“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off
everything that hinders
the sin that so easily entangles,
and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” -Hebrews 12:1
Paul gives an incredible stroll down memory lane in the chapter before this verse of men and women who put their faith in a great Savior to work in and through them. He recounts how courageous and miraculous and sacrificial acts occurred through the faith of very normal people in their extraordinary God. He ends on a mysterious note, that somehow, we are going to collaborate with them to create an even bigger picture for God’s glory. And then, this verse.
You aren’t doing this Christian life on your own, remember? All these men and women before you are calling out to remind you as a witness to God’s work. “He shows up, over and over,” they whisper to our spirits. In scary times, in lonely times, in suffering. “Trust Him to get you through,” they encourage. Their stories are not meant to discourage us, as though they were the super hero’s and we have to live up to their example. They were like us! Normal, sinful, fragile, fearful. But, they trusted in their extraordinary God.
You are part of a mission that began long before you. Join the race, sisters! This isn’t a race you had to prove you belonged in; Jesus secured your spot with his perfect performance. This is an invitation to join the big story of God’s rescue mission for all mankind, by allowing your life to be a picture pointing back to Him. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. This upside down, crazy, gospel message of God’s unstoppable love that compelled Him to come and live and die to restore our relationship with Him is enough. It’s been capturing hearts for thousands of years. Just begin running the race, marked out just for you. In your job, share the story. In your home, share the story. In your relationships, share the story.
Get rid of the things that keep tangled up in yourself so you can run freely with Him. Paul says there are two kinds of things to get rid of: stuff the gets in your way and sin which embeds into your heart. If we showed up to a marathon, carrying a giant suitcase on our back and eating handfuls of rat poison, we would likely never make it off the starting line. Have you dealt with your broken past? The abuse, the hurt, that affair, the abortion, that church that wounded you, your parents mistakes that effected you? If you try to take all your past wounding and stick it in a box in your heart but never let it heal, you will never run the race in freedom. What about your busyness? Is your life so busy today you have no blank spaces in your calendar and no margin for anything life throws at you? Does it feel weird to have a few hours of peace with “nothing going on”? Compulsive busyness will never allow you to stay focused on the race Jesus has for you.
When is the last time you confessed sin to God and asked Him to remove it from your heart? Living in persistent patterns of sin makes us sick. There is no way to freely run, when your life is suffering the effects of a sin sick spirit. Confession is the beautiful agreement that God’s ways are good and right and true and anything in our life outside those bounds is harmful to us and others. That our sin is something we can turn away from by His grace and the admission that failure to do so is a toxic choice. When we confess, James says, “He is faithful and just to forgive us.” And not only so, but because we rest on Christ’s righteousness instead of our own, we do not need to fear approaching God with our sin. We can never be kicked off the team, but we will feel benched at the race, until we deal with our sin.
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its’ shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.
who endured such opposition from sinful men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 12:2-3
The invitation to run concludes with two reminders to return our focus to Jesus where the strength and desire and encouragement to keep going is found. The mission will not be easy, as we are easily distracted, discourage and deceived. We return our hearts to Jesus, who already won the race for us, who faced great suffering for us, when we get weary. We remember. And in that remembering our hearts get free to live for Him. To join our lives into the amazing gospel story of grace. To be all used up for something eternal and significant- knowing we already have the prize.