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 the race that is set before us. — Hebrews 12:1
A few years ago, I found myself packing around several extra pounds that I had accumulated over the years. I began to suffer some of the side effects of being overweight, like frequent heartburn, high blood pressure, and a lack of energy, so I decided it was time to do something about it.
I tried several fad diets, only to find out they didn’t work very well over the long term. I finally came to the conclusion that I needed to do some research to come up with an eating plan I could live with that would help me accomplish my goal. With God’s help, a lot of self-discipline, patience, and daily exercise, I now enjoy the benefits of a healthy weight. However, I still have to be on guard continually so the pounds stay off. It is much easier to take off one or two pounds instead of waiting for ten or fifteen pounds to accumulate before doing something about it. Since accomplishing my goal required diligence and sacrifice on my part, some may ask, “Was it worth the effort?” The answer is a resounding, “Yes!”
We can use the same strategy in our spiritual lives. When we recognize a problem area, we need to determine that the problem must be solved. Then we need to take it to the Lord in prayer, and look in His Word for the answer. As we discipline ourselves to seek God’s will and apply His Word to our lives, we will accomplish our spiritual goals and we will enjoy the benefits of a closer walk with God. It is much better to deal with the “weights” in our lives when they are small, before they become so big they overwhelm us and cause us to fall.
A minister of the Gospel, Charles Rodman, said this about the challenge expressed in our focus verse, “Are we going to go through, whatever betides? That is the question. Are we going to continue upon the racecourse? Are we going to continue with that perseverance and endurance and intrepid spirit that will stick to the thing in spite of men and devils? One may fall; he may make mistakes; he may go under through some of his weaknesses, but victory is for the man who will stick to his purpose that he is going to see the end of the race. God will eventually lead that man to where men or devils, or powers in earth, or power in hell, will never overthrow him. He will have the things that will stand.”
Each one of us can run with patience to the end. Let us ask God to help us do it!
The “great cloud of witnesses” referred to all the people listed in Hebrews 11. The writer reminded the Hebrew Christians that they were not the only people who faced problems and struggles in their lives. Others had gone before them who had run the race with patience and won. Participants in the race could look to those who had triumphed and could find encouragement in thinking of their victories, of the way they ran, of the goal they won, and how they came through every step of the way by faith.
The readers were exhorted to lay aside every weight that would hinder them in their walk with the Lord. The words “so easily beset us” mean, “stationed round about us.” Though Christians are delivered from the power of sin, they are not delivered from the sin in the world around them nor from the temptation of it. They do not reach that stage in this world. Being a Christian requires one to cultivate his relationship with God with the help of the Holy Spirit, and to keep his eyes on Jesus, not on circumstances.
Being chastened by God is never a pleasant experience, but it shows His love for His followers. Just as a father, out of love, disciplines his children to teach them what is right, God chastens and coaches His children to instruct them. As they are disciplined and learn, their faith will be strengthened, and they will be an encouragement to others.
The readers understood the ritual of cleansing themselves and preparing for sacrifice in the Temple. No one could enter into the presence of the Lord without going through the ceremonial cleansing process to “sanctify” themselves. The writer instructed them that they still needed to be holy and at peace with their fellow man in order to enter into God’s presence. The experience of sanctification brings holiness into the life of a justified person, cleansing the heart instead of the body.
The readers were warned to be diligent and not let any seed of bitterness spring up in their hearts. In verse 16, Esau was an example of one who did not value his inheritance. He sold his birthright in a moment of weakness, and even though he realized his mistake, it was too late to recover what he had lost.
When the Children of Israel left Egypt and came to the foot of Mount Sinai, God tried to communicate with them from the mountain. But the people were so frightened by the thunder, lightning, and smoke that they removed themselves from the mountain and the presence of God (Exodus 20:18). When Jesus came, He invited all believers to dwell with Him at Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem. Today, we can have access to God through His Son Jesus, along with all fellow believers.
There will be no escape for those who refuse Jesus and His teachings. There will come a day when this world will completely crumble and only God’s Kingdom and those who follow Jesus will remain. Knowing this should cause people to serve God with “reverence and godly fear.”
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
III. The application: the life we should live because of His life and work
B. Exhortation to endurance in faith
3. The exhortation (12:1-29)
a. The command (12:1-2)
b. The example (12:3-4)
c. The explanation (12:5-11)
d. The obligations (12:12-17)
e. The privilege (12:18-24)
(1) Negatively (12:18-21)
(2) Positively (12:22-24)
f. The warning (12:25-29)
Serving the Lord requires diligence and self-discipline. We need to be careful that we don’t let any “weights” attach themselves to our lives that could cause us to grow weak and faint in our spiritual walk. As we keep our eyes on Jesus and practice discipline in our daily lives, we will grow stronger in our faith and we will be an encouragement to others in their walk with God.