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 that was 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)
In high school I was on the indoor track and field team. I ran the 55 meter dash, but because of injuries and being shorthanded, I got to run in the 4×4 200 meter relay. From competing in that event, I had gained a new perspective on what the writer of Hebrews wrote in the beginning of chapter 12.
In a relay race, the first runner starts by carrying a baton in their hand while they run. In order for the next runner to start, the first one must finish their lap and then properly hand off the baton to them. Life is the same way. The race of life is not a sprint, but it’s a relay. In the beginning God started a race and everyone before us finished not the race but they finished their lap. Some of us are at the end of our lap handing the baton off to the next generation. While others of us are receiving the baton and carrying it on until we finish our lap.
The writer of Hebrews gives us great insight on how we are to run our particular lap in the relay race of life. First he tells us that we are surrounded by witnesses, fans, cheering us on. The awesome thing about this is that all the people that have gone before us have finished their lap, handed off the baton, and now have graduated to the stands to encourage us on. Encouragement enhances performance. The greater the encouragement, the greater the performance. Since we our surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, our performance should be elevated to the next level.
The second thing is to lay aside the weights that we are carrying. A weight is something that you are carrying that you should have dropped a long time ago. A weight doesn’t stop you, but it hinders you from running the race at your maximum potential. In order for us to finish our lap, we need to get rid of these weights that we’ve been dragging that we were never meant to pull in the first place.
Third is the sin that so easily entangles or ensnares us. We all have that one that easily gets us. But if we can endure our cross, we will sit in our place.
Finally the writer gives us the solution to running our lap with success. We are to look toward, fix our eyes upon, and focus on Jesus. He is the example that we are to follow. He is the only one who ran His lap to perfection. And because of what He did, that is the reason why we are able to run our lap in the relay of life. He handed the baton off to the disciples, who handed it off to the saints, who handed it off to the generation before us, who are now handing it off to us.
The greatest example of this in scripture I heard pointed out by T.D. Jakes, Senior Pastor of the Potter’s House, at the Code Orange Revival at Elevation Church. He spoke about the story of the woman with the issue of blood. While Jesus was on His way to heal Jarius’ daughter, this woman reached out and touched Jesus. She was immediately healed of her disease of 12 years. After she touched Jesus, Jesus went on to touch Jarius’ daughter, who was 12 years old, and raised her from the dead. The woman represents the older generation that has gone before and the young girl represents the younger generation that is rising up now. The older generation carried the baton, handed it off to Jesus, and we’re healed of their sickness. Then Jesus raised up the younger generation, passed the baton off to them, and we are now carrying it until it is our turn to hand it off to the generation behind us. One generation was 12 years sick, one generation was 12 years dead, but because of Jesus; both generations are able to run their lap in the relay race of life.
So to get to your place: You got to run your race with endurance, focus on the right things, confront and lay aside the thing that holds you back, drop the weights and hindrances of life that God never intended for you to carry, and focus on Jesus. That is how you will successfully carry the baton.