Hebrews 12:1-2 (NLT)
Jesus, our champion
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.* Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
V1, Surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. The imagery suggests an athletic contest in a great amphitheater. The witnesses are the heroes of the past who have just been mentioned (ch. 11). They are not spectators but inspiring examples. The Greek word translated “witnesses” is the origin of the English word “martyr” and means “testifiers, witnesses.” They bear testimony to the power of faith and to God’s faithfulness. Run with endurance (perseverance). See Ac 20:24; 1Co 9:24–26; Gal 2:2; 5:7; Php 2:16; 2Ti 4:7. The Christian life is pictured as a long-distance race rather than a short sprint.
V1, We must bear in mind that Hebrews was written to people who were being persecuted. Because they had forsaken Judaism for Christ, they were facing bitter opposition. There was a danger that they might interpret their suffering as a sign of God’s displeasure. They might become discouraged and give up. Worst of all, they might be tempted to return to the temple and its ceremonies.
They should not think that their sufferings were unique. Many of the witnesses described in chapter 11 suffered severely as a result of their loyalty to the Lord, yet they endured. If they maintained unflinching perseverance with their lesser privileges, how much more should we to whom the better things of Christianity have come.
The Christian life is a race that requires discipline and endurance. We must strip ourselves of everything that would impede us. Weights are things that may be harmless in themselves and yet hinder progress; they could include material possessions, family ties, the love of comfort, lack of mobility, etc. In the Olympic races, there is no rule against carrying a supply of food and beverage, but the runner would never win the race that way.
We must also lay aside … the sin which so easily ensnares us. This may mean sin in any form, but especially the sin of unbelief. We must have complete trust in the promises of God and complete confidence that the life of faith is sure to win.
We must guard against the notion that the race is an easy sprint, that everything in the Christian life is rosy. We must be prepared to press on with perseverance through any such trials and or temptations.
V2, Throughout the race, we should look away from every other object and keep our eyes riveted on Jesus, the foremost Runner. A. B. Bruce comments:
One stands out conspicuous above all the rest … the Man who first perfectly realized the idea of living by faith … , who undauntedly endured the bitter suffering of the cross, and despised the ignominy of it, sustained by a faith that so vividly realized coming joy and glory as to obliterate the consciousness of present pain and shame.
He is the author, or pioneer, of our faith in the sense that He has provided us with the only perfect example of what the life of faith is like.
He is also the finisher of our faith. He not only began the race but finished it triumphantly. For Him the race course stretched from heaven to Bethlehem, then on to Gethsemane and Calvary, then out of the tomb and back to heaven. At no time did He falter or turn back. He kept His eyes fixed on the coming glory when all the redeemed would be gathered with Him eternally. This enabled Him to think nothing of shame and to endure suffering and death. Today He is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Have you recognized the “sin” that you tend to get entangled in? The area in your life where…you tend to fall back into old patterns or ways of thinking? Well, verse two shows us the remedy…keeping Jesus as our focal point. Can I encourage you to figure out how to do that and what that looks like to you.