“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us. . ..” – Hebrews 12:1
Have you ever faced a mountain of a task and felt like giving up? When the children of Israel first returned from captivity to Jerusalem, they faced a mountain of rubble where Jerusalem once stood. They were few in number. They were glad at the opportunity to return to their beloved city, but they were discouraged by the mountainous task before them. Then came words that strengthened them. Through the prophet Zechariah the LORD exhorted His people saying, “Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!” And how would this great mountain of rubble be moved and repaired? Through the prophet those great well known words rang out, “’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6-7). Those words helped God’s people to not give up. The power of the Holy Spirit working in and through God’s people, enabled them to not give up. Those words of God to His people can be summed up in an exhortation to, never give up!
In Hebrews 12:1 we are called to endure when it states, “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us . . ..” These first three verses of Hebrews 12 contain the key to enduring in our walk with the Lord. Let’s look at them and see if the Lord won’t open them up for us.
What is “endurance”? The Greek term translated “endurance” is hupomone and means enduring, patience, perseverance, constancy, continuing. Webster’s Dictionary defines “endurance” – the ability to withstand hardship or adversity; especially: the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity e.g. a marathon runner’s endurance. The Enhanced Strong’s Concordance describes endurance as the New Testament characteristic, “of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” In common vernacular we might express this word with the phrase, never give up!
At the onset of WWII England soon found itself the last bastion of hope against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. At one point when Germany had overrun Europe, and England stood alone, it was then that Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of England at the time, summoned his countrymen to endure and press on in the fight at all costs. These were some of his words:
I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say; it is to wage war, by sea, by land and air, with all our might and with all the strength God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory – victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”
World War II was an epic struggle. It was a world war. Some would say we are going through a similar war today, a political war, but a war nonetheless. If we are to overcome to victory in this war, we will need endurance; we will need an attitude that says, never give up!
The Bible says we are in a war of even more momentous proportions than the one Churchill and England faced. The war mentioned in scripture is in a spiritual dimension. This war is greater than any other, because it overlaps into the seen realm. Every war, every conflict, every division and deception corporately as well as individually, involves the influence of the dark forces the Bible mentions in this spiritual war.
This spiritual war is a battle against principalities and powers and rulers of this dark age, a demon hoard (Ephesians 6:12). Quitting is not an option. If we quit the demons of hell will ravish us and smear the name of the Almighty. That is unacceptable. We are called to endure and we must endure. Never give up!
Hebrews 12:1 states: “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, . . .” The context of this verse (and any verse for that matter) is very important. Hebrews twelve follows Hebrews chapter 11. In Hebrews 11 we have the Hall of Faith. Much like we have Halls of Fame in sports, the Bible has a Hall of Faith where a summary list of people from the Bible who were exemplary in their faith is given. Our verse about endurance is given on the heels of noting stalwarts of faith.
What is so important about this context of a list of the faithful? This context tells us it is faith that enables us to endure. The purpose of faith is to enable us to live lives pleasing to the Lord (Hebrews 11:6). It is faith that enables a person to endure because faith is the “substance of things hoped for,” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is the ground or foundation that provides a bridge from the present to the future. Moving from the present to the future is what we call enduring. Endurance bridges us from where we are to where we need to be.
Enduring is all about faith. Faith is the “evidence of things not seen,” it enables us to rise above doubt, emotional stresses, depression etc., and press on. Faith is how we grab hold of the hand of God to steady us and bring us through. Faith settles us in the darkness. Faith calms us when deceptions that threaten to sink us, seem so real and valid. Faith is the engine, no, the heart of endurance.
Hebrews 12 helps us to practically understand how to endure. Hebrews 12 will give us ammunition to fight and never give up! Let’s look at this great chapter on endurance.
First, understand that God will help us never give up just as He helped those in the Hall of Faith chapter. Hebrews 11 has a long list of those who pressed on and endured in their faith even when buffeted and torn by trials and hardships of various types. The testimonies of the faithful ones in the Hall of Faith are very impressive and awe inspiring. But Hebrews 12:1a starts out by saying, “Therefore we also, . . .” which tells us there is a way to follow in the enduring footsteps of these giants of the faith.
