Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Hebrews 12:1 is a summation of the 11th chapter in which the writer speaks of the unwavering faith of many Old Testament saints. They trusted in God’s promise that He would send a Messiah with a truly remarkable ministry, but they never realized the promise in their lifetimes. They lived in a different dispensation under types and shadows that prefigured the coming Messiah, but they were not blessed as we are to live in the fullness of understanding of those same prefigurations. And yet with this limited understanding, they remained faithful to their cause fully trusting God that everything He promised would be fulfilled.
In the 12th chapter, we are encouraged to regard their example. We are in a better position than they, which should cause us to endure even more for the cause of Christ. The Old Testament saints are witnesses for us. They speak through the pages of scripture to encourage us to fight the good fight of faith and to remain steadfast and unmovable in our resolve to serve Christ. We are encouraged to cast aside any sin that hinders our service to God and to patiently endure suffering for the cross of Christ.
This admonition is followed by more encouragement to focus our eyes on Jesus the one who not only gives us faith but also brings that faith to its final fruition. We are never left alone in the trials of life. In the worst moments when it seems there are no more resources, there is a fresh outpouring of His grace to help us endure the trials. The apostle Paul said that every trial is an opportunity for God to give a new display of His power (2 Cor. 12:9).
In the last part of verse 2, we are reminded of the willingness of Christ to sacrifice Himself for us. Jesus did this because He knew the suffering of the cross would bring His greatest exaltation in glory. Jesus is not listed among the heroes of the faith in the 11th chapter because His suffering was the ultimate agony. His suffering was the equivalent of the agony we would endure in hell should we remain unconverted. Jesus endured the wrath of God for sin while dying on the cross, and yet He fully trusted that He would arise from the dead.
With these great examples of faith culminating in the greatest act of faith, that of Christ, we are encouraged not to faint. If we concentrate on our troubles instead of Christ, we are prone to weariness and despair. When we see how faith sustained these great heroes and how Jesus Christ overcame more shame and humiliation than we could ever experience, then we know our faith in Christ is well capable of overcoming our afflictions. No Christian has ever had more trials than faith was able to conquer. Remember this the next time you face a hopeless problem. Focus on Christ and believe He will bring you through.
Pastor V. Mark Smith