Pastor John has prepared brief devotions for the newsletter during each week of his sabbatical (July 1-September 30). Each passage is a favorite of Pastor John.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
When I was in the process of becoming an ordained Presbyterian minister, one of the requirements was writing an exegesis paper on a predetermined passage. This was considered an ordination exam, and the passage we were assigned that year was Hebrews 12:1-3. Through the process of writing that paper, I fell in love with this passage.
I don’t think there are any Christians who, at some time or another, haven’t felt like giving up. The pressures of this life and our struggles with sin can make it seem and feel as if God is far off; that God is no longer there for us. That desperation is what these three verses are speaking to. They are defined in the second verse as, “every weight” and, “sin which clings so closely.”
Put simply, what this passage is speaking to is willfully letting sin into your life, and the burden of trying to accomplish on your own what Christ has done for you. And the two often go hand in hand. We get caught up in some sin, and once convicted, rather than simply seek forgiveness and grace, we start looking to our own efforts to redeem us. We promise God we’ll stop sinning; we try to do more good things to offset the sin, and on and on the cycle goes until we can no longer stand the pressure. Everything comes crashing down.
As followers of Christ, we dare not stay in that low position. We are reminded that we are not in this alone (surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses), that we are not the first Christian to struggle with sin. The way out is quite simple: Look to Jesus. Other versions translate verse two, “Fix your eyes on Jesus.” Look to him and realize he has gone to the cross for your sin. Look to him and see that he was traded his glory for our shame. Look to him and find the One who bore up under tremendous suffering and punishment. We look at him and we remember he died for us, he saves us, he calls us, and he has forgiven us. His suffering and shame gives us the example and the encouragement we need to help us to press on in the marathon that is this life.