THE MARATHON OF FAITH
“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Most of us are familiar with the great Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11. Hebrews 12:1 is a transition verse, as indicated by the opening word, “wherefore.” As chapter 12 begins, the writer quits referring to the faith heroes of the past and turns his attention to the present day and to us.
There are at least three things we can discover in this transition verse that apply to each of us today.
- MOTIVATION: “we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses”
The great faith heroes of the past (Abraham, Noah, Moses, etc.) give witness to the value and blessing of living by faith. Our motivation for “running the race that is set before us” is not that we will receive praise from these who are sitting, as it were, in the heavenly grandstands, cheering us on. Rather, we are inspired and spurred on to victory by the godly examples those saints set during their lives. Their demonstration of faith encourages us to live in a similar manner.
- ELIMINATION: “let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us”
These words challenge us to lay aside both the weights and sins that would slow us down in the marathon of God’s service. We all know what “sins” is, and in this context, it probably refers to the sin of unbelief. “Weights” are encumbrances which, although not necessarily sinful, would slow us down or hold us back from peak performance. A true athlete will strip away every piece of unnecessary clothing before competing in a race. For example, would you run a race in combat boots? While there would be nothing “wrong” with it, one would be foolish to choose that particular footwear to use in a race.
Christians are faced with many things today which are not necessarily bad or evil, but which might be time consuming, energy draining, and mind diverting. They are not sins, but they could easily become weights to slow us down in the race of faith. Remember this: while every sin is a weight, not every weight is necessarily a sin. Be wise in what you allow!
- CONTINUATION: “let us run with patience [endurance] the race that is set before us”
Endurance is the steady determination to keep going, regardless of the temptation to slow down or give up. In fact, our inspiration for continuing is found in verse 2, “Looking unto Jesus…who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross….”
If the Christian life were a sprint, most people could handle it. But it’s a marathon — a long-distance race — and it’s the distance that has beaten so many. A modern marathon is 42.195 kilometers, or 26 miles and 385 yards. The athletic metaphor here presents the faith-filled life as a demanding, grueling effort.
Because the Christian life is a marathon and not a sprint, we do have to consider the big picture. God tells us that rest and recreation are needful (Mark 6:31). He has also given us a family that needs our time and attention (Ephesians 5:21-6:4). And He wants us to take care of the temple of our body that belongs to Him (I Corinthians 3:16-17). Even so, we must practice the dedication and determination needed to finish the race of life in a standing that would bring glory to God.