Run the race! Remember that you are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. Be cautious about moving too far in the direction of thinking of the witnesses as filling the stands of a stadium, cheering you on—the Bible tells us relatively little about just what the saints in heaven are doing right now. Witnesses brings out the idea of testimony, something of a courtroom scene. The lives of these saints, recorded in Scripture, bear witness to their faithful Savior. Their faith-full lives summon you to trust. Not only do the lives of those mentioned in Hebrews 11 call you to faith, but as you look at the whole section, Hebrews 10:35—11:40, the focus is on the One, the coming One, who trusted his Father, who, during his humiliation, walked by faith. “He knew no sin in his own experience, and the unity of his person—he is one person with two distinct natures—means that he was unable to sin. Nevertheless, while he lived on earth during his state of humiliation, he lived by faith, not by sight. Because Christ is the holiest man ever to have lived, he is the greatest believer ever to have lived (Heb. 12:2). . . . The life of holiness is therefore the life of faith. The way we begin the Christian life is the way we continue in the Christian life until we get to heaven, where faith becomes sight. If that was required for the sinless Lamb of God, how much more for us, who have remaining indwelling sin?” (Mark Jones, Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest, p. 23).
Surrounded by these witnesses, how do you run? Beware of entangling sin. Lay aside everything that might hinder you. Picture a track star preparing for a race. Remove any excess weight, baggage, attire, even pounds! Do away with anything that hinders your relationship with Christ, even things that may not be sinful in themselves. But especially lay aside sin–sin that so easily entangles. A lax Christian life was–and still is–a real danger. Recognize sin, and as you do, look to Christ and his death, resurrection, and exaltation. Also run with perseverance. God himself has laid out a course before you. This race is marked out, not just by men, but by your Lord himself. God demands whole-hearted commitment to this task. You have greater incentive and fuller encouragement than the Old Testament saints (whose testimony has been recorded in Hebrews 11), but like them you have a race to run.
Fix your eyes on Jesus. Jesus is the author and perfecter of your faith. He is the author, the originator, the first one there. Hebrews 2:10 speaks of him as the author of your salvation. He has gone before you. There is no step of this race that he has not trod ahead of you. Perhaps, instead of 100 meter dash, think of a long cross-country race, through territory unfamiliar to you. He also went before all of his people, including Israel in the Old Testament, 1 Corinthians 10:3,4. Your walk of faith is not exploring new ground–the author/pioneer has gone before you. Jesus is the perfecter of faith. By faith he went to the cross. By faith he endured the taunts that challenged him to show his trust in God by descending from the cross. “. . . while in these other writings Christ is the object of faith, the One towards whom the sinner’s trust is directed, here the Saviour is described as himself exercising faith, in fact as the one perfect, ideal believer. The writer exhorts his reader: ‘Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the leader and perfecter of our faith.’ Faith in that other sense of specific trust, through which a guilty sinner becomes just in the sight of God, our Lord could not exercise, because he was sinless. But the faith that is an assurance of things hoped for and a proving of things not seen had a large place in his experience.” (Geerhardus Vos, Grace and Glory, p. 104). Christ not only begins, he brings to completion faith in the heart of the believer. He not only dies for your sin, he holds you and brings you along the course safely to glory. Faith is not a substance which you conjure up–it is a relationship of trust with your Savior. Look to him. You can find encouragement from the godly examples which have just been listed, but Christ is the only standard.
Christ, who endured the cross, has sat down! He despised the shame of the cross. He endured the most shameful form of execution. He counted the shame as nothing as he obediently did his Father’s will. Now he is exalted at God’s right hand. The author returns to the theme of Hebrews 1:3,4. Hebrews focuses, not so much on the work of Christ as the Messiah while on earth, but rather on what he continues to do as the exalted high priest at the right hand of the Father. Remember that his suffering and death were not as a private person, but as your representative. He is the one who has gone before you, Hebrews 6:20. He is, in Paul’s terms, the Second Adam. Christ did this for the joy that was before him. He rejoiced in doing his Father’s will, Isaiah 53:10,11. You share in his joy, John 15:11; 16:20,22,33. Don’t lose heart. Christ suffered reproach, see Hebrews 11:26. Yet he endured–and that is your guarantee. So don’t be discouraged. By God’s grace you can and will run the race.
You have the testimony of the heroes of faith–God does supply those who trust him. But you have more. You have Christ himself–the author and perfecter of your faith. Instead of losing heart, run your race!