“Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.”Hebrews 12:1-2
As a new homeowner of a house made in the 1960s, I am constantly looking to renovate or repair. We’ve transformed an office into a bedroom, built a deck in the backyard, and fixed our laundry room so the washing machine doesn’t back up with water from the poor plumbing job. The common denominator with all these jobs isn’t my superior handyman skills—it’s been the dedicated work of friends and family willing to take a Saturday (or several) to help us work. If it weren’t for the help of others, our home would still be slowly sinking into disrepair. Reflecting on this has reminded me of a beautiful reality found in Scripture.
The author of Hebrews—encouraging his audience in chapter 12 to endure in their faith given the testimonies of great faith that had come before them—gives the example of Jesus as the focal point for their minds. Let’s be honest, laying aside every weight and sin that so easily ensnares us is hard work. Running with endurance often requires a perseverance we feel like we just can’t muster. How on earth can we keep up with everything life throws at us and maintain a holy life on top of that? How can we measure up to the perfection laid before us?
I hear those complaints. I feel those questions. But maybe, if you’ll allow me, can I offer another question to you? How are you at accepting grace? Hebrews 12:1 is a verse we can easily get behind because the impetus us upon us to live out our faith. WE lay aside every weight and sin. WE run with endurance. If we do not pair Hebrews 12:1 with Hebrews 12:2, we get a faith removed from grace and rooted in our own works. Hebrews 12:2 reminds us how we lay aside every weight and sin and how we run with endurance for our faith. The way we do it is by keeping our eyes on Jesus. HE is the source of our faith. HE counted it as joy rather than shame to go to the cross on our behalf. HE is sitting at the right hand of the throne of God now!
If we find it hard to accept grace, we tend to believe our faith is a work of our own hands. We believe that if we can achieve some measure of holiness by ourselves, then God will accept us, and we’ll be more useful in the Kingdom. Just as I couldn’t fix my house alone, we cannot attain holiness outside of Jesus. The truth is, God isn’t interested in our self-made perfection. He’s interested in our humble response to His grace and mercy. Jesus did the impossible task because we couldn’t. When we accept this, we open ourselves up to grace and release ourselves to the ongoing practice of our lives: to keep our gaze transfixed on Jesus. As Robert Murray McCheyne said, “A glance of faith may save, but it is the gaze of faith which sanctifies.”