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. NIV
This morning, I went back to the word “lose” in my concordance, in search of references to “lose heart.” Hebrews 12:3 is the third verse from the bottom of the lose listing. When I got to Hebrews 12 and began reading, I realized that several of the verses there are reminders not to worry. They stand easily on their own, and, when combined, they are a powerful missive.
This first verse is beautifully written. I love the imagery that it contains. The words, “cloud of witnesses,” are compelling. The Message says, “all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on.” When I think about the group of “all these witnesses,” that the writer references nearly 2000 years ago, I am struck by how much larger the cloud of witnesses has grown in the intervening time between then and now. As I trace my faith in my own family, we are the religion that we are because of a home missionary who helped a widow and her children many years ago. That widow and her household converted to the missionary’s faith. My grandmother was one of her children. That missionary is in that cloud, and so are countless others.
The next phrase is the reminder here … “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” That’s worry. Worry is a hindrance and a sin that will entangle your time, your energy, your determination, everything … worry is an effective tool to render the believer ineffective.
And then, “let us run with perseverance.” I don’t like to run. It’s really hard work and, I find, I never really had the stamina to keep up with my friends when we would go jogging. However, I do love to watch people run. One of my childhood friends was a champion runner and hurdler. She went to college on a track scholarship. When she ran it was pure joy for her. And, there is a picture in our yearbook of her clearing a hurdle. The look of complete determination on her face is inspiring. That’s the kind of running that we are called to do as Christians. We are to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
While I don’t know what God has planned for me — the race marked out for me — I do know that there is a plan, and that I will not achieve it if I’m not up running the race. It is not a sprint around a track. “We are to run with perseverance,” that means cross country running, or a marathon. A long-distance runner can walk or bike or even run the track of an upcoming race prior to the real thing, but he or she cannot possibly know all of the things that will be encountered when the race is actually happening. I can’t know everything that will be in my path either, or all the things that I will be called to do … even though I’d really like to know those things.
Each of us as Christians is on a path. We might stumble or wander from it from time to time, but, this verse reminds us to keep the goal in mind, and to run with perseverance. We must avoid the obstacles that our worries pose and listen for the cheering on of those who have gone before … they’ll be there at the end of the race to welcome us home.
That’s what I’ll think about today.