How to Run with Endurance (Hebrews 12:1)
[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 —Hebrews 12:1
The writer to the Hebrews wants us to run well. He is writing this epistle to encourage the church to endure in faith, to hold fast to our hope, to look to our God who will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 2:1; 10:23; 13:5).
Chapter 12 reaches a crescendo. The previous chapter has given a thundering list of Old Testament saints who persevered in faith. Over and over we have seen this “by faith… by faith… by faith…” formula of people just like you and me. They are people who had their eyes set on a new city, a future homeland, a better country (Hebrews 11:10,14, 16).
And then in verse 39, the writer explains that these saints, as epic as their faith was, did not receive what was promised. He means that the reality they hoped in hasn’t yet been realized. They hoped in a new Jerusalem that, even up to our present day, they have not yet seen.
But why? Why haven’t they seen it yet?
They’ve not experienced consummated fulfillment of what was promised because we’ve not yet experienced it. The age of anticipation, before Jesus came, is joined with our age of inaugurated fulfillment, after Jesus has come. The writer to the Hebrews encourages our faith by telling us that we are one people with the Old Testament saints. Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses—they are our brothers. Sarah is our sister. Their hope is our hope.
We Have Something Better
And in fact, God has provided something better for us. We have seen fulfillment. We have seen the kingdom come already, though not yet completely. We have seen the cross and the empty tomb. We have received the apostles’ teaching. And the final day of fulfillment—the moment when all the promises will be complete—that is a moment we will experience together with the Old Testament saints (Hebrews 11:40).
So then we can understand their vested interest in our perseverance. We are one people of God with them. They will arrive at the new Jerusalem when we do and they want us to run well unto that day. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that they are a cloud of witnesses surrounding us. They are a stadium of spectators cheering us on.
And therefore, because this is the case, because we are one people with the Old Testament saints and have their hopes bound up in our own, including their rallying support, we should lay aside everything that holds us back and we should run the life of faith with endurance.
Get Rid of Your Sin
There are numerous incentives to get rid of our sin. First, we know that though we all do sin, if we continue in an unrepentant lifestyle of sin it proves that we are not truly believers (1 John 1:8, 5:18). Paul tells us to kill our sin in order to live (Romans 8:13), to cleanse ourselves for holiness’ sake (2 Corinthians 7:1). But the important point about sin in Hebrews 12 is that it messes up our run. It slows us down. It makes us drag. It impedes our endurance and would ultimately sabotage it completely. And therefore we should hurl it aside out of the way.
We can’t persevere in faith if we don’t keep knocking sin down. This means, at least, that there is no endurance without growing in grace. There is no running well in the race of faith without realizing holiness.
Whatever it is that is holding us back, whatever besetting sin seldom looses its fangs, we are encouraged to break free. Indeed, we are cheered on to break free by a stadium of Old Testaments saints who hope together with us. Today as we enter into the nitty-gritty of our lives and temptations come, remember that the Father delights to give you the kingdom, the Lord Jesus intercedes for you, and the Spirit fills you with power. Know that Moses and the saints of old are watching you, pumping their fists with enthusiasm, chanting together for your victory, your endurance.