A couple of months ago I went on a six-mile ruck march with my Army National Guard unit. We were required to carry thirty-five pounds on our backs, but I decided to load mine with forty-five pounds. It wasn’t that I wanted to prove to be an overachiever, but my lack of preparation left me with the options to either be under the weight requirement or over it. Being under it was an automatic disqualifier so I chose to be the other.
Our trail was up a winding mountain that, during the march, seemed to have no end. After about one and a half miles I began anticipating each curve finally reaching the top but I was repeatedly disappointed. The weight on my back had become overwhelming as my lower body felt weaker and weaker. Each step forward required energy that I didn’t seem to have. I thought of resting, taking the ruck off for a while and even sitting on the side of the trail long enough to catch my breath but I kept going. As I neared the top, the supportive crowd of soldiers who had gone before me gave me the strength I needed until I too was able enjoy the satisfaction of crossing the finish line.
In Hebrews, encouragement was given to the scattered Israelites to remember that the Christian journey is a marathon. A marathon is defined as a long-distance running race, strictly one of 26 miles 385 yards (42.195 km) or a long-lasting or difficult task or operation of a specified kind.
Hebrews 12:1-3 KJV “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 beset 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.” Three points for us to highlight from the above verses are: we’re in good company, the weight of sin hinders us and meditating on Jesus is the key.
1. We’re In Good Company
Hebrews 12:1 There is something encouraging about knowing you’re not alone. Even more is when you’re in the company of people who are worthy of admiration due to their courage, integrity, confidence, stamina and sacrifice. Abel was a man who understood that God doesn’t require us to give more than we have but He does require all that we have. Enoch walked in the Divine presence and was so one with the Author of life that even death was not able to claim him. Abraham was promised an inheritance after following the Eternal One as we do GPS systems into a land which he knew nothing about. Each of these and more, as mentioned in chapter eleven, are amongst the ‘cloud of witnesses’ that testified of God’s ability to sustain us along this journey. They have gone before us and we are in good company by following the same path of faith.
2. Shedding the weight of sin
Hebrews 12:1 continued. It’s so easy to underestimate the poisonous effect that sin has on us. How it numbs our sensitivity, confuses our judgement and hardens our hearts against the Divine will only to leave us broken, battered and ashamed. The devil is like that. He hypes you up to do something wrong and then is nowhere to be found after you get caught. This stripping off is an individual effort. Your weight may be different than mine but we both have our own weight to shed. Let’s think about some of the habits and patterns we have that prevent us from walking in righteousness. Some may be fearfulness, gluttony, arrogance, laziness, religiosity, procrastination and selfishness. When I was hiking up the mountain with forty-five pounds on my back there was nothing, I wanted more than the relief of being freed from that unbearable load. Through habitual obedience and daily choices in harmony with the Royal law, we are building righteous and holy characters. It’s not the occasional stumble that disqualifies us but the engrained patterns of disobedience.
3. Meditating on Jesus
Hebrews 12:2,3 The writer understood a universal principle regarding the human mind: ‘whatever we meditate on multiplies’. You may have heard it said that ‘we become what we think about most of the time.’ As we nurture an accurate and healthy view of Jesus the Christ and meditate on His methods, temperament and love we become like Him. He ran the marathon that was before Him not by avoiding the hardship but by fixing His mind on the reward at the end; redeeming those who were lost by restoring the integrity of the Father’s name was that reward. You and I reconciled in relationship with the heavenly host motivated the Son of God to endure the sufferings of the cross.
Considering all that have gone before us and the One who stands beside us, “Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? Can trouble, suffering, and hard times, or hunger and nakedness, or danger and death?” Romans 8:35