“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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Paul must have been thinking about a horse race when he wrote this – a horse race from the horse’s perspective, that is. As we found out yesterday, that’s important. The horse isn’t aware of the odds, the horse has never heard of the Triple Crown, and it isn’t reading the newspaper. It didn’t wake up in the morning thinking, “I’ve got a big race today; better get focused.” The horse simply does what a race horse does when the gate opens.
And one of those things it does is look forward. There may be lots of people in the stands, but the horse never looks there. It looks forward. Some horses wear blinders that prevent them from being distracted by anything so they focus on what is right ahead of them. Paul says that what is ahead of us is Jesus.
This is important, especially in light of the fact that he has just spent a whole chapter thinking and writing about every man and woman of faith that he can think of, and using them as examples of faith. But in the opening of Chapter 12, he pushes all these people aside and looks at Jesus.
Marti shared with me that she found in her study of this verse an element to this “looking unto Jesus” that could also mean “looking away to Jesus,” and that would make sense, since the great examples of faith would all tell us not to get stuck on them. They would want us to look away from them and onto Jesus. Fix our eyes on Him.
The Greek word translated “looking unto” denotes looking with undivided attention by turning away from every other object. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus.”
Marti shares with me that there is a reason for this – a reason for why we focus on Him and not them: “There are many, many biblical and contemporary people of faith who serve as great examples to us, but what Jesus does is more than all the heroes in the Bible and the greatest followers of our times put together can do. He can empower us. None of them have the power that He has to empower us – not even Paul, Abraham or anyone.”
Oh heck, I’ll just let her finish this out…
That is what Jesus did when I first met Him and took the Great Commission as my private verse. He showed me this was my verse – and no one else’s. There are plenty of other verses for everyone else on those thin pages of onion skin. This verse was mine! And while claiming this verse as my own, He empowered me to act on it as if it were my own. He can do what others cannot do. He can give me the power to take on Matthew 28:19, as if I held all of the rights to it. All of the Bible and contemporary people of faith can inspire us, but He empowers us. Look away from those who have inspired you unto Jesus. That is where the secret lies.
And He is not “up there” somewhere. As the books of the Bible make clear, He is within us, by faith. If we have received Jesus Christ, he dwells inside us, and as Paul says, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).
Our heroes of faith all direct us to “look away” [from them) unto Jesus; for He is the only one who can empower us – as He did them – to fight the fight He has assigned to us. I may be a sprinter and you may be a long distant runner – but to God, it doesn’t matter, as long as we look away unto Him and thus finish the race.