Hebrews 12:1–3 (ESV)
12 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, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
What is the therefore there for? It directs the reader’s attention back to the preceding descriptions of the faithful saints in Hebrews 11. These faithful men and women excelled in faith showing the Christian what type of faith they should be imitating. Yet, these men and women also show the type of God Christians serve. Christians not only have the faith of the Old Testament saints to spur them on to godly living, but Christians have the evidence of God’s faithfulness to his people throughout history.
The author of Hebrews exhorts the reader in Chapter 12 to lay aside every weight, every sin that clings like wet clothing to the skin, and then run with enduring perseverance the race of the Christian life set before every believer. The call to live a life of godliness or Christlikeness is a hard race to run, but the Christian has many examples of pressing onward. Looking back at the perseverance of the saints and their faithfulness to God in history, looking also at God’s faithful providence to those saints, and finally, in verse 2 and 3, looking backward and forward to Christ and his faithfulness to his Father spur the believer onward onto persevering endurance in the race of faith. Running the race faithfully glorifies God and ultimately has a far sweeter reward than dropping out of the race.
Verse 3 provides a sufficient answer as to how to run the race of a godly life faithfully. “Consider him [Christ] who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.” This verse echoes the appeal of the author in verse 2, “looking to Jesus…” and the repetition reveals a powerful charge to hold Christ Jesus in the runner’s view. He is the supreme motive for running the Christian race faithfully since he himself is the supreme example of faithfulness.
Here is what John Calvin has to say about verse 3:
“For consider him, &c.” He enforces his exhortation by comparing Christ with us; for if the Son of God, whom it behoves all to adore, willingly underwent such severe conflicts, who of us should dare to refuse to submit with him to the same? For this one thought alone ought to be sufficient to conquer all temptations, that is, when we know that we are companions or associates of the Son of God, and that he, who was so far above us, willingly came down to our condition, in order that he might animate us by his own example; yea, it is thus that we gather courage, which would otherwise melt away, and turn as it were into despair.
Calvin, J., & Owen, J. (2010). Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Hebrews (p. 313). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.
We do not run this race alone, Christian. Not only have others gone before us and have run the race faithfully, not only do we have fellow Christians running with us now as examples to imitate, but Jesus Christ ran the race faithfully and before our very eyes to behold as a perfect example to run faithfully in order to glorify God. The Son gives us the courage to keep on keeping on! Keep running. Never stop. Onward. Forward unto glory!