Hebrews 12:1-3 “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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
I have often wondered about these verses and this “great cloud of witnesses” who “surround us.” Who are they? What are they to us? What do they have to do with “the sin that so easily entangles us?” They can't save us from sin, only Jesus can do that, and we are told in these verses to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” So why are they mentioned here?
My pastor in California once said, “When the Bible says 'therefore', pay attention and find out what it's there for!” So let's explore these verses a little bit and find out what it's there for.
“Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses...”
In much of Paul's writings, he encouraged the congregations of the churches to remember those who came before them. He reminded them of the Israelite's who wandered the desert, forgetting how God delivered them from the Egyptians and moaned about their situation. They moaned about the manna that came from Heaven every morning, and they moaned about the meat the Lord gave them later. They moaned about everything, and while Moses was on the mountain with the Lord, they called for Aaron to make them a god, and gathered all their gold together for that purpose. They failed to keep their focus on the God who delivered them. They failed to keep their focus on the promised land, and most of them died before seeing it.
But if we go back to Hebrews and take a look at chapter eleven, which is generally termed “the faith chapter,” we find a list of names of people like Abraham, Abel, Enoch, Noah, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Moses' parents, Moses, Gideon, Barak, Samson, and the list goes on of those who persevered and obeyed God receiving the prize, which is a place in Heaven.
“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...”
The tale of Joseph and Potiphar's wife comes to mind when I read this part. Genesis 39:6-18 tells us that Joseph was a handsome man and Potiphar's wife came onto him, wanting him to go to bed with her, but Joseph was a godly man, and did what was right. When she put her hands on him, he ran, leaving her holding his cloak. Then, she told Potiphar that Joseph had attempted to rape her, and poor Joseph went to prison. Joseph had to physically throw off his cloak in order to run from a sinful situation. If he hadn't, he could have easily been entangled in sin. Joseph knew God personally, and refused to allow anything to come between them. He knew that no matter how things looked from a jail cell, God had a path marked out for him and Joseph persevered and followed God. Two years later, Joseph became the ruler of Egypt. A much different fate than what would have happened had he succumbed to Potiphar's wife's wiles!
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who, for the joy set before him, endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith...”
Really, there shouldn't be anymore to say than that. Jesus Christ, who gave up Heaven to be born of a virgin birth, to live the life of a Jewish man, to be ridiculed, arrested, beaten beyond recognition, and hung on a cross with a crown of thorns shoved into his head, until he died.
And for what?
“For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him, would not perish, but have everlasting life. God sent His Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:16-17
When life isn't going the way you think it should, or seems to get worse the more you pray, just pray some more. Keep your focus on the One who holds you in His hands. Christ is the author and perfecter of YOUR faith, so don't lose sight of what He is doing in your life. And remember all of those people who have already lived this life and gone on to Glory, and not just the ones mentioned in the Bible, but all the praying grandmothers, mothers, fathers, grandfathers, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, and friends who prayed for you, and maybe they never saw your salvation before they went on to Heaven, like my own grand- mother, but nevertheless, they see your life now and know you are saved and are now running the race set before you. They are there, cheering you on so that, like Paul, you can run with purpose in every step. (1 Corinthians 9:26)