Randall Caselman

Bella Vista Church of Christ

05/13/2018 A.M.

 

Persevering In The Race Set Before Us

Hebrews 12.1-11

 

Our Sunday Morning Series is on Perseverance – Not giving up in our Christian Race.

 

It was Mexico City 1968. John Stephen Akhwari (AK-WIRE-E)... Of Tanzania had started the Olympic marathon with all the other runners hours before... But John finished it alone. When he finally arrived at the stadium there were only a few spectators remaining in the stands. The winner of the marathon had crossed the finish line over an hour earlier. In fact... It was getting dark... John’s right leg was bandaged and bleeding heavily. He was obviously in great pain... But he crossed the finish line suffering from fatigue... Leg cramps... dehydration... and disorientation...A reporter asked him why he didn’t just quit. He thought for a moment and said... My country didn’t send me here to start the race... My country sent me here to finish it.

 

Our Christian life is frequently compared to a race... Not a race to win... Not by coming in first... But by finishing the race... Keeping the faith.

 

Paul tells us... I have fought the good fight... I have finished the course... Race in the NIV... I have kept the faith. There is in store for me the crown of righteousness... Which the Lord...The righteous Judge...Will award to me on that day--and not only to me... But also to all who have longed for His appearing.

 

First Corinthians 9.26 & 27... Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly... I do not fight like a man beating the air. No... I discipline my body and bring it into subjection... So that after I have preached to others... I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

 

Galatians 5.7...You were running a good race. Who cut in on you... Who is keeping you from obeying the truth?

 

Philippians 2.16...So that you may become blameless and pure... Children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation... In which you shine like stars in the universe... As you hold out the word of life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run... Or labor for nothing.

 

Then in our text... Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

 

If you are a baptized believer... A child of God...  You are in a race. And... The prize...The crown... Heaven’s reward is for those who fight the fight... Finish the course... Finish the race set before them... Those who keep the faith.

 

The Greek word for RACE here is AGON... From which we get our word agony.  The Hebrews’ writer is saying to us... There are times when the Christian life-RACE Can be… Will be… An agonizing event... It will be tough!!...But we can endure.

 

Two things as we get started...

First... Our race is a personal one.

Remember the winning is found in PERSEVERANCE... Completing the race. We are not running to compete with one another. The Hebrews’ writer says... Let us run the race that is set before us.

 

God has given you a race to run... And God has given me a race to run... There are similarities... But much different races. We are each to run our own.  Each of us will be judged on the basis of how well we ran our individual race. We get into all kinds of trouble when we start comparing races... No two are alike.

 

Secondly... This race is lifelong.

Jesus tells us in Revelation 2.10... Do not be afraid of the agony some of you will suffer... But be faithful... Unto and until death... And I will give you the crown of life.

 

OK... From our text...We learn how to do it...

How to run the race with perseverance...

 

First... Be encouraged from those who have gone before us.

There are those who have... Fought the fight... Run the race... Kept the faith... And won the prize.... We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.

 

The picture here is that of the coliseum... There is a cloud of witnesses... The stands are full of those cheering us on.  Now the word witnesses does not mean spectators.

 

Witness is MARTUS in the Greek... It is used to speak of those who have already run the race... Endured the agony... And won the prize... Set before THEM.  They are a witness to the fact that this race can be run successfully.

 

The Hebrews’ writer is referring to those heroes of the faith mentioned in chapter eleven... Plus... Those more contemporary with us... Our brothers... Sisters...Family and friends... Who have gone on before us... Who are now watching us...Cheering us on.

 

Notice that these witnesses are... alive...Well... And Aware...  They are in the present.  In Revelation 22.17...We are told that the Spirit and the Bride say come.  We know who the Spirit is... The Holy Spirit... We know who the Bride is... The Church on earth and in heaven... They are shouting YOU CAN DO IT... WE DID... YOU CAN TOO!!

 

Church...This verse doesn’t speak of some vague historical memory of those who have gone before us... It’s a picture of an...active... Watching... Participating... Throng... Shouting encouragement to those now struggling with the agony of their own race.

 

I hope you can hear their cheers...

 

Able is there telling us how to worship God as He as instructed.

 

Enoch is there encouraging us to maintain our walk with God in an evil and wicked culture.

 

Noah is there saying... Don’t be discouraged by your neighbors and working companions who do not share your faith... And who make fun of your Christian faith and efforts.

 

Abraham and Sarah are there saying... Keep the faith... Be patient... Trust in God’s promise... He is faithful!

