"Let us run with endurance the race set before us" - Hebrew 12:1
In Hebrews 12:1 we are called to endure when it states, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us . . . .” These first three verses of Hebrews 12 contain the key to enduring in our walk with the Lord. Let’s look at them and see if the Lord won’t open them up for us.
What is “endurance”? The Greek term translated “endurance” is hupomone and means enduring, patience, perseverance, constancy, continuing. Webster’s Dictionary defines “endurance” - the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially : the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity e.g. a marathon runner’s endurance. The Enhanced Strong’s Concordance describes endurance as the New Testament characteristic, “of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.”
At the onset of WWII, England soon found itself the last bastion of hope against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. At one point when Germany had overrun Europe and England stood alone, Winston Churchil the Prime Minister of England summoned his countrymen to endure and press on in the fight at all costs. These were some of his words:
I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say; It is to wage war, by sea, by land and air, with all our might and with all the strength God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory – victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”
The Bible says we are in a war of even more momentous proportions than the one Churchill and England faced. It is a battle against principalities and powers and rulers of this dark age, a demon hoard (Ephesians 6:12). Quitting is not an option. If we quit the demons of hell will ravish us and smear the name of the Almighty. That is unacceptable. We are called to endure and we must endure.
When we look at the context of this verse we need to recognize is that Hebrews twelve follows Hebrews chapter 11. In Hebrews 11 we have the Hall of Faith. Much like we have Halls of Fame in sports, the Bible has a Hall of Faith where a summary list of people from the Bible who were exemplary in their faith. But the key thing to note here is that their faith enabled them to endure. The purpose of faith is to enable us to live lives pleasing to the Lord (Hebrews 11:6). It is faith that enables a person to endure because faith is the “substance of things hoped for,” (Hebrews 11:1) it is the ground or foundation that provides a path from the present to the future. Moving from the present to the future is what we call enduring. Faith is the “evidence of things not seen,” it enables us rise above doubt, emotional stresses, depression etc., and press on. But how do we practically press on and endure? This is where Hebrews twelve comes in.
First, understand that God will help us endure just as He helped those in the Hall of Faith chapter. Hebrews 11 has a long list of those who pressed on and endured in their faith even when buffeted and torn by trials and hardships of various types. The testimonies of the faithful ones in the Hall of Faith are very impressive and awe inspiring. But Hebrews 12:1a starts out by saying, “Therefore we also, . . .” which tells us there is a way to follow in the enduring footsteps of these giants of the faith.
Second, the key to enduring begins by laying aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us (Hebrews 12:1b). To endure you have to travel light. Don’t allow excess baggage to weigh you down. Prioritize your life with heavenly priorities and don’t allow yourself to be ensnared or tangled up in the sins of the world.
Third, to endure we need to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 11:1c). Someone has said that in order to win a race you have to be in it to win it. You can’t just drift to the side or get off course, you have to stay on track and run “the race that is set before us.” Get in to the action, jump into the fray with both feet. Serve the Lord in some way! Faith by its very nature and definition is an action. Faith that is alive is not stagnant but active (see James -26). Faith actively endures. And also, we should focus on the “race set before us,” in other words you can’t run a future race or a past race, but only the one in the present. Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough problems of its own (Matthew ). Paul was inspired to tell us to forget what lays behind us in our past (Philippians ). You don’t endure by dwelling on past victories or defeats or by worrying about future races or opponents, you endure by keeping your focus right. And what is the right focus and the most important aspect of enduring in our faith?
Fourth, to endure the most important thing is to keep our eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12:2a states, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, . . .” There is something transformational that takes place in the one who fixes their gaze on Jesus. You see when we try to endure without fixing our eyes on Jesus, we begin to look at those around us and that can be bad. We begin to wonder if we measure up to others or if they measure up to us. If we take our eyes off Jesus and look to our self, we begin to wonder why we aren’t getting the recognition we think we deserve for all the sacrifices and hard work we are doing as we endure in our faith. The easiest way to get sidetracked and in a ditch that will threaten our enduring is to get our eyes off of Jesus. When we look at Jesus, when we fix our eyes on Him, when we fix our gaze of faith on Jesus, everything is put in its proper place. As we look at Jesus we realize Who we are serving and who we are not serving (Colossians , 23-24). Yes, this is the major key and why in verse three it states, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:3). When we keep our eyes on Jesus we thwart the temptation to be discouraged or depressed. When we keep our eyes on Jesus we learn how and why we are enduring. When we keep our eyes on Jesus our priorities fall into place and we stay on track.
To grow in our faith and endure we must come close and stick close to Jesus. Knowing Jesus is what eternal life is all about (John 17:3; 1 John 1:1-4). The key to enduring in your faith is coming close to Jesus. The closer you come to Jesus the more clearly you will see your sin (Isaiah 6). The closer you come to Jesus, the more power you will have over sin (1 John 3:6a). The closer you come to Jesus the more strength you will have to endure the trials of life. The answer to endurance is coming close to Jesus and sticking close to Jesus.
Fifth, to endure we need to realize that Jesus victoriously has endured to the end ahead of us and for us (Hebrews 12:2). This truth paves the way for us to endure as more than a conqueror. Paul mentions that in Christ we are “more than a conqueror” (Romans ). What does that mean? Well, a conqueror is a brave soldier who confidently goes into battle hoping he will survive and win the battle and war. There is some uncertainty with the mere conqueror. But someone who is more than a conqueror is someone who goes into the battle certain that the victory is theirs. Because Jesus endured and went to the cross before us, we can endure in His steps knowing nothing can separate us from Him (Romans -39). Because Jesus went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins are graciously forgiven. The security we have in the finished work of Jesus enables us to endure with a certainty that the victory is ours in Christ (John ). Which leads us to the final key to enduring.
Sixth, to endure we need the joy of the Lord (Hebrews 12:2). It says Jesus endured, “for the joy that was set before Him.” That is another key. Joy is not mere happiness. Happiness depends on happenings or circumstances. Joy depends on Jesus. Jesus endured in His redemptive mission to and through the cross with joy. Joy in this sense is the confident expectation that victory is secure. Jesus had it all under control and knew what His cross work would graciously provide for sinful humanity. Now our joy is not confident in ourselves but in Jesus. Jesus endured no matter what; no matter the betrayal; the false accusations; the mocking; the beating; the trial and hardship; the injustice; He endured it all. He endured because He knew God was in control and nothing would befall Him that was beyond the will of God. That is the joy set before Him. In the same way we can endure with joy in that we know that nothing is going to befall us that God has not allowed and if He has allowed it He will also provide help to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). Furthermore, we endure because the issue of our relationship with Jesus is settled in our hearts. Leaving or forsaking or giving up is not an option. The only option is finishing well, and we will if our joy is in the Lord, if we keep our eyes fixed on Him.
There are many example of enduring faith in Scripture. Here ae few for your further study:
- Abraham and Sarah endured (not perfectly – Genesis 16; 20) and when God faithfully came through for them they birthed “Laughter” i.e. Isaac (Genesis 21).
- Joseph (Genesis 50:20)
- Paul (2 Corinthians 4:8-11; 11:23-28
- Hebrews 11
Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense.
Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible : Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G5281). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.