Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses six through thirteen of the twelfth chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you find the author of the epistle building upon what was written in the previous two verses. If you begin reading the twelfth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews you will find the author building upon what was written in the eleventh chapter, and the account of the countless lives which were examples of a demonstration and manifestation of faith within the earth. When you read the opening verses of the twelfth chapter you find the author appealing to the fact that we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses—those who obtained a better report because of faith, and those of whom the world is not worthy. The author of this epistle writes that since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we are to lay aside every weight, as well as the sin which does so easily beset us in order that we might run with patience and endurance the race that has been set before us. It’s actually quite interesting and astounding to read these words, for the author not only instructs their readers and their audience to lay aside every Wright, but also the sin which doth so easily beset them. What marks this ad truly unique is that this laying aside of every weight, and thus laying aside of the sin which doth so easily besets is almost seems as a hindrance and barrier to our running the race which is before us in the earth. When you read the words which the author writes in this chapter you get the sense that there are certain and specific weights which we carry throughout each and every day—weights which hold us down and which are too heavy a burden for us to carry and bear in and of ourselves. The author seems to be convinced that in order for us to run with endurance and patience the race which has been set before us, we need to lay aside certain and specific things which can hold us back and keep us down. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves is what in our lives is weighing us down, and what in our lives is holding us back from running the race which is before us.
I am convinced that there are men and women among us in this generation who might very well be attempting to run the race which has been set before them, and yet they are not and cannot run that race the way they were designed and intended on doing because they are not delivering and setting themselves free from those things which would hold them back. In fact, I am convinced that there is a direct connection between laying aside every weight, and laying aside those sins which do so easily beset us, and that which the author wrote concerning the chastisement of the Lord. I am convinced that the operation of the Lord within our lives has a tremendous impact on our laying aside every weight, and perhaps multiple weights which are holding us down, and perhaps even holding us hostage. I am utterly and completely convinced that there are men and women who right now are being held hostage by those weights which have kept them bound and burdened for far too long now. I am utterly and completely convinced that there are men and women who right now aren’t able to run this race which has been set before us because they haven’t yet laid aside the sin which doth so easily beset them. There are men and women among us who are not only held captive and held hostage by various weights, but there are also men and women who are held hostage and held captive by that sin which doth so easily beset them. I can’t help but be completely and utterly captivated and gripped by the words which are found in this passage of scripture, for it presents us with a wonderful and unique challenge to pay close attention—not only to how we are running, but also what could hinder our ability to run in the first place. As surely as I am sitting here right now I am completely and utterly convinced that there are men and women who right now are so encumbered and so weighed down and so buried by weights and burdens that it is making I impossible for them to run the race the way they should.
The words we find in this particular passage of scripture is absolutely and incredibly challenging, for not only does it speak to the reality of a race which has been set before us, but it also presents us with and brings us face to face with that which can hinder us as we attempt to run the race. What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder how many men and women aren’t even able to run the race which had been set before them because they aren’t willing to deliver and set themselves free from the weight which holds them down, and the sin which so easily besets them. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand that which the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews is writing, for it confronts is with the awesome reality of the race that is before us and how we are running that race. Consider the words which are found in the first three verses of the twelfth chapter and consider how tremendously challenging they are to us within and throughout the course of our every day lives: “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily best us, and let us run with patience 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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds” (Hebrews 12:1-3). Within this particular set of verses the author begins by referencing and speaking of the fact that we are compassed about with such a great cloud of witnesses—those of whom the world was not worthy, and those who obtained a good report through faith, and those who received not the promise. What’s more, is that there appears to be an apparent connection between the great cloud of witnesses which compasses us round about, and the race which is set before us—the race which we are to run ourselves with patience and endurance. If you read the final verse of the eleventh chapter of this epistle you will find the following words written unto this particular audience: “…God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect” (Hebrews 11:40).
