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.Hebrews 12:1-2
surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, he says. That does not simply say that people who have died and gone on to heaven are looking down on us from above. It means that these people are saying something to us, they are testifying to us, they are witnesses in that sense. Their lives are saying that we ought to lay aside every weight, i.e., whatever hinders faith. You never say,
Yes to Christ without saying,
No to something else!
And the sin that so easily entangles. What is that? That is unbelief. That is the failure to take revelation seriously. Then, what?
Run with perseverance, with persistence, keeping on no matter what happens. How? By
fixing our eyes Jesus, that is the answer. The others we read of here can inspire us, challenge us, and some of the men and women of faith who have lived since these days can do the same.
I read the life of Martin Luther — what a challenge he is to me; and of John Wesley, and D. L. Moody, and of some of the recent martyrs of faith, Jim Elliot and others. How they have challenged my life and inspired me to make a fresh start; to determine anew to walk with God, and to follow their example. They challenge us to mobilize our resources, clench our fists, set our jaws and determine that we shall be men and women of faith. But if that is our motivation we shall find that we soon run out of gas. It all begins to fade and after a few weeks we are right back in the same old rut.
The secret of persistence is in this phrase,
fixing our eyes on Jesus. Look at these men and women of faith, yes, but then look away on Jesus. Why? Because he is the author and finisher of our faith. He can begin it and he can end it, complete it. He is the pioneer, he has gone on ahead. He is also the perfecter of faith. He himself ran the race. He laid aside every weight, every tie of family and friends. Every restraining hand he brushed aside that he might resolutely walk with God. He set his face against the popular sin of unbelief and walked on in patient perseverance, trusting the Father to work everything out for him. He set the example.
But there is more than example in this phrase; there is empowerment. We are to fix our eyes on Jesus because he can do what these others cannot do. They can inspire us, but he empowers us. Moment by moment, day by day, week by week, year by year, if we learn to look to him we find strength imparted to us, because he indwells us! That is the secret.
You can find strength to venture out and start this life of faith today in him. You also discover strength to continue. He is not
up there somewhere. As this book has made clear, he is within us, by faith. If we have received Jesus Christ, he dwells within. He has entered into the sanctuary, into the inner man, into the place where we need strength, and is available every moment for me. Therefore, in Christ, I have all that it takes to meet life.
Father, thank you for a living Lord Jesus who is no distant person, one that I cannot know and talk to, and draw strength from and lean upon. But he is my living Lord, ready to make available to me all that I need in every hour.
Are we grateful for the testimonies of exemplary lives of faith, many of them martyrs, now with Christ? Who is our ultimate example of endurance, and our sole empowerment to follow His example?