“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” Hebrews 12:1-3
I wanted to share these verses today and speak truth into some hearts that are perhaps, like mine, prone to become discouraged by the longness and hardness of the journey. How are we to endure the suffering that comes from living on this sin cursed earth, and from following Jesus on a road that is narrow and difficult? These verses encourage me because I believe that in them is the answer to this question.
First, we need to lay aside every weight and sin that weighs us down. This last week the Lord has taken me through another period of intense pruning. Suffering brings to the surface sins and flesh patterns that we maybe didn’t realize were there. God allows them to come up so that He, the Master Gardener, can prune them off as part of His work to conform us to the likeness of His Son, and produce the fruit of righteousness in us.
Imagine trying to run a race while wearing a backpack full of rocks. It would be difficult to say the least, and you probably wouldn’t get very far. This is what it is like trying to live for Jesus while clinging to our sin and to the things of this world. In order to run the race of life and endure to the end, we need to throw off that backpack of rocks. Let go of your sin. Let go of the shallow, empty things of this world, and all that holds you back from living fully for Him, and you will find great freedom in Him, and deeper intimacy with Him.
Second, look to Jesus. One of the biggest things that trips me up is when I begin to focus on myself, my sin, my struggles, and my suffering, instead of on the Lord. When I take my eyes off of Jesus and begin instead to focus on the hard, I become discouraged. You see friends, what we focus on is what becomes bigger to us. If we focus on our mistakes, our suffering, or on how hard the things are that we are called to endure, those things become bigger to us and we lose sight of our Saviour. But the opposite is also true. When we take our eyes off of ourselves and our circumstances and fix them on Christ, He becomes bigger to us than all of it (which He really is), and we are then able to soar on eagles wings above the storm. Hebrews 11:27 says that Moses was able to endure his suffering as seeing Him that is invisible, and friends, so can we.
Third, we can endure because of the joy that is set before us. These verses give us for an example our Saviour who, on the cross, suffered far more than we can imagine or will ever have to suffer. He was able to endure because of the joy that was set before Him. He knew that His suffering was only for a short time, and that He would soon be reunited with His Father in Heaven. He knew that the joy of bringing many sons to glory was before Him as well. Jesus’ suffering came to an end and He is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Did you notice verse 3? It tells us to consider Him who endured so much for us. Why? “Lest [we] be wearied and faint in [our] minds.”
Friends, if we would endure faithfully, we must not lose sight of the joy and hope that is before us. Jesus has purchased salvation for us with His blood, and with it eternal life and eternal hope. We have before us the joy of eternity with Him, an eternity that is free from the curse of sin, free from all suffering, pain, tears, and death. We will put off these broken earthly bodies that are wasting away, and put on completely new, whole, perfect, glorified bodies that our Saviour is preparing for us. If you have called upon the name of Jesus and trusted in Him alone for salvation, then this joy and this hope is yours in Christ. If not, then they can be today by faith in His work. Take heart. Our suffering is not forever. Jesus could come any day and take us home to be with Himself. We will join Him at the throne of God, and our suffering will be put an end to forever. Until then, let’s be faithful to keep running, keep enduring, keep looking to Him.
Finally, remember that you are not alone! We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnessess. Many countless thousands have run this race before us, endured great suffering, and have obtained the prize. We also are surrounded by the body of Christ both locally and around the world who are on the same road. We are not running alone! Even if He does call us to run alone for a while, we can never be truly alone because Jesus promised never to leave or forsake us. We always have the assurance of His presence.
I hope this can be of some encouragement. How much we need to constantly remind ourselves of the truths of the Gospel and the hope we have in Christ! Let’s be faithful!
With love, ❤