1 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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
At first the verses for today were going to be 3-6, then 1-6, but ended up with 1-3 above as they are so rich and full of meaning. So instead of focusing on verse 3 with the work heart (and only a minority of translations use heart there instead of something like faint in your minds as per the KJV) we will end up there looking closely at the context of the verse.
So, looking at verse 1, first of all the Therefore refers to the ending verses of Hebrews 11 after listing the fate of a number of saints who did great things and or were met with terrible deaths for their faith.
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
The something better was none other than God’s Son, Jesus the Christ. Even though they were of such faith they were commended for it, they did not get to see or know of Jesus in their lifetimes. The believers addressed in Hebrews then and today, they and we do know of Jesus and He is the perfecter of [our] faith (v2).
Looking again at verse 1, consider what MacLaren’s Exposition had to say about the metaphor of a runner where the cloud of witnesses are those listed in chapter 11 and many more.
The previous clauses of this verse bring before us the runner’s position as ‘compassed about with a cloud of witnesses,’ and his preparation as ‘laying aside every weight and.., sin.’ The text carries us a stage further in the metaphor, and shows us the company of runners standing ready, stripped, and straining at the starting-post, with the long course stretching before them.
The metaphor of the Christian life as a race is threadbare, so far as our knowledge is concerned, but it may be questioned if it has sunk deeply enough into the practice of any of us. It is a very noble one, and contains an ideal of the Christian life which it would do us all good to hold up by the side of our realisation of it
Run the race keeping in mind the goal – eternity in heaven! And it is a long race only ending when your life ends. This has led Ray Pritchard to develop a 25 year plan for Coming Down the Homestretch which may be read online here. The plan had its genesis in a short discussion with a long time friend which is provided below
“Ray, you and I aren’t young anymore. We can’t kid ourselves. We’re down to the last few minutes of the fourth quarter. But the thing is, we don’t know exactly how much time we have. We don’t know if we have five minutes left, or three minutes, or maybe just 30 seconds.” Then he added, “We have to play like our whole life is on the line because it is. We don’t have time to complain about anything. Coaches tell players to ‘play through the whistle.’ That’s what we have to do. We’ve got to get in the game and play hard and fast because we know our time is short. If we do our part, soon enough the game will end, and the Lord will tell us the final score.”
Strong and to the point. By the way, none of us know the day or time the whistle will be blown and our race, our game, will be over. We need to be in the game!
The idea of running the race with patience or perseverance is continued in verse 2 where we read the way to run this race is by fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. So, no matter how hard or difficult we find this race of our life we need to, nay must remain focused on Jesus. And in doing so, remember what He endured for us. For us so we might be able to join Him in heaven for all eternity.
Now we come to verse 3 where we are once again encouraged to look to Jesus to help us endure to the end our individual races, Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Consider Him indeed, as He had no sin in His life at all yet endured such opposition that He ended up scourged and then nailed to a cross. Even those who engage in ultra marathons have nothing on Him. So when the going seems impossible, we can look to what He endured for each and every one of us and in doing so not lose heart in our race.