Oh, please don’t miss or lose sight of this tremendous reality, for it directly links and it direct connects the great cloud of witnesses who obtained a good report through faith, and we who are running the race which is now set before us. Perhaps the most interesting concept concerning and regarding the race which has been and is set before us is the fact that this great cloud of witnesses had a race which was set before them, and we have a race which is now set before us. Although their race might very well have looked different from the race which is set before us in that the circumstances before them, and the generation and world they lived in was completely different than the one we live in, we have all been called to run that race which is set before us. There is absolutely no mistaking the fact that those of whom the author of this epistle wrote in the previous chapter had a race which was set before them, and that we ourselves have a race which is set before us in this generation. We must make absolutely no mistake about it, for there is a race that is set before each and every generation that is present within the earth—a race which have been called to run with endurance and patience. We cannot, we dare not, we must not miss or lose sight of this all important reality, for to do so would be to miss the incredible challenge that is set before us. I can’t help but be reminded of certain and specific passages found within the New Testament which speak to the race which is set before us, and the tremendous need for us to run with patience and endurance the race which is set before us. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the ninth chapter of the first epistle which he wrote unto the saints which were at Corinth:
“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible. I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: but I do keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
The apostle Paul knew, recognized and understood that we have all been called to run the race which has been set before us in the earth. The apostle Paul knew that those who run the race do so alongside others, and based on performance during the race, one receives a prize at the end of the race. The apostle Paul instructed and encouraged the Corinthians to run in order that they might obtain—obtain the crown and prize which is before them. What’s more, is the apostle Paul wrote unto the Corinthians that those who run an earthly race run in order that they might obtain a corruptible crown which perishes and is temporal, but we who run run in order that we might obtain an incorruptible crown. As you continue reading the words which the apostle Paul writes in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul writing—not only concerning running the race, but also fighting the fight which are before us. This reality of running and fighting are both mentioned in the epistles which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy his spiritual son in the faith. If you turn and direct your attention to the fourth chapter of the second epistle which he wrote unto Timothy, you will find the following words: “But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:5-8). These words were precisely and exactly what the apostle Paul sought to instill within the heart and mind of Timothy in the first epistle written unto him. In the sixth chapter of the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy we find the following words which were meant to provide tremendous instruction and encouragement to this spiritual son in the faith:
“But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses. I give thee charge in the sight of God, who quickeneth all things, and before Christ Jesus, who before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession; that thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: which in His times He shall shew, who is the blessed and only Pontentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen” (1 Timothy 6:11-16).
When writing unto Timothy in the first epistle which was delivered unto him, the apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to fight the good fight of faith, and to lay hold on eternal life, whereunto he was called, and has professed a good profession before many witnesses. In the first epistle written unto Timothy the apostle Paul encouraged and instructed him to fight the good fight of faith which was before him, and to in essence run with endurance and patience the race which was set before him. In all reality, we must recognize and understand that although we are all one body, we each have a good fight of faith which is before us, and we each have a race which we are to run with patience and endurance. We have all been called to the same prize at the end of it all, however, we have each been given a unique and specific fight within our lives. There is a crown which is found at the end of the fight and at the end of the struggle, and there is a crown at the end of the race, and we have been called to fight the good fight of faith which is before us, and which might very well be unique unto us. In the first epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy he encouraged and instructed him to fight the good fight of faith, and to lay hold on eternal life, and in the second epistle which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy he transitioned from encouraging and instructing him to fight the good fight of faith, and to essentially run with patience and endurance the race which was before him, to emphatically declaring unto Timothy that he himself had fought the good fight, and that he had finished the course which was before him. What’s more, is that in the apostle Paul’s declaration concerning his fighting the good fight of faith, and his finishing the course which was before him, he also declared that he had kept the faith—a reality which is intrinsically linked and connected to the ability to run the race and finish the course which was before him with patience and endurance. What’s more, is that in the first epistle which was written unto Timothy there seems to be a powerful link and connection between the fight and struggle we have in our generation and faith, for the apostle Paul spoke of fighting “the good fight of faith.” In other words, the fight, the struggle, the warfare, and the battle we face on a continual and daily basis is not only one that is in and of itself good, but it is also one of faith. How incredibly interesting and unique it is to consider the reality that not only is there a fight which is before us, but that fight is a good fight, and that fight is a fight of faith. We dare not, we cannot miss and/or lose sight of this reality, for to do so would be to miss the awesome significance and importance of the fight and race which is before us. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the epistle which he wrote unto the saints which were at Philippi beginning with the seventh verse of the third chapter:
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made conformable unto His death; if by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an encampment. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.) For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body, according to the working whereby He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself” (Philippians 3:7-21).
