“Life’s race is truly a marathon and not a sprint. It calls for patient endurance. We need to be prepared for the long distance and remain faithful.”
The Letter to the Hebrews sets forth the superiority of Jesus Christ. It was written a few years before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD. The letter was addressed to second generation Hebrew Christians who had come under intense pressure from unbelieving family members, close friends, and possibly employers to leave Christianity and return to offering the sacrifices required in obeying the Law.
Since what those believers possessed in Jesus was infinitely superior to anything and everything they had in the Old Testament, how could they even think of reverting back to the old system? The letter sees the believer in a journey from salvation to glory! The author encourages them to go the distance with Jesus. How?
Learn From The Past
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses...” (Hebrews 12:1a ESV).
The author begins with “therefore” which applies the principles of faith developed in Hebrews 11. The author’s readers were not suffering like those Old Testament saints as recorded in the previous chapter. The imagery is that of a Roman stadium; the spectators were the Old Testament witnesses (those cited in Hebrews 11 and more) who have already run the distance in faith and are encouraging other believers to do the same. Believers who understand the past should be able to move forward in the future by avoiding such pitfalls that may befall them now and in the future.
LAYING ASIDE DISTRACTIONS
“...Let us also lay aside every weight, and the sin which clings so closely...” (Hebrews 12:1b ESV).
The Greek tense in “lay aside” carries with it the idea of laying aside once for all any weight that would burden us so that our progress would become affected. “Weight” can refer to anything that would impede our progress (whether good or bad). The author also admonishes those who want to go the distance with Jesus to lay aside any “sin which clings so closely” (that which would “ambush” or “encircle”) causing us to stumble or trip us up.
In the New Testament, several warnings are mentioned that would keep God’s people from going the distance. These certainly could be among the “weights” and the closely clinging sin.
We are admonished to watch out for…
- “False prophets” Matthew 7:15-16.
This is a word to the “fathers.” False prophets are those who are followed because they claim to be leaders of God’s sheep but inwardly they spread grievous falsehoods, even heresy. They are recognized by their fruits.
- “Savage wolves” Acts 20:28-30.
This is a word to the “young men.” “Savage wolves” are they who will arise within the community of faith seekers to draw believers to themselves by speaking perverse things and pandering to the likes of people rather than teaching God’s truth! Their teaching is full of shock values!
- “Little foxes that spoil the vines” Song of Solomon 2:15.
This is a word to the “young men.” “Little foxes” are among the little things that are not dealt with by immature believers but will eventually damage any fruit. This possibly references the sins of temperament and the flesh.
These are tragic weights that would cause the believer to be distracted and stumble along the journey. There is no compromise here. To run the distance with Jesus successfully requires that they be laid aside, to put away!
Live With A Long Range View
“...And let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1c ESV).
There are no short cuts to spiritual maturity. Life’s race is truly a marathon and not a sprint. It calls for patient endurance. We need to be prepared for the long distance and remain faithful. We need to perform personal spiritual check-ups from time to time. Such a check list has been suggested by A. W. Tozer by asking...
- What we want most.
- What we think about most.
- How we use our money.
- What we do with our leisure time.
- The company we enjoy.
- Whom and what we admire.
- At what do we laugh.
Look Unto Jesus
“...Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).
Going the distance with Jesus requires “looking to Jesus”, an unusual word which carries with it the idea of turning away from something else so that we might focus or fix our eyes upon the One who is the “author and perfecter of our faith.” He is the One believers are to follow!
The focus of the believer’s life should be on Jesus. In chapter three of Hebrews we learn of the failure of the Israelites who sent spies into the Promise Land to see for themselves what lay ahead. They saw only the walled cities and the giants in the land, but they did not see God. They had a failure in focus. If they had brought God into the picture they would have seen that God viewed the walled cities as nothing and the giants as grasshoppers. It is all in having the proper perspective!
In this chapter, The author emphasizes Jesus’ death on a cross. On the cross, Jesus cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken me…?” (Psalm 22:1). This is the only time in the Gospels when Jesus asked God the Father a question. On all other occasions the Lord Jesus accepted the Father’s will with unquestioning spirit of heart and mind.
Forsaken is one of the saddest words in any language. It is composed of three words: to leave, meaning to abandon; down, suggesting defeat and helplessness; and in, referring to place or circumstance. It carries the idea of forsaking someone in a state of defeat or helplessness in the midst of hostile circumstances. Jesus had become our substitute for sin. He has been and continues to be victorious. He despised the shame and is seated on the right hand of the throne of God!
In going the distance with Jesus, knowing that Jesus paid it all, we trust Him and follow Him wherever He leads. Circumstances may change! Obstacles may appear! Heartaches may be experienced! But our confidence is in Him!
To go the distance with Jesus requires learning from the past, laying aside all distractions, living with the long range in view, and looking unto Jesus Who not only saves but also leads. He must be central in our lives, at all times, and in all situations.
Dr. Donald Hubbard is a seasoned preacher, teacher and has been a partner with Songtime for many years.