Hebrews 12:1 (NIV) 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.
On verse 1: What “great cloud of witnesses” is the writer of Hebrews talking about? He’s referring to every one of the heroes of faith he mentioned in Hebrews 11 and all of heaven as well, the greatest crowd ever assembled. Here the writer of Hebrews evokes the image of the Olympic games where people are watching in the stands while the runners run. I believe that while we are running our race on earth, heaven is watching and cheering us on, encouraging us to keep on going and not give up. When I know that heaven is watching and cheering me on, it gives me extra fuel to keep on running.
Verse 1 also tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles”. At the time when Hebrews was written, runners would enter a stadium wearing long flowing robes, but when it was time to race they would lay those robes aside and run naked. Likewise, the writer of Hebrews is saying that we need to lay aside “everything that hinders” (other translations say “every weight”) and the sin that so easily trips us up so that we can run our race well. Unlike sin, a weight is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself; it could be a good thing that is getting in the way of God’s best for your life. Is there a weight or a sin that is keeping you from running at your best?
Hebrews 12:2-3 (NIV) 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
On verses 2-3: More than any other hero of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11, our ultimate example of living by faith is Jesus. He is “the author and perfecter of our faith”. In other words, faith begins and ends with him. Are you going through a tough season? Are you struggling to persevere? The key to perseverance is fixing your eyes on Jesus. We know a lot better what we need to do, and have a lot more strength to do it, when we’re focused on Jesus.
Hebrews 12:4 (NIV) 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
On verse 4: It helps me to persevere when I remember that what I am going through is nothing compared to what Jesus went through for me on the cross. For those of us who are tempted to throw a pity party for ourselves when life gets tough, remember that Jesus knows all about your pain, but we can only imagine the pain Jesus went through.
Hebrews 12:10-11 (NIV) 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
On verses 5-11: These verses (in fact, all of Hebrews 12:1-11) are worth memorizing. That’s because they contain some of the most important teaching in the Bible on the topic of pain. Why does God allow pain in your life? It’s not because He’s not there or He doesn’t care. Rather, it’s for three reasons. We learn about one of them here. One of the reasons God allows us to go through pain is to refine us – to make us stronger, wiser, tougher, more resilient, more like Jesus in our character. As verse 10 says, God allows pain “for our good, that we may share in his holiness”. In fact, just as the Father allowed His Son Jesus to go through pain, the writer of Hebrews encourages us to see the hardships as a sign that we are God’s children. For it shows that your Heavenly Father is like a personal trainer at the gym. He cares enough about you to train you, and one of the ways He trains you is to let you encounter situations that will test your strength and stretch you without killing you, so that you come out stronger and healthier in the end.
Is there pain or difficulty in your life today? Remember that God is your personal trainer. The key is to have the right attitude toward that difficulty. Be humble, recognizing that God is in charge and we are not. Be teachable and ask the Holy Spirit what He wants you to learn from the situation. Be knowledgeable, knowing who God is, that He is a Father who loves you dearly and that God is for you, not against you. And be resilient, for as verse 11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Don’t be one of those who goes through the same struggles again and again without learning, improving or getting stronger in any way. Let God train you through your trials so that you can transform into the person God made you to be.
Heavenly Father, thank You for being my loving Father who is interested in my growth and transformation. Thank You that every difficulty You allow in my life is so that I can be refined and become stronger. And thank You for Jesus, who is always my hope, my model and my inspiration, and who went through far more pain than I will ever go through. May I fix my eyes on Jesus today. In Jesus’ name, AMEN!