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. Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Have you ever witnessed the phenomenon of preschool soccer? Imagine being from another country—or another world—and you’ve never seen “football”. What would you think as you watch this amoeba-like mass of tiny humans in oversized uniforms orbit around a small sphere with black and white hexagons? And what would you think about the full-sized humans standing outside the chalked rectangle, yelling and clapping as if the fate of civilization is at stake? It’s a fascinating scene: athletes running and competing, parents standing and cheering, victory and defeat hanging in the balance, orange slices and Capri Suns standing by. Suddenly, your attention is drawn to a couple players who are not part of the ball-chasing blob. These kids are standing, not running; filled with fear, not joy. They have tears, not smiles, on their faces. The whole thing is too much for them. They don’t want to run; they just want to run away. If the Christian life is something like that, can we relate? Are we running, or do we just want to run away?
The author of Hebrews tells his fearful people that the Christian life is a race, and He calls them to run. The questions for us are: How are we running? And how would the Lord have us run differently? Let’s remind ourselves of a few truths about the race and ask ourselves a few piercing questions.
The Lord calls us to run together. We are “surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses”, and we are called to be part of the body of Christ. We are not the solitary athlete staring down a lonely 26.2 miles. We are the children of God, filled with His Spirit, running with His people. Does our life in Christ feel like a solo race? If so, we need to be reminded of the cloud of witnesses who have gone before us and the people of God around us.
The Lord calls us to run without chains. We need to “lay aside every weight” and “sin which clings so closely”. We’ve seen the football players and strong men who run hooked up to weights and sleds and trucks. But that’s either a training strategy or a test of strength. In the Christian life, we can’t run well with the burden of weights and sins. What are these things in our lives, and what would it look like to lay them aside?
The Lord calls us to run with endurance the race that is set before us. Like any road race, the course is marked out for us. What a comfort that our sovereign Lord knows every step in front of us, even if we can’t see all the cones. The call to run with endurance is a reminder that following Jesus is not a sprint or a workout or a seasonal dieting plan. It’s a lifelong race of counting the cost and staying the course. Does our Christian life feel more of an occasional sprint or jog? How do we recapture the necessary intensity and find the endurance to continue?
The Lord calls us to run with our eyes fixed on Jesus. What happens when we’re running and we turn our head to the side for too long? We run off the road, fall down, or crash into someone else. “Looking to Jesus” is a phrase that fits every activity of the Christian life. We’re reading God’s word…praying…worshiping…resting…making disciples…seeking justice…loving our neighbor…building up the body…extending the kingdom…looking to Jesus. Looking to Jesus, we find everything we need to run the race as the Lord has called us. Looking to Jesus, we see that He is the founder and perfecter of our faith. He brought us into this race by His grace, and He will faithfully help us to win it. Looking to Jesus, we see that He finished His own race. For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross. Looking to Jesus, we see that He endured such hostility from sinners, so that we may not grow weary or fainthearted.
The race often seems like too much for us. We want to stand around and not run. We’re filled with fear, not joy. But when everything around us calls us to run away, will we look to Jesus? Will we see Him seated at the right hand of God, enthroned to intercede for us and to give us everything we need for the race? Looking to Jesus, let us run!