The twelfth chapter of the epistle written unto the Hebrews begins and opens up with the author appealing to the great cloud of witnesses which compass us about on every side, and I can’t help but be reminded of an event which occurred within the life of the Old Testament prophet Elisha when the people of God appeared to be surrounded by the enemy and adversary on every side. SURROUNDED, YET SURROUNDED! Did you know that it is possible to be surrounded by your enemies and adversaries, and to be compassed about by foes and those who would seek to destroy you, and yet although you are surrounded in the natural, you are surrounded in a completely different sense in the supernatural realm. Consider if you will the account which is recorded in the sixth chapter of the Old Testament book of Second Kings beginning with the eighth verse:
“Then the king of Syria warred against Israel, and took counsel with his servants, saying, In such and such a place shall be my camp. And the man of God sent unto the king of Israel, saying, Beware that thou pass not such a place,; for thither the Syrians are come down. And the king of Israel sent to the place which the man of God told him and warned him of, and saved himself there, not once nor twice. Therefore the heart of the king of Syria was sore troubled for this thing; and he called his servants, and said unto them, Will ye not shew me which of us is for the king of Israel? And one of th servants said, None, my lord, O King: but Elisha, the prophet that is in Israel, telleth the king of Israel the words that thou speakest in thy bedchamber. And he said, Go and spy where he is, that I may send and fetch him. And it was told him, saying, Behold, he is in Dothan. Therefore sent he thither horses, and chariots, and a great host: and they came by night, and compassed the city about. And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! How shall we do? And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them. And Elisha prayed, and said, Lord, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the Lord opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha. And when they came down to him, Elisha prayed unto the Lord, and said, Smite this people, I pray thee, with blindness. And he smote them with blindness according to the word of Elisha. And Elisha said unto them, This is not the way, neither is this the city: follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom ye seek. But he led them to Samaria. And it came to pass, when they were come into Samaria, that Elisha said, Lord, open the eyes of these men, that they may see. And the Lord opened their eyes, and they saw; and, behold, they were in the midst of Samaria. And the kind of Israel said unto Elisha, when he saw them, My father, shall I smite them? Shall I smite them? And he answered, Thou shalt not smite them: wouldest thou smite those whom thou hast taken captive with thy sword and with thy bow? Set bread and water before them, that they eat and drink, and go to their master. And he prepared great provision for them: and when they had eaten and drunk, he sent them away, and they went to their master. So the bands of Syria came no more into the land of Israel” (2 Kings 6:8-23).
I absolutely love this particular account within the life of Elisha and his servant, for not only did the enemy and adversary come down against Elisha, but the Scripture portrays the reality that the enemy and adversary came down and surrounded the city round about where Elisha and his servant was. Consider the response of Elisha’s servant when he arose early in the morning and discovered that they were compassed round about and surrounded by a company and host of enemies and adversaries: “And when the servant of the man of God was risen early, and gone forth, behold, an host compassed the city both with horses and chariots. And his servant said unto him, Alas, my master! How shall we do?” (2 Kings 6;15). What I so love about this particular passage and account within the life of Elisha and his servant is that although they were compassed round about and surrounded by a great and tremendous force of the enemy, there was absolutely no need fo fear being surrounded by such an enemy or adversary. In fact, in response to his servant’s fear, Elisha encouraged him to fear not, for those who were with them were more than those which were with them. What Elisha does next is truly remarkable and breathtaking, for Elisha then prays that the eyes of the servant might be opened in order that he might see what was before and all around them. In the natural and physical sense Elisha’s servant saw the city compassed round about and surrounded by a company and host of enemies and adversaries, yet Elisha was aware of a reality that was completely different from the one which was before them. This actually brings me face to face with the tremendous reality that more often than not we allow ourselves to get caught up in that which we see in the natural and that which we see in the physical realm, and we are completely oblivious and unaware of that which is before us in the supernatural realm. In the natural it looked like and appeared that they were surrounded and that their lives were in terrible danger, however, in the supernatural and in the spiritual realm, it wasn’t they who were surrounded, but it was their enemies who were surrounded. Oh, I would dare say there are countless times when we feel as though we ourselves are surrounded and compassed about on all sides by enemies and adversaries, and while it may very well be true that we are indeed compassed by a great host of enemies, it is actually our enemies which are surrounded and compassed by a host and force which is greater than they could even imagine. One thing you will notice in this passage of Scripture is that even though the eyes of the servant were opened and he saw the mountain full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha, that didn’t change the face that they were still surrounded in the natural sense by a host of enemies and adversaries.
