Hebrews 12:1-4, 12-15: 1 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, 2 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin;
12 Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. 14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
I really wanted to just copy and paste the entire twelfth chapter of Hebrews! Wow, what a power-packed sermon this book’s author gave initially to the Jewish Christians of the persecuted Early Church! And now, as Gentiles who have been grafted into the Vine, we can receive these powerful words of exhortation. I was reading earlier this week in my daily devotional, Sparkling Gems from the Greek (yes, I’m still on THAT train! Haven’t you jumped aboard yet?!), as author Rick Renner highlighted verse 15, “looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled”. His challenge to us as believers on the Lord Jesus Christ was to rid ourselves of any and all bitterness in our heart of hearts as its corrosion will soon leak out and cause destructive behavior. Jesus Himself said in Matthew 12:34, “…Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks”.
As I read and took a personal survey of what lies within my very core, I began to ponder once again what it takes know you’ve truly gotten rid of all bitterness. All of us from time to time can go along in life, thinking we are free and clear of such evil roots, and then along comes a situation that will bring something quite nasty to the surface…seemingly out of nowhere! And our first reaction is to dismiss it and say “I didn’t really mean that” or “I don’t really feel that way”. I’ve seen in recent years men and women of God who, in their latter years and struggles with mental and physical health, began to behave and speak in a way that was totally contrary to whom we had known them to be for decades. In their dementia or weakened physical condition the abundance of their heart begins to speak. I don’t know about you, but this motivates me all the more to “tidy up” on a much more regular basis!
So how do we “tidy up” and rid ourselves (1 Peter 2:1) of the bitterness and unforgiveness that can rot our spirits and wreak havoc on those about us? Let’s quickly break down the verses noted above for some simple but powerful instructions.
- “…since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…” (Heb 12:1) Remind yourself often that you are not alone in this race! Others before you have made it Home, many are running successfully now, and before His return, even more will come to the knowledge of Jesus Christ and become viable disciples! Stir yourself up!
- “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us…” (Heb 12:1) Surrender your flesh daily to the plan of God for your life, willingly laying aside your desires for a better way of life. Don’t get caught up in researching or testing how closely you can live like the world and still embrace the Truth of God’s Word. That’s a recipe for spiritual, physical, and mental disaster.
- “…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…” (Heb 12:2) Run YOUR race! Your race is God’s plan and calling for your life, one that is grounded in His Word, with the determination to finish. Even in physical races here on earth, no one heralds the one who ran well but bailed a few miles out. It is he who finishes and finishes strong who receives the accolades and rewards!
There’s so much more to digest here…more than enough for one day! Come back next week for the second part of this challenge. And run with endurance this week, dragging someone else along your way out of their pit into this greatest race of all time!
Running to win,