Hebrews 12:1

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Let’s take a moment to walk thru Hebrews 12:1.   This verse divides itself into six simple parts.

The first part is “Therefore.”  Of course, we must ask what is therefore, there for? This is leading us from the previous verse, and probably Chapter 11, which emphasizes faith.  You could also say this references the entire previous part of the book of Hebrews.  Hebrews is the “Christ is better than book.”  He is better than angels, Moses, Melchizedek, and the Aaronic priesthood, and more.  It is about the power of Jesus and appeals to the converted Jew.

The second part is “since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us.”  The literal meaning of witnesses surrounding us is “martyrs lying around.”   The men and women described in chapter 11 lived out their faith.  They committed before they would know what would transpire.  Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Sampson, David, and Samuel trusted God facing significant trials and even death. God delivers believers either from trials or thru them. This concept of these heroes of the faith “lying around us” should encourage us to stay in the race. The idea of these men and women observing us from heaven is not evident in Scripture, but their example and many others that have gone before us, should encourage us to stay the course.  The believer must trust God in trials knowing He has purpose in it.  Have you considered others in your personal hall of faith?

The third part is “let us also lay aside every encumbrance.”  This literally means to cast off the weight. Believers are called to cast off encumbrances and sin, as evident in the two following verses. Generally, encumbrance relates to conviction and sin relates to violation of commands. Encumbrance is the chained anchor preventing believers from trusting God or doing his will. Encumbrance is not always sin; however, sin is always encumbrance. What are the anchors holding you down?  This can only come into focus when spending time with God and in His Word.

The fourth part is “and the sin which so easily entangles us.”  The literal meaning of entangle is standing well around or something that thwarts or retards running. It is the sin that entangles us, and guess what…the writer says it is easy!  Entanglement is so easy. This typically starts with one simple idea, one simple sin, then sin to cover it up, and then the hurting of others and searing of our conscience. We cannot live the Christian life without addressing sin.   

Entanglement can also sneak in by majoring on the minor issues.   All we have to do is turn on the news and we can have our pick of what we want to consume our minds. How do you become entangled?

The fifth part is “let us run with endurance.”  This is the good news!  The literal meaning for endurance is patience, or hopeful constancy.  Possibly the best analogy is the running of a race. This requires preparation, patience, and focus.  For the athlete, purpose and hope must be present to succeed. In I Corinthians 9:24-27 the Christian is called to run the race to win an imperishable wreath.  In Philippians 3:10-14 Paul presses on toward the goal for the prize.  Faith and hope must be an integral part of the Christian’s life.  The men and women described in chapter 11 did not set their hope on the trial or death itself.  They set it on God’s promise of eternity.  What are you running for?

The sixth part is “the race that is set before us.”   The literal meaning here is:  present in front or in the mind. We are accountable for what we know. The race looks different for each one of us. We all have one common goal, but all have different knowledge, gifts, and backgrounds. We have different running shoes. However, all believers must understand the rules of the race. God says He is God, not us. He got there first, not us. He has defined the race, not us. We are here to prepare for eternity.  We must renew our mind regularly through Scripture, or we will be lost and entangled in the world. The race is not against each other.  The race is between us and God.  Paul says in I Corinthians we do not run aimlessly, beating the air. What is your goal in life?

So, what is the race exactly? It is the entire Christian life. It is following God’s commands, that is, evangelism and edification. We must constantly be thinking “lost.”  If we don’t, we end up quarantining ourselves, becoming selfish and do not bear fruit. We must view others as an opportunity, not an obstacle. God commands us to love others and we cannot love others without sharing the Gospel with them.  Are you in the race?

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