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Hebrews 12:1–2

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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.”

With the example of the Old Testament saints who persevered in faith despite not receiving in their lifetimes the fullness of God’s promise, there is but one thing we who live in the era of fulfillment in Christ can do: press on. Hebrews 11 has been building up to that very exhortation, and Hebrews 12:1–2 makes it explicit. Since we have the cloud of Old Testament witnesses, whose example encourages us to persevere, we must “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” We must trust Jesus until the very end, when we cross the finish line into the eternal joy of heaven.

Obviously, the author of Hebrews is using an athletic metaphor for the Christian life, much as Paul does in texts such as 1 Corinthians 9:24–27. The Christian life is like a race, with conversion the starting point and our entrance into glory the finish line. Finishing an ordinary race is no easy task. It takes effort to continue running. Various obstacles are in the way. We can get tripped up by our clothing. Our muscles tire and get sore. We may become so exhausted that we just want to give up. None of this surprises us when we run a foot race, so we should not be surprised that we sometimes find the race of faith difficult. It is supposed to take exertion to press on into glory. As the ancient biblical commentator and church father Jerome wrote, “God has entered us as contestants in a racecourse where it is our lot to be always striving. This place . . . [is] an arena of struggle and of endurance.”

Certainly, we should not grow discouraged. If we have been engrafted into Christ through faith in Him alone, we will certainly reach the finish line. No one who begins the race of faith fails to finish it. God glorifies all those whom He justifies (Rom. 8:29–30). Nevertheless, we do not finish the race without running the race. The sign that we have been united to Christ forever is that we do what the author of Hebrews tells us and put to death the sins that slow us down and tempt us to quit the race (Heb. 12:1).

We run the race, but we do not bring ourselves across the finish line. That job belongs to Jesus, who brings into His kingdom all those who look to Him in faith (v. 2). He went before us, believing God would fulfill His promise to give Him a kingdom and a people, leaving for us an example of endurance. Let us continue trusting in Him this day and always as we run the race of faith.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Are you discouraged today, thinking that following Jesus is not worth it? Is sin wearing you down, tempting you to give in and to take your eyes off Christ? If so, now is the time to press on in the strength of the Spirit, trusting in God and His promises. Look to Jesus today, casting off your sin and asking Him to convince you that the prize at the end of the race is worth it. Only by continually looking to Jesus in faith will we cross into glory.


For Further Study
  • Psalm 123
  • Micah 7:7
  • Philippians 3:12–16
  • 2 Timothy 4:6–8

The Day of Something Better

Considering Jesus

Keep Reading Christian Discourse

From the August 2020 Issue
Aug 2020 Issue