''Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us”. (Hebrews 12:1)
You have a particular race that God has set before you to run. It is a spiritual race that has to do with the divine destiny God has planned for you to fulfill. The Bible says you are not only to run your race, but you are to finish your race or course (2 Tim. 4:7). In other words, you are to fulfill God’s plan and purpose for your own individual life.
You are not to run someone else’s race or finish someone else’s course, for God has set a different course before each of us. Why is it so important to follow God’s plan for our lives? How can we successfully run our race and finish our course? The Bible answers these questions for us.
First, notice something important in Hebrews 12:1. It says that we are not running our race unobserved. While we are running in this spiritual race, the Bible says we are “surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses.” Who is included in this great cloud of witnesses? Hebrews chapter 11 tells us.
The writer of Hebrews did not write this letter to the Hebrew Christians in chapter and verse. So when we read Hebrews 12, we need to realize he was still talking about the “gallery of the heroes of faith” he had been discussing in Hebrews 11.
The men and women of faith in Hebrews 11 are a part of the cloud of witnesses referred to in Hebrews 12:1. What does he mean when he says we are “surrounded by” by this cloud of witnesses? The Living Bible paraphrases it this way: “Since we have such a huge crowd of men [and women] of faith watching us from the grandstands . . . let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.”
The writer used the illustration of running a race to describe how we are to follow God’s plan for our lives in our Christian walk. He gave us the picture of the Grecian athletic games that were held in those days, which were similar to our modern Olympic Games. In the Grecian Games, those who ran in these races were surrounded by people watching them from the grandstands, cheering them on.
So in Hebrews 12:1, the Bible was saying in essence, “All these heroes listed here and all the other believers who have ever died are watching us from the grandstands in Heaven as we run our spiritual race.” That great cloud of witnesses in Heaven, as well as every believer on earth, are all a part of the family of God that Paul talks about in Ephesians 3:14 and 15:
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“For this cause, I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.” Let it encourage you to know you have family in Heaven’s grandstands cheering you on as you run your race! This huge crowd of men and women of faith are not watching you as you run your natural race on this earth. They are not interested in the natural things of life. For example, they aren’t watching you as you go about your daily business. They aren’t interested in whether or not you bought a new house or a new car or how much money you have in the bank.
They are watching you in your Christian walk as you run your spiritual race. They are interested in whether or not you are following God’s plan for your life.
How do we run our race in such a way that God’s plan will be fulfilled in our lives and Heaven will rejoice? Let us look again at Hebrews 12:1: “. . . let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” The Living Bible gives us a clearer picture of what it means to “lay aside every weight and sin.”
Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.
Think about the way a runner dresses in an actual Olympic race. He or she doesn’t run with a coat on, do they? Why? Because that would slow them down. Also, a runner doesn’t wait until he’s run half the race before he pulls off his coat, saying, “This coat is holding me back.”
If he did that, there’s no way he could win the race! In the natural, wearing a coat would slow a runner down and keep him from winning his race. It’s the same way in the spiritual realm. Sin will slow you down, it will keep tripping you, and it can prevent you from running your spiritual race. Sin in your life will not only hinder your fellowship with God, it will dull your spirit and cause you to be less responsive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. Therefore, sin left unchecked will cause you to live only in the natural realm, and you’ll miss God’s best for your life.
It is also easy to become too entangled with legitimate affairs of life, things which may be good in themselves but are not what God has called you to do. There are many things in this life that are not necessarily wrong, but they will slow you down in your particular spiritual race. They will hinder you from growing spiritually and from fulfilling God’s purposes in your life. That’s why God tells us in Hebrews 12:1 to strip off those weights and sins in our lives that are tripping us and slowing us down spiritually.
And we should strip them off now so we are not hindered from fulfilling the plan of God for our lives. If we wait to strip off those weights until we have plodded slowly through half our race, we risk the possibility of never finishing our course and not fulfilling the plan of God for our lives (2 Tim. 4:7). Notice Hebrews 12:1 says you are the one who must strip off the weights and sins that hinder you and hold you back in your Christian walk. Of course, God will help you. The Holy Spirit, the Helper, dwells within you to give you the power and ability to obey God (John 14:26 Amp). But God is not going to pull off your “coat”, those weights and sins that slow you down and lay them aside for you!
You are going to have to do it. That’s why some people have trouble running their spiritual race; they are not stripping off everything that would slow them down or hold them back. They are not laying aside the sin that “wraps itself so tightly around their feet and trips them.”
Often the difficulties we face in running our race are not the result of God’s yoke upon us or trying to fulfill His will for our lives. Many times the difficulties we encounter are the result of what we have failed to do by not stripping off everything that would hinder us. So in the same way you might take your coat off and throw it down, make the decision to strip off every wrong motive, every selfish ambition, carnal inclination, and desire of the flesh that will hinder you in your race. Lay aside weights and sins like pride, double-mindedness, spiritual slothfulness, and fear.
Cast all these weights and sins far from you and refuse to take them up again. You must do this if you want to do your best to run your spiritual race and finish your course with joy.
Dr Doug Mamvura is a graduate of Charis Bible School. Feedback: email@example.com or Twitter @dougmamvura