Running the Race (5-9-15)
Grab your Bible, and let’s go deeper into Hebrews 12.
1-Life is a Race
Hebrews 12:1: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us…
“Therefore…” Therefore what?
Therefore, since chapter 11.
“There was Abel, and there was Enoch, and there was Noah, and there was David, and there was Abraham and Isaac and Joseph and Jacob…” He lists this whole lineage of this great faith. And now, he turns and says, “And now, it’s our turn. It’s our run. It’s our time on earth. Let us–let you, let me- let us run our race now.
The cloud of witnesses refers to the saints that have lived and died so valiantly by faith as described in chapter 11.
But what does their “witnessing” refer to?
Does it refer to their watching us from heaven? Or does it refer to them witnessing to us by their lives?
I take the witnesses of Hebrews 12:1 to be the saints who have run the race before us, and have gathered, as those along a marathon route to say, through the testimony of their lives, “By faith I finished; you can too! Go for it! You can do it. By faith you can finish. LOOK TO JESUS!”
There are dozens and hundreds and thousands of those who have gone before, have finished the race by faith, and surround us like a great cloud of witnesses saying, “It can be done! By faith in Jesus, it can be done.”
He includes us with this unbelievable group of faith-filled men and woman and says, “Now, it’s your turn. These people ran; they ran well. They were faithful, and now, it’s your turn. Since you’re surrounded by these men and women who have been so faithful, since they cry out to you from the grave, ‘let us…’”
Let us WHAT? Two things:
- Let us lay aside every weight and sin, which clings so closely.
- Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.
1. If we are going to run, we must be able to run, which means we must put down whatever might slow us down…whatever might keep us from running!
“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely.”
Two things here it says to lay down: Weight and sin
Sin we get! Sin is anything I put in the place of God. Sin is my disobedience of God.
But what are the weights?
I believe they are things that are not innately sinful that encumber you.
I remember the effect this verse had on me when I really discovered it 10 years ago.
This was revolutionary. What it did (and I hope it does the same for you) was show me the fight of faith – the race of the Christian life – is to run well. This is done not by asking, “What’s wrong with this or that?” Instead, we should be asking, “Is it in the way of greater faith, greater love, greater purity, greater courage, greater humility, greater patience, and greater self-control? “
<> TV is a great everyday example of this! TV is not in itself evil, but too much of it, a wrong prioritization of it, or a consumption of darkness from it can and does slow me from Running the Race that God has set before me!
Figuring out what to put down is not asking, “Is it a sin?” Instead, it’s asking, “Does it help me run? Is it in the way?”
If it doesn’t point me to Christ or help me ENJOY GOD, it is in the way!
Look at some of the words the author uses in this chapter for a clue:
He says there are “sins” that slow us down… Absolutely!
He says there are “encumbrances” that slow us down; things that simply keep me from pressing into Christ!
He says, there are “single meals” that we need to be renounce.
This is a reference to verse 16 and 17 where the author refers to Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.
For immediate gratification, Esau quit the race!
Take a moment and seek God’s insight into what hindrances you are allowing in your life.
“Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”
What is the Race? It’s life!
Did you wake up today? This is the race. God is not done with you; you are still on mission.
The race is the life God has given each of us!
<>It is the purpose why you are alive. <>It is the things with which He has entrusted you (skills, relationships, things) to be used for His glory and the ministry of reconciliation of the Gospel.
This command does not come out of the blue; this is the point of the whole book of Hebrews.
Endure, persevere, run, fight, be alert, be strengthened, don’t drift, don’t neglect, don’t be sluggish, and don’t take your eternal security for granted. Fight the fight of faith on the basis of Christ’s spectacular death and resurrection.
So the main point of this text is the one imperative: RUN! (12:1)
Everything else supports, explains, or gives motivation for it.
Run the race set before you! Don’t stroll, don’t meander, and don’t wander about aimlessly.
Run as in a race with a finish line and with everything hanging on it.
2-Runing with Endurance
Why does it say that we must run with ENDURANCE?
Because Life is hard! Life is brutal. Life is full of trials and suffering.
The text actually says this!!!
Look deeper with me. The Greek word for our word here Race= AGON
It is where we get our word agony. The race is an agonizing struggle.
