Every four years, the Olympic Games provide unprecedented opportunities for world-class athletes from every corner of the earth to compete against each other for ultimate athletic prizes. So great are the stakes that many have been tempted to cheat—and some have even succumbed to temptation. Even the venerable Games Committee has been caught in unseemly, if not illegal, practices.You have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. Hebrews 12:4
Originally, in ancient Greece, only men were allowed to compete, and only after they were able to show that they had adhered to strict, mandatory training and dietary rules and had prepared themselves thoroughly for the honor of competing. Not only were the games reserved for male athletes, but they also were limited exclusively to male spectators. In addition, the athletes were required to compete naked! They were literally required to “strip off every weight” that would hinder their ability to “run with endurance the race” set before them (Heb. 12:1).
The writer of Hebrews used this analogy with great effect as he compared the Christian experience to a race to be run before “a huge crowd of witnesses” (Heb. 12:1). The “witnesses” referred to were probably the “martyrs”—(the Greek word for “witness” being martys) who had already laid down their lives for the cause of Christ.
The weight we need to lay aside includes “the sin that so easily hinders our progress.” Sin can and should be stripped off because it hinders spiritual growth very “easily.” It must be dealt with severely. The Christian is being advised to identify his spiritual Achilles’ heel—a vulnerable area in his life that needs careful and constant attention.
In addition, believers need to be reminded about the “struggle against sin” (12:4). This struggle can become so intense that it leads to their giving up their lives. When believers resist sin, sometimes those around them who are sinning become violent in their opposition.
Sin will hinder a man while running the race—“the life of faith” (12:1)—and can only be dealt with by “keeping our eyes on Jesus.” Jesus suffered, too. He died for our sins, and it is for him and his cause that we are running the race! He is the final umpire, and he alone will keep us on track.