By CRAIG HARRIS
Hebrews 12: 1-4 (NIV): 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. 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
The writer of Hebrews tells us there is a great cloud of witnesses watching us run the race set before us. That cloud of witnesses is the heroes of the faith in chapter 11 and all the saints who have gone before us. He says "cloud" instead of "crowd" because he is giving us the idea of grandstands full of spectators watching a race. A grandstand that surrounds us and goes high into the sky, like the grandstands at the Olympics. A great number of people cheering us on, encouraging us by their example, and seeing how we do.
So let us throw off what hinders us. Olympic athletes in Jesus' day would strip to their underwear to compete so nothing slowed them down. We too should strip away anything that comes between us and God. Even good things in our lives can hinder us if we put them first. And sin tangles our feet and makes us lose our own race. It trips us and keeps us from running. Sin makes you a loser.
And let us fix our eyes on Jesus. This means we stay focused on him and do not look away. Not for anything. Not ever. Jesus is the author of our faith — he gave it to us, and he is the perfecter of our faith — he will see us through. He will give us the power to run if we will just stay focused on him.
And Jesus, of course, is the ultimate example of running a good race and winning it. He endured the shame of the cross, gave up his life to win, and received a reward of being seated at the right hand of the throne of God. We will receive our reward too, for winning our race. Don't give up and don't lose heart. You can do it by God's power. Run to win because God's prize is so worth it.
Craig Harris is an author, journalist and minister. You can see more of his Bible studies at http://threeminutebiblestudy.blogspot.com