Saturday, January 29, 2022

Meditation on Hebrews 12:1-2a

Looking to Jesus

 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, looking to Jesus. . . (Heb. 12:1-2a)

 On whom are you going to fix your eyes in the new year? There is so much weariness and discouragement in life. Think of COVID19, of the floods in the Fraser Valley, of the wars throughout the world that just won’t stop, of the worldwide refugee problem. There is so much happening around us to dishearten and weary us. We need a word of encouragement. Dear reader, let the words of Hebrews 12:1-2 encourage you this year.

We are all running the race of faith; some of us walk with a limp, and yet we are running the race. We are all athletes.

When your child or grandchild is running a race, you might stand along the road to cheer them on. A runner needs encouragement. We are encouraged by a great crowd of witnesses, the Old Testament saints mentioned in the well-known Hebrews 11.

We ought to think of a great amphitheatre packed with cheering fans. There are the runners, the race track, and bleachers filled with spectators cheering on the contestants.

The outcome of the lives of the Old Testament saints encouraged the first readers of this letter, and they encourage us. They inspire us when we consider how they lived by faith. They give us a boost from the pages of scripture. They teach us how to live by faith. The expression “by faith” occurs twenty-two times in Hebrews 11. They lived by faith and were commended for their faith.

We are also encouraged by the communion of saints today. We all need to encourage each other in faith and life. Life is not easy. There is so much to dishearten us. A word fitly spoken at the right time can carry us along a bit longer and farther.

We need to focus on the race. A runner wears appropriate clothing. You don’t run in a football uniform. You might go to the event wearing heavy clothing, but you throw them off before the race.

We’re told to lay aside everything that hinders. The thing may not be wrong in itself, but does it slow you down? Does it help, or hinder?

And we lay aside the sin that entangles. Imagine an athlete wearing a robe or toga. It would trip him up. Sin easily entangles. One sin leads to another. Think of King David and the Apostle Peter. Men of God, but one sin led to another. Sin trips us up.

We are encouraged to run with endurance. An athlete keeps running, even when it hurts. No athlete coasts to victory. He strains with every fibre of his being. Running involves hardship.

We run the race set before us. A runner must follow the course marked out by pilons or by people standing at corners directing the way. If you don’t follow the course, you’ll get lost. Scripture marks out the course for us. We also have the regular preaching of the word, the communion of saints, and the office-bearers in the church to point us in the right direction.

But ultimately, we look to Jesus. We don’t look up at the stands; we don’t look around us at the other athletes; we look to Jesus.

There is a bronze sculpture at Hastings Park in Vancouver of two men running a race. The sculpture memorializes the 1954 race at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games of the then two fastest men in the world: Roger Bannister and John Landy who had both, separately, broken the four-minute mile. The men competed in “the race of the century.” Landy was leading but as he approached the finish line, he looked over his left shoulder to see where Bannister was. At that moment Bannister strained past Landy on the right for the win. Not quite Lot’s wife, but the sculpture stands as a warning about looking the wrong way.

As we are running the race of faith, we need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. If we do that in this new year we will run well, and we will finish well. Even if we walk with a limp, we’ll still be running the race. We are all athletes. Let’s keep looking to Jesus.


*First published in Clarion. issue 1 of 2022