August, summer is ending. As a high schooler, I never wanted summer to end. I simply had too much fun spending time with friends, working landscape, going on family vacations and running! Yes, I said running. I spent all summer preparing for the upcoming high school fall cross country season by running four to six miles per day. My friend Steve and I often ran together. Typically we challenged each other along the way. We always had a goal, to better our time from the previous week. Of course, I would not be providing the whole story if I didn’t share that both our dads, depending on where we ran, would stand at the end of the driveway and time us—providing that little extra incentive; if you know what I mean.
The author of Hebrews did something similar as our dads; he too provided an incentive for his readers. At chapter 12 the author shifts from a historical recital of Old Testament examples of faith (11) to a pastoral admonition to persevere in suffering. How? By faithfully enduring the race; running! As we look at the final “Let us. . .” command, we must not forget that the author’s encouragement for his readers is to be faithful and cling to Jesus. His moving appeal is based upon the host of faithful witnesses from chapter 11 as well as his urgent call to look forward with a concentrated attention on the epitome of faithfulness, Jesus Christ.
The Letter to the Hebrews
The author writes to a congregation in crisis (10:32-33) pointing them to the superior and great high priesthood of Jesus Christ as their motivation for endurance. As the author concludes his letter, he focuses on endurance in chapter 12. He admonishes this endurance in our lives through an athletic metaphor; running a race (12:1). For the “Let us. . .” command in 12:1-3, the writer of Hebrews “urges patient and trusting perseverance in spite of hardship as the proper response of Christian faith” (William Lane, Word Biblical Comm., 406).
Hebrews 12:1-3 – “Let Us Run”
The exhortation is to run (12:1). The three verses not only provide the reader with what to do, but also answers a host of other questions so as to motivate us toward endurance despite life’s difficulties.
The Basis for Running (12:1a):
The author points his readers to a number of witnesses that was not just great in number, but great in purpose. They possessed a forward-looking faith and a devotion to serving God despite their present circumstances (11:1-40). They had faith in the living God, and it was this faith that enabled these OT examples to move beyond life’s disappointments and sufferings to a future hope based on God and His Word.
The Exhortation “Let Us Run” (12:1b):
The admonition is to run the race, (i.e. live life faithfully). The race has a goal, and the goal has been established by the master of the games, just like a master of ceremonies during a track and field event. Because the master is God, we can be assured that the race we run faithfully will bring us to the desired goal. How do we run the race faithfully?
The Means to Running (12:1c-2):
To run the race well we must throw off or get rid of anything and everything that would impede our progress. Whatever it is that might interfere with our commitment to Jesus Christ must be thrown away. Sin can easily distract us. Potentially, the everyday compromises of our faith clearly demonstrate that we’re attracted to sin. Get rid of it, says the author.
Second, we should run with endurance. In other words, a desire to finish despite the hardships, struggles, exhaustion and pain along the way. Third, we ought to have a concentrated attention on Jesus that turns away from all other distractions and focuses on Him (12:2). Why? Because Jesus Christ, the One to whom we focus, is the “author and finisher of our faith.” In other words, He is the champion of our salvation, the example of supremacy. He brought faith to completion and is the perfect example of trust in God. Jesus endured the entire crucifixion process and braved it for us. He obeyed God and perfectly finished the race. He is the exalted Son (“he is set down at the right hand of the throne of God”). No other person or angel (cf. 1:13) has been given the privilege to sit at God’s right hand, because to sit at His right hand indicates equality. Jesus has set the example of how to run the race of this life.
The Grounds and Purpose to Running (12:3):
In verse three the author is emphatically stating, “by all means consider Him,” or “seriously think about His endurance” and do so in such a way that we evaluate and assess our own life with the utmost care. Jesus endured hostile opposition, yet He remained faithful. The author then concludes with the purpose for considering Jesus; “that we will not grow weary and lose heart” (12:3b). By considering Jesus, we will not grow fatigued and discouraged; rather, we will press on in the Christian life no matter what obstacles we may face.
Questions for us as we consider running the race:
- What comforts of this world keep us from our appointed course?
- When going through difficulties of this life, where do we place our attention? Is it on Jesus and His example of faithfulness?
- What is it that impedes my progress as I run the race? Am I getting rid of it?
by Wayne Slusser, Ph.D., Dean of Baptist Bible Seminary