Examining Hebrews 12:1-2
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.
Contextually, the writer of Hebrews had just finished talking about the giants of faith whose lives are recorded in the Old Testament (Heb. 11). These men and women, while not perfect, nevertheless sacrificed much to obey God, some of them even sacrificing their lives, because they desired to live in that heavenly country. He then mentioned Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith,” who made the decision to endure and “despise” (literally, “think little of”) the most painful, humiliating death of his day because he too was focused on “the joy set before him.”
If you are doing your best to put Jesus and his will first in your life, no matter what, you know that it’s not easy at times. Persecutions happen (2 Tim. 3:12). At times you suffer in various ways for doing what God wants you to do. If you’re like me, you think about giving up during some of those hard times.
However, most of us can say what the Hebrew writer went on to point out to the Christians of his day: “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Heb. 12:4). He’s right. Some of those Old Testament giants of faith “were tortured, refusing to accept release”; they “suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment”; they “were stoned…sawn in two…killed with the sword”; they “went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated…” (Heb. 11:35-38). Jesus himself died in a horrible way to save us from our sins. Compared to that, the burdens we face seem quite small.
That’s why we are told to “consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Heb. 12:3).