 

Joseph is there insisting that life will be unfair... We will be falsely accused... But we can remain faithful... And that God will reward our faithfulness.

 

Moses is saying...You can do it... You can be evangelistic... You can lead others into the Promise Land... I did!!

 

Rahab is there telling us that regardless of how ugly our sins may be... God is forgiving.

 

David is saying... No giant is too big... God will assist you in your fight.

 

The Hebrews’ Writer goes on... And what more shall I say? Time would fail me to tell about Gideon... Barak... Samson... And the prophets... Who through faith conquered kingdoms... Administered justice... And gained what was promised... Who shut the mouths of lions... Quenched the fury of the flames... And escaped the edge of the sword... Whose weakness was turned to strength... And who became powerful in battle and routed armies... Some faced jeers and floggings... While still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned... They were sawn in two... They were put to death by the sword. They were destitute... Persecuted and ill-treated--The world was not worthy of them.

 

So... Church... Every time you get down... Thinking... HEy... I can’t do it... I can’t go on... Find you a quiet time and place... Read Hebrews chapter eleven again... And listen quietly to the encouragement from your great cloud of witness... They’re there... They’re real... They’re praying for you.

 

Indeed...Indeed... These things were written before were written for our learning,...That we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.

 

Secondly... Lay aside anything that hinders us.

Let us lay aside every weight... All that hinders and entangles us.

 

Training... Discipline... Abstinence... Are not very popular words today.  It is not politically correct to discipline and bring oneself under subjection in our culture.  Our economy promotes doing whatever turns us on without restraint.  But we must know that the Christian life cannot be lived this way.  We cannot run the race set before us without self-discipline.

 

Paul knew this... And he wrote... Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly... No, I discipline my body to bring it under subjection... Bring it under my will... So that after I have preached to others... I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

 

I think it interesting that in the early days of the Olympics... The marathon runners... Ran practically naked... They didn’t want anything to hinder their speed nor endurance.  This is why Moffatt’s translation reads... Let us strip for the race.

 

So...The word Weights... Here is speaking of those things that are not bad in themselves... But that can certainly slow us down in our running this Christian race.

 

A weight can be something that... In and of itself... Is harmless... But it can become a bad thing if it keeps us from being the best we can be.  

• Nothing wrong with fishing and golf... But if they keep us from worship... Leave it off.

• Nothing wrong with making money... But if it turns us from a trust in God...Change.

• Nothing wrong with... Television... The Internet... Movies... But if they cause us to lust... Or keep us from reading and studying our Bible... Then they have become a weight.

 

A few years ago the Christian Medical Society said... The primary danger of television lies not so much in the behavior it produces... As in the behavior it prevents.

 

Think about what we could be doing with the time wasted watching what doesn’t really matter... Doesn’t really enhance our walk with God or family.

 

Jesus told Martha... A lot of things are good... But they’re not the best?... Choose the best!

 

We must lay aside the weights that hinder us from being what God wants us to be... Amen?

 

Let’s take a quick test...

• Does this activity build me up spiritually?... Does it draw me closer to God and His people?

• Will this habit eventually bring me under its power?

• Does my involvement in this burden my conscience... Leave me with guilt?

• Can this activity cause another to stumble in their search for Jesus... Their walk with Him?

 

Indeed... Good things can become bad things... When they keep us from doing the right thing... Or the best thing.

 

We must lay aside the sin that so easily ensnares us... Besets us.

Weights slow us down... Sin trips us up.

It’s one thing to be slowed down... But it is disastrous to be tripped up by sin.

It’s one thing to run with suitcases under each arm... But imagine running with chains around your ankles... This is exactly what sin does to us. 

 

The word for... Ensnares... Entangles...Besets... Is a Greek word used only here in the Bible... And is not frequently found in classical Greek.

 

We believe it to mean... Something that... Easily... Constantly...Entangles... Ensnares.  Scholars believe it refers to a vine that wraps itself around a tree... And if not corrected... Eventually kills the tree... This is exactly what sin does to us.

 

James speaks to us of sin’s progressive nature... Each of us is tempted when... By our own evil desire... We are dragged away entangled and enticed. Then... After desire has conceived... It gives birth to sin... And sin... When it is full-grown... Gives birth to death.

 

It’s interesting to note that the writer doesn’t list any particular sin... Other than that one which so easily entraps us.

 

Some scholars believe the writer is speaking of the sin of UNBELIEF.  The definite article is there... THE SIN… The sin... And the entire eleventh chapter of this book is about faith... And how it is necessary to please God. So... The sin spoken of here may be simply the sin of doubt and unbelief that constantly dogs all of us from time-to-time.

