Read: Hebrews 12:1-11
Faith is momentous and the quintessential trait of every person listed in or alluded to in Hebrews chapter 11. Having made his case for faith, the author of Hebrews breaks away from making a theological point to making some points of application, and he does so with the use of three different metaphors.
First, the author of Hebrews says that a “cloud” of witnesses surrounds believers. The imagery here suggests a fog so thick fog such that one cannot tell which way he is going. In a manner of speaking, the author is trying to show his readers that the witness of God working in the lives of the faithful is undeniable – there’s no escaping it. This thick cloud of witnesses serves as a point of encouragement to the readers, knowing that God is faithful to those with faith.
Second, the author of Hebrews follows the cloud metaphor with a metaphor from racing. He likens the Christian life to a long distance race. First, runners should lighten themselves. He says to his reader that they should shed their sin that gets in the way perusing Jesus as a runner discards excess baggage before running a race. Second, he calls Jesus the “author” and “perferter” of the faith. In keeping with the race metaphor, Jesus is the “leader” and “finisher” of the race of faith. The author of Hebrews describes Jesus as enduring the cross and its shame for the Joy set before him and he is now seated, high and exalted. The author is encouraging his readers to look to Jesus as the exemplar runner. But even so, his readers have not shed blood in their struggle against sin as Jesus did. The Apostle Paul uses the race metaphor elsewhere in scripture in a similar manner. He says that runners run to receive a prize and they do so by maintaining a since of self control so that they would not become disqualified from the race (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). At the end of his life, he says that he has run the race such that he will receive a prize when he departs from the earth to be with God (2 Timothy 4:6-8). The manner in which one runs the race is important so that one can be as the exemplar runner, namely Jesus.
Third, the author of Hebrews likens the hardship that his readers are enduring to the sort of discipline a father gives his children. He draws on an Old Testament quotation from Proverbs 3:11-12. Proverbs 3 is part of a larger pericope of scripture exonerating the value of wisdom, particularly from one’s father and mother. The author of Hebrews is invoking this passage to show that God does indeed use the difficulties in life to hone one’s faith, and it is a blessing to receive such discipline. The author notes that it results in a “fruit” of righteousness, and even more so what Paul called a “crown of righteousness” that one receives as a reward from God.
The question for Christians is not if hardship will come, rather when hardship will come. When it does, Christians are often tempted to retreat back into sin and give up. But rather than give up, Christians can be reminded of the cloud of testimonies of so many others who have remained faithful. In doing so, this can help Christians not to give up, rather to continuously fix their eyes on Jesus, not the problems of life and look on hardship as an opportunity to be blessed by God rather than feel cursed by God. In the end, a reward of righteousness will be the prize!
Lord, rather than giving up, I want to be encouraged to run with endurance so I might be blessed!
Help me to do just this!