The race we are running is a regimen of difficulties.
LIFE IS HARD! LIFE IS NOT FAIR.
àThese are two statements that are absolutely true and absolutely needed to be, not just understood, but EMBRACED!
Those who do not embrace the hardship of life, the lack of perfection and fairness of life, are DOOMED to be miserable.
But those who have a FAITH in Jesus, a FOCUS on Jesus, can EBRACE the fact that LIFE IS HARD because they learn to PERSEVERE victoriously through life’s hardships and sufferings.
So the question is: What are you focused on, what are you LOOKING TO in your suffering?
Look at verse 4- It talks about the Struggle of Life, the struggle against sin:
Hebrews 12:4: In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
This is always a great reminder verse to me. When I think I have it bad, the reality is it could be worse. Because most of the time, my oppression, pain, abuse, or strife has not equaled the shedding of my blood unto death like it can and often does for many people in this world.
Hebrews 12:5-6: And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Did you hear it? “Those whom the Lord loves he disciplines.”
This is so essential to see!
In verse 5, it says we are a part of God’s Fatherly care; we are SONS and daughters.
As a Christian, when you are suffering, it is not comforting to think of God as a coach who is making you exercise to grow you; instead, we are to think if God as our FATHER.
Our Father who disciplines us because He loves us!
Now, our English understanding of discipline is punishment- Which is not the right picture here.
The key is to look deeper at the word discipline. The Greek word for discipline is Paideia.
It is where we get our word Pediatrics!
What is a Pediatrician’s primary concern? The over-all health of the child.
This is what God is to us! God is the perfect parent, who brings non–destructive designed pain into a child’s life to grow him and propel him forward for his over-all good.
Human parenting is imperfect. We try our best to discipline in love, but we can struggle in sin and react in anger. Human parenting is imperfect àGod’s is not.
We need to understand God disciplines us for our good and to share in His holiness.
His discipline is not a punishment; it is an intentional shaping of our very lives for our greater good and His glory.
What this is telling us is to EDURE OUR HARDSHIPS as Paideia!
Paideia = God’s perfect loving discipline that grows us to His holiness and by which others taste His love by witnessing our Christ-filled response to our hardship.
In this, He is growing us from selfishness into the Fruit of the Spirit.
– Example of Joseph: Joseph was spoiled by his dad, cocky and on his way to being a evil proud man. Instead God uses:
- the jealousy of his brothers to sell him to slavery,
- the lust of Potipher’s wife to get him imprisoned,
- the forgetfulness of the Baker and the Cupbearer who forget to tell Pharaoh about him for two years.
But in all these trials and sufferings, he becomes a great man, a man who is wise and humble. He was lifted up and remained FAITH-FILLED IN GOD; he did great things in his life.
At the very end of his life, he looks back over all his suffering and troubles and says to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “What you meant it for evil God meant it for GOOD”
Joseph understood the discipline, the Paideia of God. He had faith in his trials and suffering. And God molded him through it into a better man who did great things- eternal things- for God’s glory!
Now look at verse 11 with me:
Hebrews 12:11: For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
In Verse 11, the Greek word for trained is gymnazo. It is where we get our word gymnasium
When troubles overwhelm you, you feel like your life is out of control, right?
Hear this: Just because it is not your plan doesn’t mean there is not a plan.
God puts in our lives hardships to shape us, to mold us, to discipline us, and to train us-
For His GLORY and our Greater Good!
Your doctor will tell you that you need to work your muscles and exercise.
Do you realize what exercise is? Why do many of you HATE IT?
Exercise is taking a muscle and exerting it, stretching it, tearing it, hurting it, and by this you strengthen it.
Exercise is opposition. It is stress on your body.
When you work out your muscles, you do not feel like they are getting strong; you feel like you are getting weaker at first. Your muscles feel like mush- like spaghetti- RIGHT?
But, if you do not do this, you will be flabby and die young.