 

However... The writer may have in mind... Any sin... My sin... And yours.  You see... Each of us have our own weaknesses... Our own peculiar entanglements.

 

As we have talked before... We are not all tempted by all sins... Just a favorite few... Perhaps one or two that... continually... Constantly... Keep us from being just the people and person that God calls us to be.

 

Truth is... If I could conquer one sin in my life... Perhaps two or three... I would be a pretty good person... How about you??

 

So... The writer may be speaking of... THE SIN... That sin... That so easily entangles us... Whatever that may be... This is why each race is a very private one.

 

Run with patient Determination.

Let us run with perseverance the race set before us...Marked out for us.

 

Know what is the greatest enemy to a marathon runner is?... Fatigue!!

Christianity is not a hundred yard dash... It is a marathon.

Christianity is a religion of... Endurance... Perseverance... Faithfulness.

God knows this is true... This is the reason so much of the New Testament is about not giving up... But keeping-on-keeping-on.

 

Listen to these scriptures from the lips of Jesus...

Matthew 24.13... He who stands firm to the end will be saved.

 

John 8.31... If you hold to my teaching... You are my disciples indeed.

 

John 15. 4 & 7Abide in Me... And I will abide in you.

 

From the pen of Paul...

First Corinthians 15.58... Stand firm... Let nothing move you... Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord... Because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

 

Galatians 6.9... Let us not be weary in well doing... For we shall reap if we faint not.

 

Philippians 4.1... Stand fast in the faith.

 

Titus 1.9 & Jude 3... Hold fast to the faithful word... Contend earnestly for the faith.

 

Revelation 2.10.... Be faithful until death... And I will give you the crown of life.

 

Our text in verses 2 & 3 says... Jesus... Endured...Persevered... And so must we... And so must we.  In fact... Perseverance was the  whole purpose for the writing of the Hebrews letter...

 

Hebrews 2.1 and 3... We must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it... How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation.

 

Chapter 3.12–13… He warns... Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

5.12... By this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God,and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

 

Chapter 12.12-13... Strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

 

This is the point of the whole book.... Endure... Persevere... Run... Fight... Be alert... Be strengthened... Don’t drift... Don’t neglect... Don’t be sluggish.... Don’t take your eternal security for granted. Fight the fight of faith... Make your calling and election sure.

 

God help us to be more like them in our Christian race... Regardless of what happens... about us... With us... To us.

 

One more... We must Keep our eyes upon Jesus.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus... The author and perfecter of our faith... Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross... Scorning its shame... And sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

The secret to winning the race is to FOCUSING ON THE ONE WHO FINISHED.

 

The Greek wording speaks of Jesus being the... Author... Founder... Designer... Pioneer... Leader... Prince... Finisher... Ruler of our race... PERFECTER of our faith.

• He is the one who designed the Christian race...

• He is the one who ran it perfectly...

• He is our example...

• He has set the course for us to follow.

• He has shown us... The goal... The crown... A place around the throne of God.

• Scripture says... He has opened up a new and living way... A new way to live!

Indeed... He is our way... Our Truth and Our  life.

 

In the spring of 1954... Roger Bannister... A British physician set a world record... He broke the four minute mile. This was challenged by an Australian... John Landy... Who also boasted of the same... Less than four minute feat.

 

In August of ‘54... The race of the year was on in Canada... John Bannister... and John Landy... on the same track.

 

Landy’s strategy was clear from the start...

• Get in front...

• Stay in front...

• Cross the finish line in front.

In the first mile... Both runners were well under the minute...

In the second mile... Both were well under two minutes...

In the third mile both were well under three minutes.

The crowd was on their feet... Landy was well in the lead... But knew that Bannister was gaining on him... And then just before the finish line... Landy looked back over his shoulder to see Bannister... At that moment Bannister dashed ahead and won the race.

 

Peter took his eyes off Jesus... And began sinking in the waters of the Sea of Galilee.

We too will sink into the ways of the world... When we take our eyes off Him.

 

I have a question for you this morning... Have you signed-up for this... Faith-race?...You can... By Faith... Repentance... Confession... and New Testament Baptism.

 

The challenge for most of us is… Like the Hebrew church... NOT TO BECOME...

Discouraged...

• Distracted...

• Disillusioned...

• Not lose our determination.

Perhaps today is the day we should confess our faults... Rededicate our energies to this life-race.

 

Today is the day... Now is the time to run the race set before us...

Let’s commit to the task... As we stand and sing this song together.