Second, the key to never giving up begins by laying aside every weight, and the sin that so easily ensnares us (Hebrews 12:1b). To endure you have to travel light. Don’t allow excess baggage to weigh you down. Prioritize your life with heavenly priorities and don’t allow yourself to be ensnared or tangled up in the sins of the world. Do what is right, for a higher purpose. Do what is right and stick to God’s plan, even if it costs you some of the things in this world. Don’t get entangled with critic’s negative comments, or the lying slings and arrows of the enemy. Stick the truth and principles found in God’s word. Stream line yourself by the word of God.
Third, to never give up we need to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 11:1c). Someone has said that in order to win a race you have to be in it to win it. You can’t just drift to the side or get off course, you have to stay on track and run “the race that is set before us.” Get into the action, jump into the fray with both feet. Serve the Lord in some way! Know your calling and then go for it! Don’t let anyone or anything divert your attention. Have a holy ambition and then endure until you accomplish what God has purposed for you to do.
Faith by its very nature and definition is an action. Faith that is alive is not stagnant but active (see James 2:14-26). Faith actively endures. Faith NEVER GIVES UP! That’s an action. Rocky Balboa once spoke some profound words to a son who was ashamed that Rocky had agreed to pursue a fight in order to “get all the stuff out” that was still churning within him. It’s a classic conversation that every father should have with their son. I’ll paraphrase, but Rocky said in effect, “Life is the harshest foe. And life will hit you and knock you down like nothing or no one else can. But it’s not about how many times you get hit, it’s about how many times you get hit and keep on moving forward. That’s how championships are won!” Rocky’s life certainly is an example of that.  In other words, never give up!
And also, we should focus on the “race set before us.” You can’t run a future race or a past race, but only the one in the present. Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow because today has enough problems of its own (Matthew 6:34). Paul was inspired to tell us to forget what lays behind us in our past (Philippians 3:13). You don’t endure by dwelling on past victories or defeats or by worrying about future races or opponents, you endure by keeping your focus right. And what is the right focus and the most important aspect of enduring in our faith?
Fourth, to never give up, the most important thing is to keep our eyes on Jesus. Hebrews 12:2a states, “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith, . . .” There is something transformational that takes place in the one who fixes their gaze on Jesus. You see, when we try to endure without fixing our eyes on Jesus, we begin to look at those around us, we listen to their put downs and discouraging words. That can trip us up from moving forward.
When our gaze isn’t fixed on Jesus, we begin to wonder if we measure up to others. When our gaze is horizontal, on the things and comments of this world, our attention is diverted from the most important factor in enduring, Jesus! Through Jesus we can “do all things” (Philippians 4:13). With Jesus, we become all that we need to be, to do all that He calls us to do, for His glory, until He returns. With King Jesus, we can do anything and everything God calls us to do.
If we take our eyes off Jesus and look to our self, we begin to wonder why we aren’t getting the recognition we think we deserve for all the sacrifices and hard work we are doing as we endure in our faith. The easiest way to get sidetracked and in a ditch that will threaten our enduring is to get our eyes off of Jesus. Getting your eyes off of Jesus is a sure-fire way to invite spiritual glaucoma to cloud your perception.
When we look at Jesus, when we fix our eyes on Him, when we fix our gaze of faith on Jesus, everything is put in its proper place. As we look at Jesus, we realize Who we are serving and who we are not serving (Colossians 3:17, 23-24). Yes, this is the major key and why in verse three it states, “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:3). When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we thwart the temptation to be discouraged or depressed. When we keep our eyes on Jesus we learn how and why we are enduring. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, our priorities fall into place and we stay on track. When we keep our eyes on Jesus, we never give up!
To grow in our faith and endure we must come close and stick close to Jesus. Knowing Jesus is what eternal life is all about (John 17:3; 1 John 1:1-4). The key to enduring in your faith and never giving up, is coming close to Jesus. The closer you come to Jesus the more clearly you will see your sin (Isaiah 6). The closer you come to Jesus, the more power you will have over sin (1 John 3:6a). The closer you come to Jesus the more strength you will have to endure the trials of life. The closer you are to Jesus, the less likely you are to ever give up. The answer to endurance is coming close to Jesus and sticking close to Him.
