During the Christmas season, an elderly lady decided that it had become too difficult for her to get out and buy gifts for all of her children and grandchildren. Wanting to continue to be a financial blessing to them, she decided to send money instead of buying gifts. She purchased Christmas cards for all the children and grandchildren and wrote a Merry Christmas greeting as well as the phrase which she included instructing them to “buy your own present this year.”
She mailed the cards hoping that this would be an acceptable alternative. However, in January as she was cleaning up her desk, she was horrified to find the checks which she had written to her children and grandchildren. It came to her realization that she had sent out Christmas cards with the instructions for her family to buy their own gifts without including the money for them to buy the gifts with!
Churches have often done the same thing in a spiritual sense to our world. The world seeks peace, direction, and victory, while the church withholds the greatest information about how to secure those beautiful attributes.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endued the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:1-2
In this mighty text, we see several points.
We have a marvelous heritage (v. 1a).
This verse in Hebrews tell us that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. This shows that we are not alone. A host of great men and women have gone before us to pave the way, to pay the price, to show us that the cause is just and righteous. Let us always be aware of those who have gone on before us.
We have a marked responsiblity (v. 1b).
In verse 1, we also see that we have responsibility as believers. We must throw off everything that hinders. This indeed speaks to the running weights which a runner in training would use to increase stamina and strength. There are things that must be put off if we are going to be effective. It may be that we have to lay off some good things that are not the best things so that we might do what God has called us to do – to do the main thing. We also have responsibility to keep our lives clean and pure. Hebrews also goes on to say that we must lay aside the sin that so easily entangles or besets us.
We have a mission (v. 1c).
The latter part of verse 1 tells us that we have a race that is set before us. This indicates to us that God has a plan. All of us need to recognize that Satan has a plan as well. It is to divert. To divide. It is to destroy. According to John 10:10, we must be ever vigilant, and seek to do everything we can to make sure that God’s plan is accomplished. Fortunately, for believers, we do not have to set our own agenda or our own mission. Acts 1:8 and Matthew 28:19-20 are very clear as to what must be accomplished. Every church decides the local strategy. The reason we can do this is simply because of this last point.
We have a master (v. 2a).
Verse 2 tells us that we are to fix our eyes on Jesus. We need to be a Jesus people – a Jesus convention. With all of our diversity, we should have only one goal and that is to lift high the name of the Lord Jesus. Not only do we have a Master, we have a motive and it is to lift Him up!
Frank S. Page is president and CEO of the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention.