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 12:1-3 ESV)
Baseball season is almost here! For me – a Little League coach – this means once again coaching 6-8 year-olds on how to play the game – teaching them how to run through first base, going over how to stand next to home plate when batting and not on top of it, and trying to keep the outfielders from wandering over to the playground. One of the toughest things to teach a young baseball player is how to keep their eye on the ball when they are up at bat. A lot of other things can be distracting, like fear of getting hit by the ball, exuberant parents shouting advice and encouragement, or a bird flying across the field. Focusing on seeing the ball and swinging the bat at good pitches is a struggle. We should not be too hard on these kids though, because we ourselves have our own struggles with keeping an eye on what is most important. In our work as librarians, we have many different things that compete for our attention. The uncertainty of budgets and demands on our time and attention can lead to fear and anxiety. It can be easy to lose focus on what is truly important.
Hebrews 12:1-3 provides guidance on how to keep our eye on what is most important. The first thing is to look at the example of those who have gone before us, what the author refers to as, “so great a cloud of witnesses” (vs. 1a). When we look at Scripture and when we look at the history of Christ’s church, we see example after example of those who put their trust in God and experienced the goodness and grace of God in the midst of difficult days. We are part of a grand story, way bigger than us, in which we get to be part of the people of God who testify, who witness, to the goodness and faithfulness of God.
The second point of guidance for keeping our eye on what is most important is to lose what is dragging us down. In the second half of verse 1, it urges us to “lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely.” There are the things that are not necessarily sins but yet weigh us down or distract us, and then there is the sin that trips us up. These are the things that are clearly not in line with God’s ways and that cause us to fall flat on our faces.
The third, and most important, guidance is to focus on Jesus (vs. 2-3). The examples of those who have gone before in the great clouds of witnesses are inspiring, but they merely point us to the ultimate example of faith, Jesus. He is the author of faith. The idea here is of a pioneer, a person who goes in front and shows the way. Jesus has blazed the trail for us to follow. His example shows us the joy that comes from having enduring faith. The hope we have in Him keeps us going. In the midst of uncertainty and difficulty, may we take heart as we look at what Jesus has done for us and take heart in the fact that He will see us through suffering and present us before the throne of God, made complete and whole because of Him.
Nathan is the acting Library Director at Trinity International University in Deerfield, IL. He has been an ACL member since 2020.