Greetings Church Family,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2, ESV)
Endurance is defined as the “ability to withstand pain or hardship or prolonged use or strain.” (Oxford) I have been running somewhat regularly for the last 17 years or so, and currently I should be preparing for the Winnipeg Police 5K run on May 3, and the Manitoba Marathon 10K run on June 21. These are two events that I participate in annually but unfortunately due to the current pandemic both events have been canceled. Endurance is something that is needed if one is going to participate in any type of marathon running. One will need to learn to endure through pain and/or prolonged strain in order to complete the race. Building endurance takes time and resistance; one needs resistance in order to build endurance and to strengthen one’s inner resolve to complete a marathon.
Endurance is also something that is needed on many fronts in the current pandemic. Regarding education, parents are now learning how to be the “teacher”; from the conversations I have been involved in, parents now taking on the added role of teacher has been somewhat stressful and patience has worn thin on some fronts. Endurance is needed in adapting to the new role of teacher. Frontline workers, such as healthcare professionals among others, are another group that are under added strain and stress due to the pandemic. To make it through increased work hours, added safety measures, and the stress of working in an environment where the risks are greater, will and does need endurance. For society in general simply having to wait for the restrictions to be lifted and for life to get back to normal, whatever that may look like, seems to be a test of endurance for many people.
The writer of Hebrews wrote about the need for endurance. The primarily Jewish audience to whom he was writing were in need of endurance. They had come out of Judaism and were tempted to reject Christianity and return to Judaism. From 10:32-12:7 the writer emphasizes the need to endure; in 10:32-39 he challenges them to recall “the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings…do not throw away your confidence…for you have need of endurance…” In chapter 11 the writer holds before them the heroes who endured by faith as a way of encouraging them to endure and to remain steadfast in faith. In 12:1-2 the listeners are urged to run with endurance in response to the O.T. witnesses the writer has just referenced in chapter 11. These listeners were surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses who blazed a trail of faith for them to follow as they look to the example of Jesus. The writer commands them to lay aside the sins that are a hindrance in the race; sin which so easily entangles and hinders spiritual growth. The writer also reminds that Christ “endured the cross…and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God”; Jesus’ example of endurance is emphasized so as to encourage them to persevere and faithfully endure.
As believers, we are all prone to spiritual lethargy and can drift from the faith so easily (Heb.2:1-4). As believers we are all susceptible to sins which so easily entangle us. If we are going to run effectively, we will need to be ever watchful and reject those things that hinder progress in spiritual growth. The Christian life is not a sprint to the finish line but is like a long-distance run; it is at times very difficult and takes sustained effort. John MacArthur commenting on the need for endurance writes, “The Christian race is a marathon, a long-distance race, not a sprint…there will be obstacles and weariness but we must endure…God is concerned for steadfastness.” We, as those 1st century believers, are called to endure in the race that is set before us. If you are reading this then the faith race is not over yet – you need to keep going, you need to endure…you need to keep looking to Jesus! I would encourage us as those 1st century believers were encouraged; may we draw strength from the example of Jesus, and from the great cloud of witnesses surrounding us…what awaits us when we finish the race will be worth it all! (Revelations 21:1-22:5)