The following short passage has been coming up time and time again in my devotionals and podcast in the last few days. I sense that God is directing me to them, and so want to spend some time thinking about them today.
Therefore let’s also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let’s run with perseverance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him who has endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, that you don’t grow weary, fainting in your souls.Hebrews 12:1-3 (WEB)
Chapter 12 opens with the word “therefore,” and this connects it to the previous chapter. Hebrews 11 is definitely worth a read at this point if you have the time. It describes a number of the great heroes of faith, a sort of hall of fame if you like. These faithful individuals followed God and are an example to us. They were not always perfect of course, but are living testimonies to God’s kindness throughout the generations.
Hebrews 12 opens by pointing out that we are surrounded by such a great crowd of witnesses. Clearly, the author of Hebrews is pointing to the people just described in the previous chapter. As well as to the readers, we too are surrounded by their witness and can learn from the examples they set and the interactions they had with God.
Beyond that though, we are even now surrounded by witnesses to the faithfulness of Christ. Every time you set foot in church, there are those around you who are journeying through life with and for Jesus. Learn from them, let them encourage you, and do likewise for them in return.
When you are sat at work or school, surrounded by sin or the ways of the world, it can be easy to feel like the only Christian in the galaxy. Elijah once felt like the only prophet remaining, and it can feel lonely and isolated. You are not alone however!
Until the Lord returns, there will always be a church on this Earth. If you live in a place where you are able to freely worship the God of Heaven, then do so and enjoy the fellowship of other believers. Let them be a witness to you, and share your own faith journey with them to uplift and encourage.
Hebrews 12 goes on to instruct us to lay aside every weight which slows us down, and to remove the sin that easily entangles us. The verse will go on to tell us to run the race, so the idea of shedding anything that slows us down is important.
In running your Christian race, what weighs you down? Remember that it says to lay aside weight and also sin. So “weight” in this context is not necessarily anything sinful.
For example, I might love to play golf (or insert any sport or hobby of your choosing). If I become so obsessed with golf, playing it every Sunday, reading about it all week and spending all of my money on clubs and equipment, then it is likely that will weigh down my faith. Golf is not sinful, but when it becomes my top priority then it is a hinderance to my faith.
Do you have a golfing equivalent? Are there things in your life which weigh you down in your race for Christ?
And what about sin? Sin can so easily get tangled up in our lives, and in my mind, I imagine it as a rope or cord wrapping around us. When we try to run our race, we just trip and fall.
Do not take chances with sin. It is like playing with fire. If you know you are dabbling with a particular sin, stop it right now. Don’t even walk down the street where sin dwells! We must recognise its danger and flee from it with all our might.
If you know you are tempted in certain areas, then pray about it ahead of time and stay well clear. If you struggle with late night TV, then shut that thing off at 8.30 or make sure you’re never alone with it. If your thoughts are starting to wander towards an attractive person at work, keep well away from them where possible and do not let yourself be alone with them.
Sin is like an animal trap. If we get too close, it will spring shut and ensnare us. Please take sin seriously. I worry that the modern church does not always do this. We preach a great deal on God’s grace, and rightly so, but we must be fully aware of the danger of sin.
When I was at university, I recall sitting in a kitchen to an adjoining TV room. Something came on screen which was clearly sinful, and I remember one of the Christians leaping from their seat and running out of the room. They did not want any part in it, and good for them. Let us be equally quick to run from it.
I hope these few thoughts are helpful to you, and indeed convict you if changes need to be made. I have barely made it to the end of verse one today, so will likely pick up the remainder in subsequent posts.
If God is putting this passage in front of me for a reason, then I want to take it extremely seriously. Perhaps He is directing you to do the same?