Study Notes

Hebrews 12:1-2


I can tell you with assurance that the church is in absolutely no danger of bankruptcy. It was touch and go there for awhile, but after 12 weeks, we are officially out of chapter eleven!

We did spend a significant number of weeks in Hebrews chapter 11, seeing the faith of numerous men and women who found approval in God's sight by their faith. Now, the author of Hebrews directs our attention from their lives of faith back to ours....

12:1-2 A Cloud Of Witnesses

We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. Who are we surrounded by?

Although our church continues to grow in population, the author is not talking about the packed pews all around you.

He is not talking, as one woman who recently called the church office asserted, that they are the ghosts of departed loved ones who are constantly following after us in this world. In addition to being doctrinally inconsistent with the Bible, that would give me the creeps!

No, the witnesses that he is talking about are the crowds of people who walked by faith - all of those Old Testament saints who were listed in chapter eleven, in addition to those others that were too numerous to mention.

These folks are witnesses for the fact that it is possible to walk by faith in spite of many difficulties and threats of death. If Moses lived a life of faith, so can we. If Isaac could walk in faith, so can we. If Samson could be counted as a person of faith, then certainly we can manage it!

The Christian Life Is A Race

Now, because it is possible to be a person of faith, because we have so many examples, we need to run the race that is the Christian life.

The Bible uses this word picture of a race several times to illustrate this point.

Paul used it on at least three different occasions. He told the Corinthians,

1Cor. 9:24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but {only} one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

He asked the Galatians,

Gal. 5:7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?

And he candidly said to the Philippians, that on the day of Christ he wanted to know that he...

Phil. 2:16 ...did not run in vain...

So we are called to run a race. Race is the Greek word, "ag-ONE," from which we get our English words "agonize," and "agony." It is not just any race, but one which is a conflict, a battle, a contest of struggling.


We are given several pointers about how to run the race. First we are told to lay aside every encumbrance. An encumbrance is something that is a burden to us, that puts weight on us.

Runners would never dream of wearing heavy shoes, or entering a race with a backpack full of bricks. And yet we allow many things to weigh us down as we run the Christian race. We carry our cares and desires for riches and success, for fame and fortune. We load all of our cars, furniture and toys into a big trailer, hook it to our belts, and take off running.

This is a great way to insure that our race is miserable from beginning to end! Jesus warned us that...

Mark 4:19 ...the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things...

...would insure that our Christian lives were completely unfruitful. The Scriptures are here telling us to lay this stuff aside - it is only weighing us down.

Entangled In Sin

The next pointer for runners is to lay aside something else: sin. Sin is pictured as entangling us as we run. In ancient times, gladiators used nets as a weapon against their opponents. The nets had weights attached around the perimeter, making them easy to throw and entangle someone who was running away. Once entangled, they either fell or were easily knocked to the ground.

Sin is frequently pictured in the Bible as a net. When we allow sin to remain in our lives, it acts exactly as a gladiator's net thrown at us - it entangles us, knocking us down, and prevents us from running the race.

Run With Endurance

The next pointer for running this race is to run with endurance. You see, the Christian life is a race of distance, not of speed. It is a marathon, not a sprint. It is interesting to me that the very first marathon was run not as a contest, but as a news report.

When the Greeks were attacked by the Persian Empire in 490BC, the generals of Athens sent a messenger to Sparta 140 miles away to request military assistance.

The messenger's name was Phidippides. He was a professional runner - sort of an early FedEx guy without the benefit of a truck.

It took Phidippides about 36 hours to run this distance. After delivering the message, he was told that, because of a religious restriction, the Spartans would not be able to help until the full moon. Knowing that the Athenians could not expect any help, that they were on their own, Phidippides ran the 140 miles back to bring the bad news.

Since they had to live or die by themselves, the Athenian army marched out to the plains of Marathon to face the Persians in a surprise attack. Although they were outnumbered 4 to 1, they managed to win the battle and put the Persians to flight.

Once the battle was over, it was imperative that news be taken back to Athens. Although he had run 280 miles in three days, marched 26 miles, and had fought in the battle, Phidippides was called to run once again. He had to bring news of both the victory and the approaching Persian ships to Athens, which was 26 miles away.

He ran the course in about 3 hours, delivered the messages, and then dropped dead from exhaustion.

Now this is the kind of commitment that the Lord is desiring from us. Run the race until the day you die. Don't ever drop out, don't ever give up. You've got to have endurance.

There are many people who start out running quickly, making great strides in their growth with God. But what I want to know is, "where will they be a year from now? Or ten years from now?"

Paul warned Timothy about this regarding raising up church leadership. He said to make sure that the men who were appointed were not new converts (1Tim. 3:6), regardless of how well they seemed to be running the race.

Fixing Our Eyes On Jesus

Another detail about our modern marathons is not well-known. Before the 1900's, the official marathon distance was 24.85 miles. But for the 1908 Olympics which was held in London, they increased it to 26 miles so that the race could be run from the Castle of Windsor the stadium in White City.

But this was not the only increase in distance. You see, although it was 26 miles to the White City stadium, the king of England, King Edward the Seventh, wanted the race to finish directly in front of the box where he sat on his royal throne. And so, another 385 yards was tacked onto the end. That is why the official marathon distance is now 26.2 miles!

I share that information with you because it takes us to our last pointer on running the race: we've got to fix our eyes on Jesus, our King. He is at the finish line. We are supposed to be running this marathon called the Christian life. And we, too, have a King that is watching us run. He is intensely interested in the outcome, and rooting for us to finish well. And when we do finish it, we will be directly in front of his throne.

Dear saints, let us run this race with endurance, putting aside every weight, not being entangled in sin, and focusing on the finish line, where Jesus Christ waits to give us a first-place prize!

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