The crowd around the stadium were on their feet cheering as the athletes strained toward the finishing line. Encouraged by their cheers the runners pushed themselves even harder to win. It is encouraging to think that a crowd of God’s finest champions of faith, surround us as we press towards our finish line.
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, 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. Heb 12:1-2
But maybe the writer of Hebrews was saying we can be encouraged not because of the size of the crowd cheering but because of the type of people they were. If we look at them a little closer, they are sort of motley bunch of people. The Biblical record of Abraham is very kind. It doesn’t mention his struggles with sin and doubt, only that Abraham went out and obeyed God not knowing where he was going. The Bible says he had Isaac in faith but fails to mention that through unbelief he had Ishmael too. It also doesn’t say he lied about his wife. It says Sara was strong in faith when she received strength to conceive but nothing about her sin of unbelief or laughing when God said she would have a child.
It’s says Moses refused to be called the son of a pharaoh daughter but no mention that he argued with God, rebelled at the rock and was forbidden to enter the Promised Land.
It goes on. Rahab the prostitute is there. The bible talks only of her faith not about her moral failure. Samson is among the hero’s too. He came right in the end but most of his life he struggled with compromise and sin.
Then there is Jephatah who offered his child as a sacrifice and David who committed adultery.
This is the great cloud of witness before whom we are running?
They are not people who shone with perfect performance, but people who are in spite of their weaknesses had faith. Sin ensnared each of these great hero’s but they laid it aside. They were not heroes because they found it easy or because their faith was automatic but because whenever they failed to overcome sin, they rose up in faith. They laid aside the weight of their sin and shame and they carried on looking to God in faith.
Can you imagine the weight that Moses carried…. thinking about the man who he killed and hid in the sand? Or the weight of guilt and shame that David experienced as his family life became troubled and his child was affected by the judgement of God?
The weight of sin that Sampson carried when he looked back over a wasted life and all his lustful errors? Or the weight of regret that Rahab and Jephthah felt as they thought about their lives.
This is a weight to carry. The Bible says these people laid aside their weights and the sin which could have ensnared them and they ran their race with endurance.
It is easy to let the weight of your past hold you back. Great faith is not living without weakness or even possible sin but being able to receive forgiveness and run on with endurance. Faith isn’t proven in a day…faith is revealed over a lifetime. The race of faith is over our whole life not three years and it’s not just how we start but how we finish that matters.
Jesus is the author and the finisher of our faith. He began the work of faith and he will continue to work until the story is finished.
It is not how sinless and how perfect your race is- it is not whether your pleased or embarrassed by your past or your present; it is whether you can lay it aside and run your race every day till you finish.
Friend, sometimes we have to despise the shame- that is we have to reject it from our lives and keep running. We have to refuse its effect upon us and put our faith in Jesus who went to the cross to take away our shame and guilt completely and give us wings to run for finishing line. Come on let’s run!