Running the Race: Hebrews 12:1

Life is not a sprint but a race of endurance. With no plan for the finish, many quit or come to a slow crawl before reaching the line.

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Don Haddix

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On a recent Saturday morning, our men’s group at church engaged in a discussion on Hebrews 12:1. It’s a verse many of us who have been in church for several years have likely memorized. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Hebrews 12:1

As I’ve mentioned in some of my previous posts, I do some running. (Well, honestly, some very slow jogging!) This verse is one I’ve used as a motivator for some of my running.

First, when I’m in a race I try to make sure I am not carrying around any extra weight. Before the race begins, I give Debbie my car keys, my wallet, and anything that might be in my pockets. I certainly don’t want to be carrying around any extra weight. 

Second, the races I run are not sprints; they are typically 5ks (3.1 miles). Knowing myself, I know that if I start out too fast and try to continue at that pace, I will be completely depleted about a mile into the race. I make a plan for running the race because I know 5ks require endurance, and I want to finish well.

That is the way our race in life is – not a sprint, but a race of endurance. And not thinking ahead, many of us find ourselves quitting the race or coming to such a slow crawl we don’t even appear to be moving. If we desire to finish the race well, we need a plan for enduring to the end.

That Saturday morning held more discussion on this verse. Do you remember what Hebrews chapter 11 is about? Many know this chapter as the “Hall of Faith.” Names from the Old Testament like Abel, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, and David are mentioned here! And what names can we add from the New Testament? Paul, Peter, all the disciples, and who else can you think of? 

What caught my attention is the placement of chapter 11. It is interesting that after the listing of all these Old Testament saints comes just before the words in 12:1, “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”

In some of the races I’ve run, people line the streets. And they’re not simply standing there. They are cheering on the runners! (While I’m thinking about it, I should probably mention that the people timing the races could probably use a calendar to record my times rather than a stopwatch!) Regardless – quick speed or not – there are still people cheering me on. And this encourages me to keep going and to not quit!

Think about what Hebrews 12:1 says, “We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.” Some theologians believe we are being watched by some of the saints listed in chapter 11. Others think our lives are being witnessed by some of those that have discipled/mentored us in the past. What a great encouragement this should be for us to keep going and not to quit.

I can think of three men that had a great Biblical influence on my life. Lysle led me to the Lord. Ancil mentored me as I grew older and matured in faith. Ben, my youth director, poured into me through my high school years and beyond. 

A third opinion on these witnesses in chapter 12 is that they are the people around us today who are watching our life. Who the witnesses are isn’t important. Either way, we know people are watching us and encouraging us to keep on going.

A final thought on Hebrews 12:1 is that when we, the runners, keep going, we are encouraging others to keep going too. We become helpers to those around us who are struggling in the race. This encourages them not to give up. Instead of passing by the person who is down, we can offer them the help and strength to get back up and continue running their race.

In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Paul says, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” Paul is telling us to run so we can finish the race and receive the prize set before us. 

There is a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. They are watching for our finish. Don’t quit! Run with endurance until Christ calls us home.


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