Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. – Hebrews 12:1-2
I am not a runner. I’ve often joked that if you see me running you should start running, too, because something is chasing me. But I admire those that do run. It seems in recent years that conquering a marathon is a lofty goal that many set for themselves. And I know quite a few people that have impressively accomplished that feat.
The author of Hebrews compares living a life of faith to running a race. In the beginning of chapter 12, he paints a picture that anyone who has run a marathon (and even those of us that have only been spectators) can understand. For starters, picture the long sidelines of a marathon. The streets are lined with crowds cheering the ambitious runners along their way. No doubt a necessary encouragement to the weary runners. He says here that in our own marathon of life, we are surrounded by “a great cloud of witnesses”. The faithful that have gone before us are cheering us on. They have run this race before and even though they may have stumbled along the way, they finished it because they knew, by faith, what was waiting at the finish line.
He goes on to talk about the things that hinder us. One translation says to “strip off every weight that slows us down”. I’ve never seen a runner carrying a back pack while they raced. They wouldn’t make it very far if they were running with unnecessary weight. In our own race of life their are so many things that can weigh us down. Fears…doubts…worries…strongholds. These things can slow us to a crawl and use up the endurance we need to push through. And what about “the sin that so easily entangles”? As I thought about the race analogy, the first thing that popped into my mind when I saw the word “entangles” was shoelaces. Imagine the disaster that could happen to a runner if they don’t make sure that their shoelaces are securely tied before they start to run. They would have to stop in the middle of the race to tie their shoes or worse yet, they could end up taking a nasty spill if they trip over a shoelace. The author of Hebrews says that the sin in our life is what so easily entangles us. If we get caught up in our sin, whether big sinful lifestyles or little sinful choices, we will fall flat on our face.
What we need to do is run with perseverance the race that’s marked out for us. God has given us each our own marathon route and we will all face different obstacles. But we must refuse to be weighed down or tangled up by them. We must keep our eyes focused on Jesus. He’s running alongside us the whole way. He’ll carry our water. He’ll be our medic. And he’s our biggest cheerleader. His atoning death on the cross and victorious resurrection assures us that we will cross the finish line and receive the ultimate prize of eternal life.