The author is here driving home his or her primary concern in writing this letter. They want the recipients to run with endurance the Christian race. The cultural context means there is pressure on their faith and a temptation to downplay Jesus and slip back into something more like ‘respectable’ Old Testament religion. In light of this pressure (and whatever cultural pressure we face in our own day) there is a need to endure faithfully. In this passage, the author provides three reasons for doing so.
The first is the ‘great cloud of witnesses’. This is talking about the Old Testament characters mentioned in chapter 11. They each faithfully endured in their own context, and the baton has now passed to us to do the same. Like them, we should lay aside the things that are holding us back, including the weights that get in the way (perhaps referring to the law, to desire to conform to culture, or simply to misplaced priorities) and also to the sin that clings so closely.
Secondly there is Jesus himself. He too knows what it is to endure, having even endured the cross, and did so with the same future-focussed faith leading him to look to the joy that was set before him. Jesus endured beyond what any of us have had to, even to the point of shedding blood. Thinking on his example ought to stop us becoming weary or fainthearted.
Thirdly, there is an understanding of how God is using the opposition we face for our growth. It is set in context of our position as sons and fatherly discipline. Just as an earthly father will discipline his children in order to help them grow, so our heavenly Father will allow us to be in challenging situations to help us learn to endure and grow in holiness.
In the final section of the passage, we are given details of what this endurance looks like. Be strengthened to face whatever circumstances arise with confidence. Try to live at peace with others rather than picking conflict, and live in a holy way. Do not allow bitterness to take root, and do not engage in sexual immorality.
Some Key Points:
- As we endure suffering, we have the example of many Old Testament characters and of Jesus himself to spur us on.
- We should see the things we endure as godly discipline and realise that God uses it for our growth.
- Endurance looks like being strengthened to face circumstances and living in a peaceable and holy way.
- Think About Examples of Endurance – Both the specific examples pointed out here and other testimonies through history have the effect of strengthening our faith to endure.
- Throw Off Hindrances – We are encouraged to cast aside weights and sins as we run the race. What are those things for each of us? Challenge the congregation to identify these things and to throw them off.
- Do Not Grow Weary – Often facing hardship in the faith can cause us to gradually become weary or fainthearted. This passage calls us again to lift up our drooping hands and strengthen our weary knees.