The authorship of the book of Hebrews is a bit uncertain, but it is traditionally ascribed to the Apostle Paul. In the twelfth chapter of the epistle, the author likens the Christian journey to a race. This is one analogy that is almost exclusively used by the Apostle Paul as far as the New Testament books are concerned. It is also one of the most common analogies used in our time.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.(Hebrews 12:1, NLT)
A few things from this verse: The Christian journey of faith is comparable to a race. There’s a starting point and a finish point. There are guidelines to prevent falling out or being disqualified. There’s a prize to be gotten at the end.
There’s also a “huge crowd of witnesses” – spectators, you might call them, people who have lived a life of faith and are rooting for us to do the same and even more than they did, because they know we have an advantage they didn’t have during their time; the indwelling presence of God.
It’s also clear that this race is not a 100 or 200 meter sprint. It’s more of a marathon. The Bible says to “run with endurance the race God has set before us”. This race is not for the swift. It is a race that requires perseverance and endurance.
In order to increase our chances of finishing this race strong, this verse admonishes us to strip off every weight, especially the sin(s) that can easily trip you. Note, though, that sin is not the only thing to strip off from yourself. “Especially the sin” connotes there are other things capable of weighing you down.
These things may not necessarily be grouped under the category of sin. They are things that may be lawful (OK) but not expedient (beneficial) for you. It could be the wrong company, negative mindsets, wrong lifestyle choices and the likes. To increase your chances of finishing strong, you must rid yourself of these things.
But how ought we to strip? The answer is in verse two.
“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”(Hebrews 12:2, NLT)
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that ridding yourself of dead weight is something you do by your own effort. It’s not. It has never been.
“How foolish can you be? After starting your Christian lives in the Spirit, why are you now trying to become perfect by your own human effort?”(Galatians 3:3, NLT)”
When God calls a man into the Christian journey, the aim is not for that man to become a better version of himself, the aim is to become like Christ. By keeping our eyes on Jesus and patterning our lives after His Word and His instructions we receive in the place of fellowship, it becomes clearer to us the type of person God wants us to be and it becomes easier to follow the Spirit’s leading regarding letting go of weights.
Our motivation to bring an end to those besetting sins will no longer come from a short lived paroxysmal desire to “just be a better person”. It would come from a revelation of the person of Jesus and an understanding that that is who we’re meant to be. When this is the case, it becomes easier to drop those weights and leave them where you dropped them, even on days when you don’t feel like it.
If you’re not yet a believer, you’re most certainly not on the way to fulfilling God’s purpose for you, and you have next to no chance of finishing strong as far as God sees it. Becoming a child of God and signing up for this journey of Faith is very easy. Why it’s so easy is a story for another day. But for now:
“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.
As the scriptures tell us, “Anyone who trusts in Him will never be disgraced”
(Romans 10:9-11, NLT)