Posted by: rcottrill | September 6, 2009

Looking Unto Jesus

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, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. (Heb. 12:1-3)

If “the sin which so easily ensnares us” refers to a specific sin common to all (rather than one that may differ from one individual to another) the context of Hebrews Chapter 11 suggests that it is the sin of unbelief. Instead of doubt, and faithlessness, and sinful independence, we are to look to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith, considering Him, “the author and finisher of our faith.”

“Looking unto Jesus” represents both a gaze of admiration, and a prayer for divine grace. To encourage us to do this, the writer presents a “great cloud of witnesses in the previous chapter. These are not mere spectators, overweight and under-exercised fans, sitting in the bleachers. They are our fellow participants in the race. Their lives bear witness to the validity and the importance of trusting in the Lord. And like relay runners from whom we have taken the baton to carry on to the finish, they have a keen interest in the outcome.

Years ago, when my father was terminally ill, some men from the steel plant where he worked as a foreman visited him and brought a gift. It was a recording by the Merrill Staton Men’s Chorus, singing a selection of hymns. The record was entitled My Faith Looks Up to Thee (this being one of the hymns that was included). But on the back of the record jacket some copy writer had produced one of the most startling typos I’ve ever seen. The title there was given as My Faith Looks Up to Me–ironically truer than we could wish many times!

This 1830 hymn by Ray Palmer is one of a number that speak in some way of the need to keep our eyes on the Lord, looking up to Him in faith. Another is the eighth century Irish hymn, Be Thou My Vision. And with regard to running the race of life we have such songs as, Awake, My Soul, Stretch Every Nerve, and Higher Ground. I encourage you to sing these hymns of aspiration in your church, explaining their significance. And may the Lord use them to invigorate our faith.

My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary, Saviour divine!
Now hear me while I pray, take all my guilt away,
O let me from this day be wholly Thine!

May Thy rich grace impart
Strength to my fainting heart, my zeal inspire!
As Thou hast died for me, O may my love to Thee,
Pure warm, and changeless be, a living fire!


  1. One of my very favorite hymns is Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus by Helen H. Lemmel. So often in my life when things are not going well or I am discouraged in some way, its because I have taken my eyes off of Jesus and this hymn is somehow brought to my mind.

    • Thanks, Dorothy. Helen Lemmel’s “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus” is a beautiful song. Stay tuned! On November 14th, a story about the author and how she came to write her hymn will appear. (That was her birthday, in 1864).

      Meanwhile, there are lots of new things coming along. Sometimes, even I get surprised. Found out a week ago that Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle in the musical My Fair Lady were patterned after a famous hymn writer and his girlfriend. Go figure!


    • Thanks for your encouragement. God bless.

  3. Our family (which of course includes the grandson and great-grandchildren of your father!) has been learning this hymn in the month of March, and sang it again today (Good Friday).

    At the end of our worship time, we read this post, which was very appropriate. Thanks! 🙂


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