This encouragement is taken from Hebrews 12:1-3 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”
In the 11th chapter of Hebrews, we have enumerated many individuals who went before us who had faith and trusted in God. Some accomplished remarkable deeds. Many suffered great hardships. Some endured torture, scourging, trials of mockings, and horrible deaths. Others were destitute, afflicted and tormented. None have yet to receive the promise – the ultimate heavenly country. All were dependent on God and trusted Him. The writer of Hebrews encourages us to envision them as witnesses or perhaps like spectators in a great arena looking down upon the contestants below – upon us. They know what it is like to fight the great fight of faith and they are observing us in our fight of faith. How will we perform? Will we emulate their accomplishments through faith or will we fail because we are overcome by sin or become discouraged? Many suffered far greater things than we will and yet they succeeded. Will we succeed as well?
In order to succeed, we are first encouraged to lay aside every weight. If you are going to win the fight or if you are going to run the race, you will be hindered by any extra weight that you are carrying. Why would you want to carry additional baggage when you have a contest to win? What might a weight be? Maybe it is financial debt that you have to pay off. Solomon observed in Proverbs 22:7 “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” Maybe a weight is your strong desire for the things of this world. Maybe a weight is a bad relationship with any who would encourage you to sin or engage in unprofitable activities. A weight in your life would be anything that slows you down, any burden that you choose to carry, or anything that hinders you in your life of faith. Lay aside every weight you have.
In order to succeed, we are next encouraged to lay aside the sin that so easily ensnares us. You might envision an unseen snare or a trap that you fall into. Or you might picture yourself walking in a forest and a root or vine trips you and causes you to stumble and fall on your face. Whether it is some lust of the flesh, or some strong desire for the things of this world or your desire to be better than others in pride, sin will ensnare you. Sin will cause you to fall or lead you in the wrong direction away from the heavenly goal. Appreciate the consequences that sin will have upon your fight of faith. When you fall into the trap of sin, get up and start again. When you are led in the wrong direction, get back on course. Repent of any sin when you discover it in your life. Lay aside the sin that causes the problem and refocus on the goal that is set before you.
In order to succeed, we are next encouraged to run with endurance the race that is set before us. Your Christian life of faith is a race. But it is not a sprint. It is a long distance race that requires endurance. A long distance runner might suffer pain and exhaustion before reaching his goal. If he decides that the pain is too much or that he is too exhausted and he gives up, he will not finish the race; he must endure. In the same way, whatever might cause you to be weary or discouraged in your life of faith, you must endure in order to finish the race. The apostle Paul near the end of his life said in 2 Timothy 4:7-8 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”
We have been encouraged to emulate the cloud of witnesses that are described in Hebrews 11. Next we are encouraged to look at Jesus. Jesus is the reason for your faith. Because Jesus went to the cross and suffered and died and took your sin upon him, you can now be justified before God and receive His blessings to include eternal life. Jesus is the author and finisher of your faith. But look at what He had to go through. He didn’t want to be abandoned by those who loved Him. He didn’t want to be mocked and humiliated. He didn’t want to be beaten and whipped in scourging. He didn’t want to be nailed to a cross and suffer the cruelest death. He didn’t want to be burdened with our sin. Jesus looked past all of this and saw the glorification that the Father promised; he saw the joy that was set before Him. As a result, He endured the cross, He despised the shame, and He has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Jesus is our ultimate example.
Here is my encouragement to you. Look at the people of faith that have lived before you. Look to Jesus. Many of them suffered much more than you will but they didn’t give up. Follow their example. Lay aside any weight in your life and any sin that ensnares you. Look beyond the problems of this life and see the joy set before you. Run your race with perseverance and overcome discouragement and weariness. You must finish the race.