Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
In Hebrews 12, the writer uses a great word-play to shift the focus of the book from the heroes of old to the opportunity we have before us. Hebrews 12:1 says that we are surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses.” The phrase “cloud of witnesses” does refer to the heroes of Hebrews 11 whose lives provided “witness” testimony about God. This is a group of people we can look to for encouragement in our faith. Yet, the phrase “cloud of witnesses” is also intended to portray these heroes as a crowd of spectators looking back at us. In fact, the New Living Translation emphasizes this by translating this phrase as “crowd of witnesses.” The idea here is that we have been set in a stadium, all eyes are on us, and these witnesses are eager to see whether we will finish the race of faith.
Here the writer outlines what it will take for us to finish this race. First, we must “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles” (Hebrews 12:1). In ancient competitions, runners often ran naked or close to it because clothes added weight and got in the way. In a similar way, we should free ourselves of the things in life that can weigh us down or trip us up in our faith. The writer also urges us to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us” (Hebrews 12:1). Faith isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Just like long-distance runners have to find the mental fortitude to keep going when their legs are burning and their lungs are out of breath, we have to find a way to push through even when following Jesus isn’t the easiest or most popular decision.
Most importantly, the writer urges us to fix “our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:2). Just like runners keep their eyes on the finish line, we must keep our eyes on Jesus because He has already run and won the race. He is the perfect example of how to live our lives. Now, like the rest of the crowd of witnesses, He’s looking at us, cheering us on, and eager to see if we, like He, will finish the race.
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
GOD DISCIPLINES HIS CHILDREN
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it pro- duces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.
WARNING AND ENCOURAGEMENT
14 Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 16 See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. 17 Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.
To run the race God has set for each of us, we must remove the things that slow us down from maturing in our faith. Hebrews 12:1 says that these things “hinder” and “entangle” us. What are those things for you? Maybe it’s an activity or an action? Maybe it’s a person or a friend group? Maybe it’s a place? Whatever it is, what do you need to remove from your life so you can grow closer to God?
Hebrews 12 teaches us that we are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses who are cheering us on. Who are the people in your life cheering you on in your faith journey? Who is discipling you by helping you grow in your faith, challenging you, and holding you accountable? If you don’t have someone cheering you on, how can you take a step towards finding someone (or a group) to disciple you?
It is never pleasant to be corrected or disciplined by God, but His discipline is a sign of His deep love for us, as seen in Hebrews 12:5-11. Reflect on a time when you experienced God’s discipline. Maybe you didn’t realize at the time that that’s what it was, but now when you look back, you can see God’s hand at work. What did He teach you during that time?