The Great Race: Reflections on Hebrews 12
By Brittany McKenzie
Every Christian knows how lofty and unattainable the life of holiness seems: the life following after Christ. Last week, we read in Hebrews 11 the roster of “Super Saints” who had faith that was Bible-worthy. How can we attain that level of maturity and faith in today’s culture when most of our needs (and wants) can seemingly be met through our own means? How can we even please God when His favor can’t be purchased and sacrifice doesn’t delight Him (Psalm 51:16)? In verse 5 of Hebrews 11, we see Enoch “was commended as one who pleased God”. And verse 6 states ‘without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him’. So how do we obtain a faith that pleases God?
The answer comes in Hebrews 12:1: “THEREFORE let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles’. That is step one. Pastor Matt gave a great illustration of a runner with a parachute attached to his back. Many different strings are attached to a parachute, which then causes so much resistance that the race becomes slow, weary and burdensome. Scripture commands us to “throw off” sins and distractions that hinder and entangle us from running strong after Christ. What are these sins specifically for the Christian? Anxiety, fear, addiction, pride, jealousy. The list goes on and on. What in my Christian life is holding me back from being fully alive by the Spirit?
He then asks us to run this race with perseverance by ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus’, who thankfully is the ‘author and perfecter’ of this faith (v.2). It is a faith concerning Him, and He has taken the responsibility to perfect it. *Huge exhale* He perfects our faith through our circumstances. So to grow in this faith, which is pleasing to God, I must say no to ungodliness, no to anxiety, no to fear and pride, no to jealousy of that ‘perfect’ mom, and trust the Author of my circumstances. There is purpose behind my hardships and trials. My pain has value. He calls me to consider His own journey through earth, the sufferings He endured at the hand of sinful man, that I may gain encouragement and strength for my own journey.
So in summary, what pleases God is my faith. My faith is purified through fire (hardship) and is worth more than gold (1 Peter 1:7). Christ is pleased with us as we long-suffer (persevere) through our race on Earth, following in His footsteps. Each time we turn our eyes onto Him and say ‘NO’ to that debilitating sin, or that consuming habit, Christ is glorified, and we take one more step closer towards holiness amongst a watching world. My life’s motto is also the Apostle Paul’s final words to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). May it be so for us all, fellow Christians.
Brittany was born in Iowa but spent the first 32 years of her life in Indiana. This past December, her and her husband Elliott of four years relocated to Greenville, South Carolina. She is a nurse practitioner by trade, but stays home with their three young boys, while seeking to build relationships and invest in the local church plant of Christ the Redeemer.