Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament epistle which was written unto the Hebrews. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the twelfth chapter of the epistle beginning with verse fourteen and continuing through to the twenty-ninth verse. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you find the twelfth chapter of the epistle which was written unto the Hebrews drawing to a close. This chapter opened up and began with the author referencing and speaking of our being compasses about by such a great cloud of witnesses—those who obtained a good report through faith, and those of whom the world was not worthy. Since we are surrounded and since we are compasses about by such a great cloud of witnesses the Europe then makes an appeal that we would lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us in order that we might run with patience the race that is set before us. As I sit here and consider this reality and concept of laying aside every weight, and when I consider the concept of laying aside the sin which so easily besets us, I cant help but see a marked and noticeable difference between the two. If you read the words which the author wrote concerning that which weighs us down and places a heavy burden upon us, you will find that they use the phrase “every weight,” thus pluralizing the concept and reality of weight. If you read this verse carefully you will quickly discover that when speaking of that which weighs us down the author uses the plural tense, while when speaking of the sin which so easily besets us, the author speaks in a singular tense. It can therefore be deduced that the author spoke of weights which encumber and bear ya down under pressure, and sin which so easily besets us. I am convinced that what the author is speaking of in this passage is not only that which holds us back and weighs us down, but also that which ensnares and traps us in the earth. It is absolutely necessary and imperative that we pay close attention to this truth, for we must not only be aware of that which holds us back and weighs us down, but also that which ensnares and traps us.
It’s worth nothing that both that which ensnares and traps us, and that which holds us back and weighs us down can in fact keep us from running with patience the race which has been set before us. The more you read the words which the author of this epistle wrote in this twelfth chapter, the more you get the strong sense that the author understood that sins and weights can in fact hold us back and even slow us down when we attempt to run with patience the race which has been set before us. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus the Christ spoke which is recorded for us in the New Testament gospel of Matthew. You will recall in this particular gospel Jesus invited all those who were heavy laden and burdened to come unto Him that they might find rest for their souls. I am utterly and completely convinced that Jesus knew and understood that there were those within the sound of his voice who were in fact weighed down and borne under by the pressure of those weights which bear heavily upon their hearts and souls. Jesus was keenly and acutely award of the overwhelming number of things in this world which can weigh us down, and Jesus knew that there were men and women who experienced a number of things within their lives which significantly impede their ability to run with patience the race that was before them, and to walk the way they were intended on walking. I do not believe it is any coincidence the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews spoke of every weight and the sin which so easily besets, for the author knew that there was always, and there would always be that one single sin which would ensnare and trap us within our lives. The author knew and understood the tremendous reality of there being that one thing within our life which so easily trips us up and entangles ya once more in the bondage of sin and transgression. With that being said, the author also knew and understood that there were several things within the earth that could weigh us down, and in all reality there are countless and innumerable things that could in fact weigh us down and keep us bore under the weight and pressures of this world. If you look around you each and every day you will notice you are completely and totally surrounded by things which can—if you let them and aren’t careful—weigh you down and hold you back.
Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves when reading the words of the author of this epistle is what in our lives is holding us back, and what in our lives is weighing us down. If you are honest with yourself and with the Lord, what within your life is keeping you from running the race which is set before you with patience? I have to admit that I love the fact that the author didn’t write about running with speed the race which was set before us, but running with patience the race which is before us. The author knew and understood that this wasn’t a sprint, but this was a marathon, and therefore requires patience and endurance. It is true we have all been called to run the race which has been set before us, but we must recognize and understand that this race is not run with speed, but with patience. The author didn’t invite us to lay aside every weight, and every sin which so easily besets us in order that we might run with speed the race that has been set before us, but rather running with patience and endurance the race which has been set before us. There are many who think and even believe that this race we are running is a sprint, and is all about who gets to the end the quickest. The truth of the matter is that this simply isn’t the case, and that we have been called to run with patience and endurance the marathon and race which is before us. I am utterly and completely convinced that we get ourselves into trouble when we try and get ahead of ourselves—and even get ahead of others—when we try and run this race faster than we need to. I am utterly and completely convinced that we play a very dangerous game when we try and out run and out perform those who like us have been called to run with patience and endurance the race which has been set before us. There are countless men and women among us within the pews of our churches who will do absolutely anything and everything they can to somehow get ahead of those around them when it comes to running the race which is before us. I am convinced there are men and women among us in the earth who will do anything and everything they can to somehow run faster and run further than those around them, as though such a reality was even possible, or even pleasing to the Lord. Would it shock and surprise you to discover that the Lord is not impressed with how quickly you run the race which is before you, and He doesn’t care how quickly it takes you to get there? Did you know that the Lord isn’t impressed by whether or not you reach the end of the race before those around you? In fact, I am convinced that when it comes to the race which has been set before us, we not only need those around us who are running alongside us, but we also need the great cloud of witnesses which compasses us round about, as well as Jesus Christ who is the author and finisher of our faith.
As you read the twelfth chapter of this particular epistle you are immediately caught with the tremendous reality of being surrounded and being compassed round about by such a great cloud of witnesses. Those whom the author wrote about and those whom the author referenced in the previous chapter—as well as those who weren’t mentioned in the chapter, but merely implied—make up this great cloud of witnesses which compass us round about, and which surround us on all sides. Those who ran the race in their own generations, and those who fought the fight within their own generation now make up this great cloud of witnesses which surround us, and further watch and witness us as we run with endurance and patience the race which has been set before us. This great cloud of witnesses which compass us round about watch as we lay aside every weight, as well as that sin which so easily besets us, in order that we might run with patience the race which is before us. In all reality, I am convinced that if this great cloud of witnesses could speak to us who are running the race right now in this generation, they would instruct and caution a number of men and women to slow down, to steady their pace, to control their breathing, and to take their time running the race. In all reality, I am convinced there are countless men and women among us who right now are fatigued and are on the verge of burning themselves out because they thought this race was a sprint rather than a marathon. Such men and women do not recognize, nor do they realize that such a race was not meant to be run with the quickest time, or to be run with extreme speed, but rather to be run with patience and endurance. What’s more, is that I am convinced that the only way to run this race with patience and endurance is to slow ourselves down, to set ourselves free and deliver ourselves from every weight which holds us down, as well as the sin which so easily besets us. The author of this epistle made it incredibly clear that it is not only the weights and burdens of the world which can hold us back and weigh us down, but it is also the sin which so easily besets us. I continue to be reminded of the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in the second chapter of the second epistle which was written unto him. Consider if you will the words which the apostle wrote 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 warreth 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 strive for masteries, yet is he not crowned, except he strive lawfully” (2 Timothy 2:1-5).
It is quite obvious from the words which the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture that not only are we to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, but he also goes on to declare that no man who wars in this life would willingly and voluntarily entangle themselves with the affairs of this life. This is true because this man who wars seeks to please Him who chose them to be a soldier within the earth. It’s worth noting that not only did the author write in this passage of Scripture concerning enduring hardship and hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, but the apostle Paul also went on to declare that no man who wars, and no man who wages war entangles themselves in the affairs of this life, or the affairs of this world. I can’t help but be reminded of two distinct passages within the gospel of Matthew which paint a perfectly clear, and perfectly candid picture of delivering ourselves from the affairs of this life, and the affairs of this world. The first is found in the sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew, while the second is found in the thirteenth chapter of the same New Testament gospel. Consider first the words which were spoken by Jesus and are recorded for us in the sixth chapter of the gospel, followed up immediately by the words which Jesus spoke concerning the parable of the seed and the sower:
“NO man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body more than raiment? Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeders them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking through can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and. Yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all His glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:24-34).
“And the disciples came, and said unto Him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them. Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side. But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: tor when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended. He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundred fold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:10-23).
