Hebrews 12: 1 – 2 (NIV): 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 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
When a passage begins with the word, “therefore”, we need to look back to see what it’s there for. In this case, he is referring to the faith hall of fame we find in Chapter 11; the men and women of old who lived by faith and took God at his word. Now, those heroes of the faith are cheering us on as we live our own lives – as we run the race that God has placed before us.
The great “cloud” of witnesses is a metaphor for Olympic grandstands full of cheering people, encouraging us to win the race we find ourselves in. God has given each of us our own unique race. We each have a life to live. So we must throw off anything that hinders us from running to win. This is anything that comes between us and God. And we must not let sin entangle our feet and trip us up. Sin causes us to be losers in our own race.
It is interesting that the word for “race” in this passage is “agon” in the Greek. This is where we get our English word, “agony”. It’s not that our lives are sure to be full of pain and hardship, it’s just that we will face challenges we will need to overcome in order to win our race. We will need to have self-discipline as we strain ahead toward victory.
The key to winning our race, then, is to keep our eyes on Jesus. Becoming more and more like him is the goal of our faith. And he will give us the power we need to run and win the race. He gave us our faith and he will see us through. If we will keep our eyes on him and not be distracted by all that is happening around us, we can be winners. We can live victorious lives, full of joy and purpose.