Hebrews 12:1-2. 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, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Have you ever felt like quitting something? Of course you have. And chances are you probably regretted quitting those piano lessons, or karate class, or diet plan. Or what about the bigger things in life that we’ve quit on? A friendship, or a college degree, or a career path?
Hebrews 12:1-3 is the greatest “don’t quit” speech in history. Don’t give up. Keep running the race. Endure!
But why is a “don’t quit” speech for Christians even necessary? Because, it we’re honest, we’ve all felt like quitting on Christianity at some point of our lives. (If you haven’t yet, you most likely will.) I will confess to you that many times in my life I have questioned whether this whole thing is even true. Is there really a God? Is there really a free salvation? But even more often I’ve felt like quitting on myself within Christianity. I’m not living up to all this. I’m a lousy Christian anyway. Can’t I just disappear from church and coast into heaven?
The imagery in Hebrews 12:1-3 is that of a marathon race. All the key racing elements are here: the crowd of witnesses cheering us on, those light and skimpy running clothes that won’t obstruct us, the training regimen that has produced endurance, the planned out course that has already been run, and the prize at the finish line motivating us to keep running.
But the problem with sports metaphors (and all the good sports movies) is that they almost always promote self- salvation. The athlete faces an obstacle to victory. But then they dig deeper, and work harder (queue training montage), and with a few cathartic moments thrown in along the way, they win the big race/match/game. Unfortunately, all this happens without a whole lot of grace. And rarely in these sports stories does all this self-salvation lead to death (like the law). It usually leads to victory.
But that only works in the movies.
In real life, and in Hebrews, the self-effort of the old covenant law keeping led only to death. To defeat. To unbelief. But the gospel’s grace race, as seen in Hebrews 12, leads to life. What’s the difference? The answer lies in this key phrase that challenges the usual sports movie trope – looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.
How do we win? How do we not give up? How do we keep running? Look to Jesus. And what do we see when we look to Jesus? We see our team captain has already run and won the race for us. We see the one who has started and finished our life’s race in our place. We see the one who endured the God-forsakenness of the cross and still never quit.
And he will never quit on us. He will never stop running by our side, even when he has to carry us across the finish live. We see the one who made us the joy that was set before him. His trophy. His reward. His motivation for running to “Hell” and back. We see the one who in weakness carried our shame, and in strength buried our shame. We see the champion of champions. Our victor and our prize.
Why do we feel like quitting sometimes? Because we take our eyes off Jesus. We look over our shoulder. We focus on our own weakness, our difficulties, our discouragements, our failures and mistakes. We make God’s great grace race into a competition. We start looking at the other runners and their progress. And in all these ways we fail to lay aside the weight and sin that clings to us. In fact, we hold on to it more tightly. Does the author expect us to start listing our individual sins before we can get back in the race? Or maybe just that one big “besetting sin” – anger, jealousy, lust, etc.? No. He’s talking about THE sin. THE weight. The Sin of self-salvation. The SIN of failing to trust Christ alone. This is the only sin that can slow down Christ in us – failing to trust Christ in us.
Still thinking about quitting? About giving up on God? Or maybe about fading away from church or other Christians? Look to Jesus, and no one else. This is the only way to persevere until the end. Stick with Christ. Let him carry you across the finish line. You can do it because he HAS DONE IT.
“To live is Christ” will you get you home. How do I know? Because you are the joy that has been set before Jesus. You are his prize. His reward. His love. And now he is yours. So look to him. And run. Run to the arms of the one who has already run to you.
Have you thought about quitting God’s race?
You in Christ
How does knowing that Jesus is the author and perfecter of your faith encourage you to not quit today?
Christ in you
In what part of your life might you need to look to Jesus today?