Fifth, to never give up we need to realize that Jesus victoriously has endured to the end ahead of us and for us (Hebrews 12:2). This truth paves the way for us to endure as more than a conqueror. Paul mentions in his God inspired letter to the Roman church, that in Christ we are “more than a conqueror” (Romans 8:37). What does that mean? Well, a conqueror is a brave soldier who confidently goes into battle hoping he will survive and win the battle and war. There is some uncertainty with the mere conqueror. But someone who is more than a conqueror is someone who goes into the battle certain that the victory is theirs. Because Jesus endured and went to the cross before us, we can endure in His steps knowing nothing can separate us from Him (Romans 8:38-39).
Because Jesus went to the cross and paid the penalty for our sins, we are graciously forgiven when we trust Him as our Savior. The security we have in the finished work of Jesus enables us to endure with a certainty that the victory is ours in Christ (John 19:30). We endure confidently through life until united with Jesus in glory. But with such certainty of eternal life, we live confidently as well in whatever mission He calls us to in life. We know Jesus wins in the end. Therefore, we never give up serving Him in whatever way He directs us too.
Sixth, to never give up we need the joy of the Lord (Hebrews 12:2). There is one final ingredient to enduring. It is the gas for our engine. It is the fuel that fires our passion to follow through. It says Jesus endured, “for the joy that was set before Him.” That is another key. Joy is not mere happiness. Happiness depends on happenings or circumstances. Joy depends on Jesus. Jesus endured in His redemptive mission to and through the cross, with joy. Joy in this sense is the confident expectation that victory is secure. Jesus had it all under control and knew what His cross work would graciously provide for sinful humanity.
Keep in mind here too that “joy” is an aspect of the fruit of the Holy Spirit produced in a person’s life (Galatians 5:22). It is the first aspect of the love of the Spirit that is mentioned in a list of many aspects of the Spirit’s love produced in us. The Holy Spirit is the One who empowers us to serve Jesus and accomplish whatever mission He calls us to (Acts 1:8). We will never endure optimally, without the Holy Spirit empowering us to do so. In the Spirit, we can literally, “turn the world upside down” (Acts 17:6).
Maybe, toward the end of our study here, we should clarify and qualify what endurance and never giving up entails. Our joy is not confident in ourselves, but in Jesus. To endure and never give up is not applicable to forcing “my will” over God’s will in a situation. This is not about being bull headed or densely determined to fly even though you are not a bird. You can jump off that roof and flap your arms all you want, you can “never give up” doing that, but you will crash and be broken, maybe ended. We never give up in what God calls us to do. That is what we endure in. When God calls us to something, giving up is not an option.
Jesus knew His calling. It says of Him, “Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). Nothing was going to stop Jesus from fulfilling His mission. Jesus would never give up, until His redemptive mission was completed. And we thank God for Jesus’ steadfastness and that He, never gave up. Jesus endured no matter what. Jesus endured no matter the betrayal. Jesus endured no matter the false accusations, Jesus endured no matter the mocking. Jesus endured no matter the beating. Jesus endured no matter the trial and hardship. Jesus endured no matter the injustice. Jesus endured it all. He endured because He knew God was in control and nothing would befall Him that was beyond the will of God. That is the joy set before Him.
In the same way we can never give up, with joy. With joy like Jesus we know that nothing is going to befall us that God has not allowed and, if He has allowed it, He will also provide us help to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13). Furthermore, we endure because the issue of our relationship with Jesus is settled in our hearts. Leaving or forsaking or giving up is not an option. With Jesus, we never give up! The only option is finishing well, and we will if our joy is in the Lord, if we keep our eyes fixed on Him.
At the end of WWII Winston Churchill was invited to speak at a university and share the key to the victory in the war. When he rose to speak, he slowly approached the podium, paused and scanned the crowd. Then he said these simple words:
Never give up, never give up, never, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give up except to convictions of honor and good sense.
Never give up! No matter the mountain before you or the valley below you. No matter what the obstacle it is God calls you to, never give up. We are called to endure. Find God’s calling for you, and never give up until you have victory. We must endure. We will endure. With Jesus, we will never give up. In the strength of a close walk with the Lord – we will endure – for His glory. This is my prayer for you, for us, the church. This is my prayer for our country, and president, and representatives. Never give up! This is my prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Strong, J. (1996). The exhaustive concordance of the Bible: Showing every word of the text of the common English version of the canonical books, and every occurrence of each word in regular order. (electronic ed.) (G5281). Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship.
 You can find this great speech of Rocky Balboa to his son on YouTube.