Run Weightlessly (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
I remember going to my first NBA game as a child. Growing up in Texas, we were (and still are) diehard Dallas Mavericks fans. As I watched my favorite team begin their pre-game warmup routines, there was one player that caught my eye. He was running up and down the baseline wearing a weighted vest. The added weight strapped to his chest required him to work harder during his sprints, so that once he shed the extra weight for the game, he could take flight with additional bursts of speed without being hindered.
In a similar sporting scene, the author of Hebrews describes the Christian life as a race that we are running. Rather than running and competing for a trophy and human accolades, we are running toward Jesus and He himself is the prize. Within Hebrews 12:1 lie several descriptions and commands that should bring encouragement for this Christian race. The verse begins with the context of the Christian surrounded by “so great a cloud of witnesses”—a reminder that we are not the first, nor the last, to journey this life in pursuit of God. This harkens back to the previous chapter where we read a list of sojourners that came before, who all served as faithful, though imperfect, witnesses to God’s grace and work with His people. We are running alongside men and women whose lives serve as a reminder of God’s faithfulness to us.
The crux of our verse lies in the two charges that the author gives: lay aside and run. Believer, lay aside the weight of sin that will bog you down and pull you away from faithfully pursuing Jesus. As the basketball player ran freer and more fully once he removed the additional weights, so we also experience the free and joyous pursuit of Jesus when we are not entangled by our own sins. God has promised to finish the good work He’s begun (Philippians 1:6), but also we are commanded to work with all our might which He powerfully works within us (Philippians 2:12-13).
Laying aside our sins and running to Jesus ultimately comes down to our affections. Will we love our sin more than we love Jesus? Only when we surrender our love for our own sins and cast them off are we free to run with endurance to Jesus. In the moments when we are discouraged and fear that we cannot fight temptation and run our race well, Hebrews tells us to look around to see the faithfulness of God at work in other believers, and look ahead to Jesus as our goal and infinitely worthy prize. The text that follows says we run the race by "looking to Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2). He is not only the prize, but also the means by which we persevere. The cloud of witnesses provides encouragement that it's possible. But Jesus is the One who makes it so.
What sins are weighing you down in running the race of the Christian life?
Ask God to show you your sin, and show you His grace.
Invite a fellow believer to pray with you about besetting sins and receive the help of walking together, encouraging one another to obey the Lord.
Daniel Bond resides in the Cleveland, Ohio area with his wife Jenny and their two children, Asher and Gracie. He is a graduate of Denver Seminary and LeTourneau University. Since 2005, he has served in vocational ministry and is now the principal at a classical Christian school. Scripture memory has been a part of his life for as long as he can remember and he is committed to passing that on to his own children, as well as the students in his school.