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.
I grew up in a church that emphasized faith a lot. It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing as faith in God is absolutely vital. We are saved by grace through faith, and it’s impossible to please God without faith. The problem came in when the object of faith became confused. People began to believe they were responsible to make something happen by their own faith. If things didn’t work out for them, they were obviously to blame.
An example of this was when I was 6 years old, and a precious sister in our church was diagnosed with cancer. She decided to forego medical treatment and instead use her faith to be healed. She was healed completely, but not in the way we had hoped. She passed from this life to the next and was instantly made whole. The week after she died, the pastor stood up in front of the congregation and said something that disturbed my young soul. He said, “We loved our sister so much, but we just wish she would have had some more faith.”
Hebrews 11 & 12 give us a much healthier perspective on what true faith is like. It is often called the Hall of Faith because many of the Old Testament patriarchs and prophets are commended for their faith. It’s the stuff of legend as you read about old age childbearing, seas being parted, hungry lions tamed, fire not able to burn, the dead raised, etc. The passage then takes a far different turn when those who didn’t see what we would consider success were also commended for their great faith. These were those who were mocked, beaten, stoned, imprisoned, sawn in two, afflicted and so forth. It says of these seemingly defeated ones that the world was not worthy of them.
You see, these heroes weren’t exercising faith in their own faith to make something happen. They had one thing in mind and one promise they wished to be fulfilled. They were looking for the promised Messiah to come and save them. The good news the author of Hebrews gives us in chapter 12, is that our Savior has come and lived a perfect life for us, died the death we deserved, rose from the dead, and exalted to the right hand of His Father. He is the one who blazed the trail for us. He is both the author and finisher of our faith and should be the only object of it. As we believe in Him and keep our eyes firmly planted upon Him, we will run the race that is set before us with grace and cross the finish line victoriously.