesus had to do. The heroes of faith and our Savior become sources of encouragement because we see what they endured. If they can endure, we can endure. We have not been called to suffer to the extent that they have suffered. So if they could do it, we can do it. Our children have this kind of mentality, but it works. If there is something Paige does, Jenna thinks she can do. This has been a great help and therapy for Grace. She sees what Paige and Jenna are doing and she thinks she can do it also. We need to use that motivation. If you can do it, I can do it. You are suffering through marital problems. Others have also and maintained their faith. They did it, you can do it. The challenges of life. Look to Jesus. Fix your eyes upon him and see all the challenges that he faced. Yet he still obeyed the Lord while suffering, so that our faith could be perfected.
Great faith does great things and makes great sacrifices. We develop that great faith for great works by laying aside every weight, allowing nothing to hinder us from the goal. We must also lay aside the sin that ensnares us and prevents us from great faith. Run with endurance, knowing that the journey of faith is challenging as Satan works against us. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, understanding the suffering that he endured for us. This motivates us to continue on the journey to reach the reward of heaven.