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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (verses 1-3)
The race is long and hard. It’s wearing. Sometimes it’s so difficult to keep up the pace, even to put one foot in front of the other. Yet we’re called to press on, to press forward, to persevere.
In the stands cheering, and all along the track, are those who have gone before, persevering to the end themselves. There they are now, urging us on, this “great cloud of witnesses” – Abel and Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Joseph and Moses and Rahab and Gideon and all those others who lived by faith even when they never saw the tangible fulfilment of all their hopes. They stand cheering, leaning forward, urging us on. We take courage and press in.
But by far the most powerful reinforcement is the sight of our Lord himself, just up ahead, having run the race fully and excelled. “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.” Knowing the intensity of his own race inspires. But it’s more. In fixing eyes on him we see his example, yes. But we are also filled with his Spirit, so that his passion and training and experience become accessible to us, guiding our flagging steps, and re-energizing our stride. He persevered amid opposition and impediments. So, too, can we.
But there’s more still. He is “the author and perfecter of our faith.”He himself put the race in us at the start. He’s the source. Indeed, the term “author” implies creativity and plot outline and story development – he’s mapped out the course for us, not at all surprised by its twists and turns, rather using them for our good. But he’s also the “perfecter of our faith.” Like a good physical trainer who works the muscles for maximum development, our Lord is intent to so strengthen our faith that we “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
His own race was gruelling. There was opposition and pain and shame, yielding every possibility for weariness and abject discouragement. Yet he endured. Fixing his own sights on “the joy set before him,” he pressed on.
Remarkably, we were part of that joy. It was his intent to bring “many sons and daughters to glory” (Hebrews 2:10) – we were part of that equation. Making it very personal, Paul says he “delivered himself up for me” (Galatians 2:20). A song of my youth put it this way: “I was in his mind when Calvary’s hill he climbed; I was in his mind when he died for all mankind; because he loved me …” My salvation spurred him on.
Now his example spurs me on. I fix my eyes on him.
Lord Jesus, as I run and sweat, sometimes flagging, I lift my sights to you again. You have so loved me that you went to the cross, enduring such pain and opposition. I want to fall in step with your stride. Energize me by your Spirit. Keep my sights fixed on you.
Reflect: Anticipate the next week. What is the most difficult stretch of road ahead of you? Understand that Jesus himself is there. Lift your sights to catch his stride. How can that sighting strengthen your own race?