As you read the account of Elisha and his servant, and their being compassed about and surrounded by enemies and adversaries on all sides, it’s important to note that Elisha didn’t pray unto the Lord that He would smite the enemies and adversaries which were before them. You will not find Elisha praying unto the Lord and asking Him to deliver them from the company and host of enemies and adversaries which were round about them, but rather that the Lord would open the eyes of His servant in order that he might be aware of the great host that surrounded them. Elisha didn’t pray unto the Lord that they would no longer be surrounded by their foes and adversaries, and even when the Lord smote them with blindness, and he led them into Samaria, and the king asked if he should smite them, Elisha would not allow the king of israel to smite them. SURROUNDED AND NOT SMITTEN! In this account we find Elisha and his servant being compassed round about on all sides by a great host of enemies and adversaries, and yet that which the prophet prayed was that the eyes of his servant would be opened in order that he might see past the natural into the supernatural. Oh, please don’t miss the absolutely incredible truth contained within this passage of Scripture, for more often than not when we are fighting the good fight of faith, or when we are running the race which is set before us, we focus on the natural and that which we see in the physical realm, and we are completely unaware of what is before us in the supernatural realm. Elisha was aware of the reality of the supernatural and spiritual realm, yet his servant wasn’t, and as a result of this lack of awareness, Elisha prayed that his eyes would be opened that he might see the greater picture and the greater reality. SEEING THE GREATER PICTURE! SURROUNDED: SEEING THE GREATER PICTURE BEFORE US! I absolutely love this passage of Scripture, for although Elisha and his servant were surrounded and compassed round about by a great host of enemies and adversaries, they were surrounded in an even greater sense by horses and chariots of fire in the mountains before them. How absolutely wonderful and remarkable is it that this great host which did not and could not see the horses and chariots of fire in the mountains surrounding Elisha, and yet it didn’t change the fact that Elisha was divinely and supernatural protected by the Lord of hosts. Oh, we dare not, we cannot and we must not miss or lose sight of this reality, for to do so would be to miss out on the incredible reality of what is found within this passage of Scripture.
While in this particular passage of Scripture Elisha and his servant were surrounded by horse and chariots of fire in the mountains of Israel, we as the saints of God are surrounded and compassed about by a great cloud of witnesses. Not only this, but we are compassed and surrounded round about by the host of heaven which are at the immediate disposal of the Lord of hosts. When we consider the race which is before us, and when we consider the fight which is before us in this generation, it is possible that we are surrounded and compassed about by a great host of enemies and adversaries, yet through the account of Elisha and his servant we find ourselves coming face to face with the fact that not only are we compassed about by such a great cloud of witnesses, but we are also compassed about and surrounded by the host of heaven which fight the battles of the Lord. We must recognize and understand that we have been called to run with patience and endurance the race which is set before us, and that as we are running that race we are compassed round about and surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses which have already run their race. We are compassed round about by those who have run the race which was before them, and by those who have fought their own good fight of faith, and in light of this reality we are to run the race which is set before us, and we are to fight the good fight of faith which we will undoubtedly and inevitably face on a consistent basis within our every day lives. The author of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews directly linked and connected those who obtained a good report of faith with us who are running with patience the race that is set before us by declaring that they without us should and could not be made perfect. This great cloud of witnesses which compasses us round about is made up of those who have run with patience the race which was set before them, and those who fought the good fight of faith within their own generation. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this, because not only are we to run with patience the race which is set before us, but we are to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us in order that we might run that race which is before us. What’s more, is that we must deliver ourselves—not only from every weight, but also the sin which so easily besets us—in order that we might run the way we were intended on running, but also fight the way we were intended on fighting. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the second chapter of the second epistle which he wrote unto Timothy his spiritual son in the faith. I leave you with the following words which are found in the second chapter of this epistle beginning with the first verse:
“Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. No man that Warrenton entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier. And if a man also strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully. The husbandmen that laboureth must be first partaker of the fruits. Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things. Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel: wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound. Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory” (2 Timothy 2:1-9).