The Race – Part 1

10 05 2017

therace01Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith. For the joy that lay before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrew 12:1-2

 The very first word of this scripture, therefore, is hugely important. It means that in light of the previous passage and because of the previous passage, now do this. So whenever we see this word, it should sound an alarm for us to look at what was written before, so that what we are about to read is understood in the proper context. In regards to this particular therefore, it refers back to Hebrews 11. This is a chapter that many people have nicknamed the “Hall of Fame of Faith.” Beginning with Abel, it lists many individuals and included the multitude of unnamed people who kept their faith even through the worst hardships, torture, and persecution.

Our passage of scripture in Hebrews 12:1, referring back to all those listed in Hebrews 11, says that all of the faithful make up a large cloud of witnesses that surround us.

Not too long ago, I watched a documentary on Netflix called “Fittest On Earth.” This documentary followed some of the greatest athletes as they competed in the 2015 International CrossFit Games. On the second day of the games, they competed in a workout called “Murph.” This starts with a 1-mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, and then ends with another 1-mile run all of this done with a weighted vest on. It happened to be very hot that morning of the competition, and most of the athletes were really struggling to even finish. They showed these competitors exhausted, taking ice baths, and some were even passed out. Although this was an extremely difficult workout, the day was just beginning! Following this workout, they were to do another very difficult workout called a “Snatch Speed Ladder.” This is basically throwing a bunch of progressively heavy barbells over your head in a controlled fashion. As the athletes waited to enter the field, you could see the trepidation on their faces, but something changed as they entered the playing field. The stands surrounding the field were completely packed with crazy, cheering fans! Of course the athletes were still tired, but the encouragement from the stands allowed them to pull from some deep reserves to do some incredibly difficult lifts.

This is what the author of Hebrews is talking about. Those faithful that went before us are sitting in the stands cheering us on to do incredibly difficult or even impossible things for God. Now, I am not sure if this means that those people are with us in spirit or if they can physically see us. On my good days I like to think that they can gaze from where they are and see us, but I have bad days, too, where I would just rather nobody sees.

The point, though, is we should be encouraged knowing that when we remain faithful we are just the latest of generations of faithful that have gone before us. In Hannah Hurnard’s famous allegorical book, “Hind’s Feet On High Places,” the main character named Much Afraid is led down into a desert of suffering. In the midst of that suffering she is encouraged when she sees a long line of people as far as the eye could see beginning with Abraham, and she is invited to join hands with the last in line making her a part of the faithful sufferers.

Because of knowing the fact that others have successfully gone before us and they now surround us with their encouragement, throw off every hindrance and sin, and run!


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