Morning Musing: Hebrews 12:1-2

“Therefore, 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 pioneer 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.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

My oldest boys are running cross country this fall. Personally, I have enjoyed it immensely. It has been a nice, little nostalgia-fest for me of my own days running cross country. One of the things that was really emphasized when I was running was the importance of running light. Our shirts were made from the lightest material they could find. Our racing shorts were so short they barely covered our backside. And the best runners (a group that never included me) would pay huge prices for shoes that were as light as a feather. The goal was to eliminate anything that might slow you down because even fractions of a second could make a difference in a big race. As we turn the page at last on chapter 11, we find our author borrowing an illustration from the world of running to offer an encouragement in pursuing the life of faith. Let’s take a look at this with him.

The sum total of Hebrews 11 leaves you feeling lots of things. One of the most pressing feelings for me is the weight of tradition we have behind us as followers of Jesus. This isn’t just any tradition either. We are part of a long tradition of faith and faithfulness stretching back thousands of years.

There’s something powerful about tradition. Many sports teams are steeped in tradition. It’s what makes for such loyal fan bases. As traditions are passed down from one generation to the next, each successive generation feels like they are part of something bigger than themselves. These traditions can give meaning to people’s lives. There’s a reason hundreds of thousands of people gather each Saturday or Sunday in the fall in one of America’s many great houses of worship (I’m talking about football stadiums). Football is our nation’s largest religion. The same is true in many other nations around the world, they simply mean something different when they use that word.

Well, the author of Hebrews wanted his audience to know that they were part of a tradition. We are part of that same tradition, but we have even more history tied to it than they did. If you are someone who has put your faith in Jesus, you are part of something infinitely larger than yourself. It is a tradition filled with heroes and heroic tales of overcoming incredible odds at great sacrifice to achieve a much greater good. You have every right and reason to be enormously proud of that. It should not only make you proud, though. It should inspire you to keep the tradition alive in your own life.

As you journey forward toward God’s kingdom, you can imagine yourself surrounded by a huge cloud of witnesses who are cheering you on in your quest. They are not mere disinterested spectators. They are not even merely passionate fans. They are former players themselves who have been where you walk. They have experienced both the joys and the hardships you are facing. They understand and empathize. They urge you forward because they know. They did it with God’s help, and they know you can too. It is worth your time to learn their stories and to be encouraged by them. That’s what those stories are for.

But don’t settle for only being encouraged by them. Follow through on that encouragement by jumping into action. Get rid of anything that might slow down your progress in the faith and race forward toward the kingdom. What might these things be? Sin mostly. Where there is sin in your life, get rid of it. Entirely. Without looking back. Cut your ties and move in a new direction.

This is, of course, a lot harder to talk about than to do because we like our sin. Our flesh doesn’t want to give it up. We find an endless variety of arguments we use to justify our keeping it. Yet the only thing it ever does is to slow us down. Like an elite cross country runner, we need to rid ourselves of anything that might impede our progress toward the kingdom. We need to throw it off and run in that direction.

And if we need any more encouragement than the stories of the faith heroes who came before us, we need look no further than Jesus Himself. He is the ultimate example of faith no matter what the road ahead of us looks like. Indeed, He does not call us to anything He has not already done Himself. In fact, He’s done more. He endured the cross, heaping scorn on the shame it threatened, all while keeping His own eyes fixed on what lay before Him. And this thing that lay before Him was joy. It was the pure joy of God’s kingdom. We too can be a part of that joy if we will throw off everything that might otherwise hold us back and run after Him. He sets the pace, we follow faithfully.

So, what are you waiting for? God’s kingdom is waiting. You can be a part of the best action in town. You can make your life a part of a tradition that is richer, fuller, and deeper than any other in this world. You have a whole cheering section with a vested interest in seeing you succeed. And they know you can (with God’s help) because they already did it (with God’s help). There’s nothing to do but go for it.

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