“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).
BETWEEN NOW AND THE TIME OF OUR DEPARTURE FROM THIS LIFE, THERE IS A “RACE” THAT HAS TO BE RUN. And frankly, the image of a race is mainly an image of pain. Anyone who has ever run a footrace of any distance knows that before the end finally comes, every muscle in the runner’s body cries out for relief. And the longer the race, the more tempting it is to simply quit running.
A great cloud of witnesses. When we run as God’s people, we are doing something that many, many others have done before us. And the writer of Hebrews describes those who’ve gone before as a “great cloud of witnesses,” a stadium full of supportive spectators cheering us onward with the hearty cry, “You can do it!”
Lay aside every weight. In addition to supporters, we also happen to have a spiritual adversary whose purpose it is to defeat us. We must not let him have his way. The “sin which so easily ensnares us” must be laid aside. It’s a simple matter. Either we decide to lay our sins aside or they will be our undoing.
Run with endurance. We are not in a sprint but a marathon. For all we know, it may be many years before the time comes for us to rest. But remember the “cloud of witnesses”? One of those witnesses is Paul, who wrote toward the end of his life, “I have finished the race” (2 Timothy 4:7). He did it, and we can do it too.
But there’s no chance we’ll do what Paul did if we’re not motivated by what motivated him: the glorious prospect of being with Christ forever. He said he had sacrificed every worldly thing that ever mattered to him: “that I may gain Christ and be found in Him . . . that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:8–11). Any goal less powerful than this will fail to keep us going. We must fix our hearts upon our Lord and determine that we are going to run the race, come whatever may. There can be no question or equivocation about it. So let us not merely study or think about running the race. Let us run the race.
“To believe in heaven is not to run away from life; it is to run toward it” (Joseph D. Blinco).