Running the Race of Faith

Soaring on lyrical thermals, the author of Hebrews piles image upon image, linking his thoughts with conjunctions that urge the reader to keep a finger in the preceding pages — all the while pressing forward for more encouragement.  Finding that ten out of the thirteen chapters begin with a conjunction, this last thunderous “therefore” that launches chapter twelve sends my mind back — not merely to the previous chapter, but ALL the way back . . .

Because God has spoken;
Because He has provided an escape from the endless downward pull of sin;
Because it is still Today — but it won’t be forever;
Because there is an urgent rest offered as a gift to the people of God;
Because Jesus, High Priest and Sacrifice, has ushered in New Covenant realities that fulfill all the Old Testament shadows.
Because of ALL this . . . and “because we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,” let’s lay aside the encumbrances;
let’s jettison the load of sin,
and let’s join the race!

Salvation is the starting line for everyone (there are no head starts or short cuts), and this race of faith is no stroll in the park.  The Greek word used for “race” [agon] is the root for our English word agony.  In this race, we’re not competing against the other runners, but against everything that deters holy living.  Hebrews 12:1 reminds me that trying to run the race of faith while entertaining known sin in my life is like setting off on my daily walk with my shoe laces untied.  But it’s the “weights” or “encumbrances” that have my attention today, those subtle distractions that prevent me from finishing well:

  • too much sugar
  • not enough sleep
  • a call to a friend instead of time spent in prayer
  • a five-minute “check my e-mail” that turns into a half hour of answering Facebook messages and responding to blog comments
  • reading or writing before I’ve opened God’s Word for the day

Your list will likely be different from mine.  I hear that the Hallmark Channel is a glorious distraction  . . .

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

Notice the “great cloud of witnesses” who surround us, and who are offered as motivation and encouragement for running our race of faith.  Through the years, I’ve imagined these saints “who have gone on before” watching me, “witnessing” my walk . . . and I’ll admit that it feels a bit creepy to me.

John MacArthur explains the cloud of witnesses in this way:  “They are examples, not onlookers . . .They are not looking at us; we are to look to them.”  This is a helpful clarification, for their stories witness to the truth upon which we build our faith.  They have run the race, and they finished it!  Hebrews 11 serves as a table of contents for the Old Testament examples of people who, though not perfect by any means, put their faith in action in ways that reassure me that even though the race of faith is always strenuous — and sometimes grueling  — it is run successfully only in the power of God.

When I read about Sarah’s life, I hear her calling to me from the sidelines:  “Whatever seems impossible to you — even if you’ve meddled with it and messed things up — keep running!  You can do it by faith!  You can do it!”

Remembering Noah’s faith, I imagine him saying:  “Your path may not make sense to anyone but you.  This is because they have not heard God’s voice as you have.  Keep listening to God.  Keep running in faith!”

When my faith feels flimsy, I imagine Rahab’s encouragement:  “Remember the truth that you have heard about the power of God – and ACT on it by faith! You will not be disappointed!”

The “witness” of their lives encourages me to ask hard questions about my readiness to run, faithfully and unencumbered.  Hebrews 10:36 is a rebuke and a rallying cry for all who have entered the race of faith:  “You have need of endurance!”

Yes, I really do.

Which of the Old Testament saints listed in Hebrews 11 speaks to your need for endurance? Do you have found-wisdom to share for laying aside the encumbrances that hinder the race?  I hope you’ll share your thoughts in the comments below.


Photo credit

Only one week left in our study of The Epistle to the Hebrews, a letter to a congregation of struggling Jewish Christians written by an unknown author sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.  My Sunday school class and I have been landing on a few verses in each chapter with the goal of getting an overview of this fascinating and complex book.  These mid-week reflections and observations are intended to initiate a deeper pondering of the week’s assignment in preparation for our discussion the following Sunday. If you’re interested in learning more, here’s last week’s blog post.

