“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience (perseverance) the race that is set before us” — Hebrews 12:1
Paul, the forever teacher, cautioner and encourager, sets before us a challenge in our journey towards the Celestial City. It encompasses everything but complacency and indolence. This is not out of the ordinary for Paul, who throughout his discourses set a protocol and example of the way the true believers in Christ ought to conduct their lives, both in the physical and spiritual. This simple descript lights the candle on numerous aspects which we should embrace, all of which imply doing on our part.
The first aspect is the notion of running. Running implies effort and work, and oftentimes incurs periods of strain as small niggles, a feeling of wanting to cramp, and hills bringing on hard breathing and burning lungs are faced. The second aspect is the application of patience and perseverance. No man ever ran a marathon the first day he donned running shoes. The hills of adversity and trial were never conquered without effort, training, and patient perseverance. So too, the Christian must not despair and give up at the first encounter of hardship and failure, but with gritted teeth and determined resolve patiently persevere. Yet, in order to do so, we need to give ourselves the best chance. What! Was Christ’s sacrifice not sufficient enough? What! Are we not justified in Him? Indeed, both are true and render themselves complete. However, think not that the glory of redemption makes thee saintly. Every sparkling diamond had to be cut and shaped from a rough stone. Sadly, every poor Christian testimony owes its foundation not to an inadequacy in the redemptive work of the Cross, but to a resistance or incompliancy to the regenerative work needed in their lives. There are too many Christians who believe they can run the race in a state of spiritual ill and unfitness, and the fallout bears the evidence thereof.
Reader, would you not scoff at a man who attempted to run a marathon wearing a dress suit? Would you not ridicule a woman attempting to do the same wearing an evening gown? Would society not frown upon Corpulents attempting to compete against seasoned professionals? What chance would they be given? What hope of success would they have in such a state of unpreparedness, be it attire or conditioning? Is there any wonder why we do not see such people partaking in a race of attrition, and if they do, is there any wonder why they are not amongst the leading pack? What outfit would we expect to see a runner wear? That which is as light as possible, with no baggage at all. His running shoes would fit; light, unrestricting shorts and special cushioned socks would be worn; an aerated vest would be used if it be a day of exorbitant heat, and few supplements would be carried, if any, with the expectancy of nourishment on-route to be obtained from the support team. What about the runner’s daily eating habits? Would he not, from day to day, eat what is right and beneficial to his physical conditioning, and consume that which equips his being for the task? Professional athletes would not dare to carry an ounce of additional weight, be it in bodily form or attire. Why? For they know the consequences and hindrance it would bear upon their performance and ultimate result.
Know too, dear heavenward runner, that the lack of a relinquished worldly character and mindset are undesirable weights, and the food of sin is sickness to the body and soul. The terrene palaces and practises of heathen indulgence are to be cast away by the soul that seeks heaven’s prize. Is Paul not, therefore, right in his encouraging, and justified in his appeal? Paul says lay aside every weight. There is no room for complacent passivity, but every weight, every hindrance – everything that would stop us from performing our best must be removed with intent – and the sin which doth so easily beset! Christian, if you be one who believes that a little sin is tolerable, bring your perspective before Paul’s analogy and let it stand trial. Is not all sin a weight, a burden? Even if a little be retained, or left undealt with, will it not represent a hindrance? Know, therefore, that it does easily trouble, and it does easily attack! Lay aside every weight and make every effort to lay aside every sin, lest it beset you at a time least desirable along the course of your race.
How foolish a notion the average Christian has of their Christian walk! The hardest race is one that has no distance indicated, no route beforehand known. This is the race we run, yet what we know and can see is the glorious finish line. How then do we tackle such a race? How do we manage the hills unknown and the winding valleys yet reached? With stoical fortitude, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. God has not set for us a distance, nor has He mapped out before our eyes a route. Yet, He has given us counsel as to how we will make it and how we will get there: lay aside every weight and every sin, run with patience and perseverance, [always] looking unto Jesus. Praise the LORD, we are also not alone – we have support on the one side, and hope on the other. We are not pioneers plotting a route across unchartered territory; a great cloud of witnesses have gone before. Their testimony is cheering and willing us on all the way to the finish line, where we will be welcomed home, and our Lord is the one who leads us, if we will but look to Him and obey His every instruction. Dear saint, if you be one moving with lethargic indifference, may God’s Spirit stir your soul to action. Begin to eat the food of Divine deliverance, and drink the rejuvenating waters of spiritual sustenance. Heed Paul’s call, embrace God’s counsel, and let the great cloud of witnesses compass thee.
“Run, run, yes, run with perseverance the race,
Put off hindrance and sin, slow not thy pace.
Strive, strive, yes, strive for the goal,
Make every effort for God, and the sanctification of thy soul.”