Today’s post is part of a four-part series on a recent sermon I gave on Hebrews 12.1-2. Having looked at two key phrases thus far (‘so great a cloud of witnesses’ and ‘lay aside every weight’), in this post I consider two other key phrases in the passage: the ‘sin which clings so closely’ and ‘let us run with endurance’. Next week, I plan to consider the fourth and final key phrase: ‘looking to Jesus’.
v. 1c: ‘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’
Sin is rather more simple to describe than the ‘every weight’ which entangles our lives: Sin is obvious and outright obstacles to the fight of faith. Pastor John Piper puts this grave matter very simply. So many young men have disqualified themselves from the role of Christian leadership, having given into sin – specifically sexual sin – no longer carrying the baton of faith. I would add not only young men, but also women; and not only young, but those of us who are older in the faith; and not only sexual sin but all sorts of grave sin. The battle against sin is gender-blind and lifelong.
v. 1d: ‘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’
The first thing to say here is that ‘running with endurance’ is not the same as running with excitement. At the local church where my wife and I attend, there is an older gentleman – let’s call him ‘Anthony’ – who has caught my attention. If I’m not mistaken, this gentleman wears what looks like the same clothes every Sunday, sits in the same seat every week, and quietly goes about his business. (A former professor of mine who also did his doctorate at Oxford years ago – recently saw him at the society meeting and told us how ‘Anthony’ wears the same clothes he used to, and sits in the same seat … !) One Sunday, ‘Anthony’ was asked to give the reading of the word of God. Can I say, I have never before in my life heard such a steady yet thunderous, poised yet powerful reading of Scripture. Anthony lives, from what I can tell, a quiet, reserved, consistent, humble, steady, strong endurance which is not marked by loud excitement or passionate fanfare. He is to me a true athlete-witness.
In fact, isn’t there a passage (1 Ths. 4) where the Apostle Paul – who ‘pummels [his] body’ – urges us ‘aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs’ (v. 11)? There is dual character to the Christian’s life which involves passionate ‘pummeling’ and persistent, poised endurance. Ultimately Running with endurance is not about external excitement, but inner intimacy which overflows to a strong and steady godliness.
In the next and final post in this series, I will consider the phrase ‘looking to Jesus’ as the centerpiece of this passage from Heb. 12.1-2.