-The example of the Emperor Moth: A man found a cocoon of an emperor moth and took it home so he could watch the moth come out of the cocoon. One day, a small opening appeared. The man sat and watched the moth for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. To the man, it appeared as if the moth had gotten as far as it could in breaking out of the cocoon and was stuck. Out of kindness, the man decided to help the moth. He took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon so that the moth could get out. Soon the moth emerged, but it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings. The man continued to watch the moth, expecting that in time, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would simultaneously contract to its proper size. Neither happened. In fact, that little moth spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly. The man in his kindness and haste didn’t understand that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the moth to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body into the wings so the moth would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.
<>Just as the moth could only achieve freedom and flight as a result of struggling, we often need to struggle to become all God intends for us to be.
àSometimes we wish that God would remove our struggles and take away all the obstacles, but just as the man crippled the emperor moth, so we would be crippled if God did that for us.
God doesn’t take away our problems and difficulties, but He promises to be with us in the midst of them and to use them to restore us, making us into better, stronger people.
The point of this section: the pain and trouble you are experiencing is not a sign of the hatred of God, but the love of God. Verse 6: “Those whom the Lord loves he disciplines.”
Your persecution is not a sign of God’s treating you as enemies, but as sons.
Verse 7: “It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons.”
Your suffering is not meaningless, but designed for your good and your holiness.
Verse 10: “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share His holiness.”
3-How to Run a Winning Race
How do we Run a Winning Race?
The answer is in Verse 2: look to Jesus!
Hebrews12:2-3: 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. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Look to Jesus, or let us fix our eyes on Jesus.
2 Corinthians 3:18 says that you and I now with unveiled faces beholding the glory of Christ as in a mirror are being transformed from one degree of glory into the next.
By beholding Jesus, we’re transformed into His image. IN Jesus we are changed!
It is not saying try really hard to be LIKE Jesus! So many of us are caught up in this work-based junk that keeps us focused on trying to be a GOOD PERSON, but it just cleans up our outsides.
No, instead look to Jesus and He will transform you! It is by His power that we are alive and thrive!
He is the Founder- the one who makes your faith exist.
And the Perfecter- the one who sees your faith through to the end.
Look to JESUS!
He ran the race because He knows the JOY that is at the finish line-
The joy that is in eternal life with GOD is so wonderful. He wanted you to have it, too.
He loves you so much HE endured the CROSS!
NOW he sits victorious!
WE RUN the RACE to JOIN HIM THERE.
WE endure sufferings and hardship on our weary life on the ROAD to point to His GRACE and LOVE.
To SHOUT the GOOD NEWS of His ETERNAL SATISFYING GLORY!
LOOK TO JESUS!
You cannot RUN, you cannot PERSERVERE, and YOU CANNOT WIN without JESUS!
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Are you like the people the Hebrews author is writing to? Are you ready to give up?
PUT YOUR EYES, your LIFE, your HEART on JESUS!
Now, when we look to JESUS, HOLD TO JESUS, CONSIDER JESUS, what does our victorious life LOOK like while we endure, while we RUN?
Hebrews 12:12: Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.
People who are lame and unfit to RUN are watching you! They too can be healed by JESUS!
So don’t meander around in the Christian life; run the straight race.
Hebrews 12:14: Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
The work of God sanctifying you will be GOOD NEWS to others-the peace of your life will witness to others!
Two practical takeaways from this we can apply in winning the race!
- Practical Humility:
Paideia= You are a child. The child never understands the reason behind struggles while in them. It takes many years of maturing to recognize the beauty of discipline.
Practical humility is understanding we are the kids, and He is the Father. We are humble in our struggle as we recognize the one at the helm of it and His master plan and victory for it.
- Practical Evaluation:
When you go to the gym, you wear gym clothes, right? You don’t wear a dress or a suit!
Why? Because those things hide what you really look like.
But gym clothes are worn at the gym so you can see what you are working on and tone it.
There is a practical evaluation that brings you constantly to the feet of Jesus to say Lord, I need you to reveal and empower me to see who I really am and what You are doing in me. In this Lord, I can see this trial or suffering for what it really is; it can boost my faith to persevere.
Paul said it best in Philippians 3:13-14: But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
LOOK TO JESUS, SOLDIERS! RUN the RACE GOD HAS SET BEFORE YOU BY KEEPING YOUR EYES ON JESUS!
For His glory and by His grace,
Soldiers for Jesus MC