When you read the twelfth chapter of this epistle written unto the Hebrews you find the author first referencing and speaking of our being compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses. The author then goes on to instruct and invite us to lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily besets us in order that we might run with patience the race which is set before us. The author goes on to write that while we are running we are to keep our legs going, control our breathing as we run, keep our heads up, and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith—this Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despised its shame, and is now set down at the right hand of the throne of God. The author was sure to include this reference of being set down at the right hand of the throne of God, for the author was bringing us face to face with the tremendous reality of our reaching that place of divine rest once the race has been run, and once the work has been completed. Jesus finished the course which was before Him, and He completed the work which was before Him, and as a result, He was able to sit down at the right hand of the throne of God, and sit down at the right hand of all majesty and power. It’s important to note that this wasn’t the first time the author wrote about and referenced Jesus being set down and being seated at the right hand of the Father, for I am convinced the author sought to convey to us the tremendous reality of Jesus having been set down at the right hand of the Father—after and only once the work itself was completed, and once the race had been run, and once the fight had been fought. The author of the epistle then goes on to call us to consider Him [Jesus] who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest at any time we become wearied in our minds. This is actually something worth considering, for it seems to suggest that long before we become fatigued, and long before we become weary in our physical bodies, or in our souls, we first become weary within our minds. IS YOUR MIND TIRED? IS YOUR MIND WEARY? IS YOUR MIND FATIGUED? IS YOUR MIND FAINTING WITHIN YOU? I am utterly and completely convinced that there are men and women among us right now who are completely and utterly fatigued in their minds and as a result are becoming and have become fatigued within their physical bodies, and even their souls.
Would it surprise you if I declared unto you that being constantly bombarded by thoughts, and constantly being bombarded by anxieties, and constantly being bombarded by worry, can and will cause you to become weary within your mind, and can cause you to faint in your minds? I am utterly and completely convinced that before we ever become fatigued within our physical bodies, or before we ever become fatigued within our souls, we are first fatigued within our minds. I believe it is absolutely necessary for us to be aware of the state, the nature and the condition of our minds, for if we aren’t careful, it is entirely and altogether possible that we allow our minds to become fatigued within us, and if our mind goes, I would dare say, so goes everything else within us. Being one who continually exercises and as one who likes to stay active, I can wholeheartedly attest to the fact that more often than not it is mind over matter—or perhaps mind over body is the better way of putting it. I am convinced that physical fitness and physical health is just as much about our mind—our intellect, our emotions, and the like—as it is about our physical stamina. What’s more, is that I would dare say that it is possible that we can become so in tune with our minds—both physically speaking, as well as spiritually speaking—that our physical bodies are actually dictated by the condition and state of our minds. I am completely and totally convinced that we in and of ourselves need to constantly and continually be aware of the condition of our minds, for if we aren’t careful we can allow our minds to become fatigued, and worn out, and faint because we allow them to be completely and utterly consumed with thoughts, and anxieties, and worries, and fears, and doubts, and burdens, and so much more. Much of this twelfth chapter is about running with patience the race which is set before us, and the author makes sure to include this concept of becoming wearied and fainting within our minds, for more often than not our weariness is directly influence and impacted by us fainting within our minds first. When we speak of this race which we have been called to run, we must understand that it is possible to become wearied in our physical bodies if we aren’t in complete control of our minds and the condition thereof. Consider the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Philippians in the fourth chapter of the epistle:
“Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9).