Subscribe to get regular Bible studies and book reviews from Living Our Days delivered to your inbox.  Just enter your e-mail address in the box at the top of this page.

I link-up with a number of blogging  communities on a regular basis.  They are listed in the left sidebar by day of the week.  I hope that you will enjoy reading the work of some fine writers and thinkers.

36 thoughts on “Running the Race of Faith”

  1. I love the idea of considering what the saints in this passage might be cheering us on to do for the Lord, Michele. I’ll have to meditate today on which one I relate to the most and what that saint might be saying to me. Great thoughts, as always!


  2. My list resembles yours a great deal, Michele. It’s amazing what I can find to put before my prayer and Bible time. Thank you for this important reminder today. Endurance is something I could really use some work on :).


  3. Hi Michele,
    I laughed at this distraction — 5 minutes of checking my email turning into answering blog comments and making replies — so true! I just love all the saints mentioned in that chapter of Hebrews — I have to remember that they were men and women just like we are, and we can strive for the same faith and trust in God that they had!


    1. Yes, how else would Moses have turned his back on privilege to lead a herd of surly people through a desert? How else will be say no to those persistent blogging chores and hunker down with our Bibles?
      Thanks, Valerie, for reading and commenting.


  4. Now you really have me savoring every word. Hebrews 12:1-2 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible and I have often shared or used it to encourage others when I was counseling or working with others as a staff pastor. You never disappoint me when you share from the Word. Thank you! (It was especially easy to savor with a nice fire in the fireplace as the evening turned chilly here and the furnace has not kicked in since it was warmer.) Blessings on you!


  5. Dear Michele, This just may be my favorite post of yours yet! I gleaned SO much from this today…I could relate to all you said about the hindrances and “weights”. I love the 11th chapter of Hebrews, and I would find it hard to pick just one who is my favorite person mentioned there. They ALL inspire me! I went to bed the other night with the thought of the great cloud of witnesses on my heart and woke up the next morning hearing the Holy Spirit whisper to me about looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith….I didn’t even remember that the two verses are together in Scripture, until I looked them up. I am amazed at how God does things like this. He is SO faithful!


  6. Michele, I love the book of Hebrews, it is so full of the teachings on faith. I’m reading a character study of 14 Biblical men and women, each and everyone that is written about all had to live by faith. Yes, it’s hard to live by faith, but God rewards faith. Thank you for sharing with Thankful Thursdays.


  7. I just realized WordPress changed my name to songbirdca. Something I haven’t used in eons. I thought you might wonder who it was that just posted, so I thought I’d better clarify that it was me.


  8. I often think of my mom sitting in the great cloud of witnesses… cheering me on and whispering, “You can do this!”
    Thanks for these words of encouragement! (Stopping by from Inspire Me Monday)


  9. It’s always a real comfort to me to think of the biblical “saints” as companions on the journey – they’re often much more human examples than I let myself be! Thanks for linking, Michele.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Creepy cloud of witnesses – yes! I’ve had that thought. How much better to think of our supporters and encouragers (is that a word?) Thanks for these thoughts!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Your words delighted me, Michele, and inspired me. So many distractions that can hinder our progress. But I can picture those examples of faith reminding me to press on and finish strong. Thank you, friend. : )


  12. Michele, I really like the insight about so many of the chapters in Hebrews starting with conjunctions. I had never put them together like that but being a big picture girl, I really appreciate that view! So happy to be neighbors today at #raralinkup. 🙂


  13. Thank-you for this post! I’m grateful for the reminder that it’s often the small things that hinder me from running, like you mentioned: too much sugar, too much time on social media, etc. It’s not just the big crises! Thank-you for sharing your wisdom.


  14. Was it Enoch who walked with God and was seen as faithful… the idea of simply walking, not running or rushing or anything fancy, was more than enough to be faithful in God’s eyes. That always encourages me to slow down and reevaluate my daily goals.

    Thanks for sharing with #TheCozyReadingSpot

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply to Marissa Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.