As you continue reading this twelfth chapter you will find that the author immediately transitions from writing and speaking of running with patience the race which is set before us, to writing and speaking about being chastened by and chastened of the Lord. The author appeals to the words which Solomon wrote unto his son in the Old Testament book of Proverbs when they included “And have ye forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, not faint when thou art rebuked of him” (Hebrews 12:5-6). The author appealed to the words of Solomon to bring their audience and readers to the place where they would embrace being chastened by the Lord. There is this strong tendency to resist the chastening of the Lord, and to not allow the Lord to perform and accomplish His perfect work within us, and such a resistance can in fact, and is in all reality very costly and dangerous. The author of this epistle declares that those whom the Lord loves, He chastens, and he scourges every Son whom He receives. In the first epistle which the apostle Peter wrote unto the Jews which had been scattered and dispersed, he wrote concerning the tremendous need to not be surprised by struggle, and concerning not being surprised by suffering. The apostle Peter instructed his readers to not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try them, as though some strange thing happened. In all reality, that which the apostle Peter was seeking to do was bring his readers to the point and place where they aren’t surprised, nor are they taken back by suffering and struggle within their hearts and lives. The apostle Peter sought for those who read the words contained within his first epistle to reach the place where not only were they surprised and shocked by trial(s), and suffering(s) and struggle(s), and conflict(s), nor to believe the lie and the deception that they are the only ones who are going through and experiencing what they are experiencing. The apostle Peter wanted his readers and his audience to expect and anticipate the struggle, the conflict, the suffering, and the trial, and to know and understand that such afflictions are being worked and perfected in our brethren within and throughout the world. In a similar manner the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wanted to bring their audience and their readers to the place where they anticipated and expected to be chastened by the Lord. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews emphatically declared that those whom the Lord loves He chastens, and He scourges every Son whom He receives. What’s more, is the author of the epistle writes and declares that if we endure chastening, God deals with us as with sons, and wonderfully and powerful demonstrates His love for and toward us. Oh, how many of us seem to think that the chastening of the Lord is somehow a mark of His displeasure and lack of delight in and with us? How many of us would dare resist the chastening of the Lord—much like the apostle Peter tried resisting having his feet washed by Jesus—because we think that such is a sign of His displeasure? The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews knew and understood that there would be those who would resist—or try and resist—the chastening of the Lord, and as a result, would miss out on that which the Lord desired to do within their hearts and lives.
The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews goes on to provide practical instruction, and practical advice when continuing to write within this chapter, for the author writes the following words: “Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; and make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” (Hebrews 12:12-17). The words which are found and contained within this passage of Scripture are absolutely incredible, for when you read them you get the sense that the root of bitterness, and the root of offense which can in fact be found within our hearts can in fact come when we choose and elect not to follow peace with all men. It was the apostle Paul who emphatically and without reservations and hesitation wrote that if it is possible—so much as lies within us—to live peaceably with all men. I am utterly and completely convinced that we do ourselves a great disservice when we choose not to live peaceably with all men, and when we instead choose to live in such a manner where we allow bitterness and offense to be found within our hearts. The author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote concerning following peace with all men, and holiness, and then directly linked and connected it to failing of the grace of God, and lest any root of bitterness springs up and troubles us. I am convinced there a number of men and women who right now are troubled and disturbed by a root of bitterness within themselves because they have chosen not to live peaceably with all men, and have chosen not to follow peace with all men. I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus Himself wrote in His famous Sermon the Mount, for Jesus declared “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Oh, please don’t underestimate and undervalue the tremendous need to be peacemakers in the earth, for we have been uniquely called to follow peace and to live at peace with all men—as much as physically lie within our own hearts and lives. Oh, how much damage has been done within our hearts, our minds and our lives because we have refused to live peaceably with those around us? How much damage has been done because we have chosen and elected not to be peacemakers, and not to be advocates and agents of peace within the earth? Jesus spoke of the peacemakers, the apostle Paul spoke of living peaceably with all men, and the author of the epistle written unto the Hebrews wrote concerning following peace with all men, and at the end of it all, such realities are more about us than they are about those around us. I am convinced that we have spent far too much time not trying to live peaceably with those who are around us, and as a result of our actions—or should I say inaction—have caused more damage and harm than not. Oh that we would be challenged by and through the words which are found within this chapter, and that we would allow the Spirit of the Lord would bring conviction to our hearts where it is necessary.