The Christian Race of Faith Heb. 12:1-3
We have witnessed this week the wonderful stadium in London that is home for the 2012 Olympics. Eighty thousand were present including some former medal holders. They estimate that billions will watch the games worldwide. It is an amazing fete of electronic technology to reach so many. However there is a greater event taking place and it is not every four years but every day in life. There is a stadium bigger than the universe, greater than the galaxies. There is a vast audience and they are all gold medallists who enthusiastically cheer the competitors on. There are millions of angels looking on also. There are competitors called Christians. There is a finishing line and a reward. The writer is picturing believers as being in a stadium, and that the Old Testament saints are spectators in the stadium, observing and cheering us on to the finish the race.
This little church needed encouragement. They were going through hard times and just about to enter a time of greater persecution and martyrdom. Hebrews is written to encourage them and the church on earth today.
The ungodly were prospering while the godly were suffering. In chapter eleven we read of some people of faith experienced victory and deliverance, while others in the hall of faith suffered, had trials, and tribulations, some even died for their faith. They all looked unto the Author and Finisher of our faith, the Lord Jesus.
The first part of this epistle the writer warns about drifting, or just being hearers. In this chapter he warns about remaining stationary. He is saying “Let us get moving in the race and not just drift along. We are racers and should be moving.” It is a great danger to do nothing in the Christian life and just remain in the same spot marching times. We are to move out, live by faith. The witnesses of chapter eleven have already raced and finished the course. They encourage us to keep running. They are not spectators but those who are part of the team testifying to us and cheering us on. “Keep on running”. The Christian is an athlete. We are not to be spectators in the grandstand. We are to get down there on the track and run the race. God wants you to move forward, to run, to do whatever he has called you to do. He wants us to move out.
The Bible views the Christian life as a warfare. 2 Timothy2: says we are in a wrestling match, Paul describes the Christian life as a wrestling match. He also says, “I don’t shadowbox, I don’t fight as one that beats the air.” Eph. 6:12; it is, also, a prize fight. 1 Corinthians 9:26- 27; as a servant, as a farmer, as a father – son relationship; as a marriage; Romans,7:4-6. In our text he thinks of the Christian life as a race. Eating the right food to give you strength and stamina, having the right attitude, keeping your body in shape, Paul said “I kept my body under.” It takes discipline. We are Christian “weight” watchers”. We look after our spiritual and eternal health.
The Great Company of Witnesses
Vs 1 Therefore, (refers to chapter 11) since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us. These “witnesses” are those named in the hall of faith in chapter 11. They were Great men and women of God who had great faith. The Greek word is “martyr.” They gave their lives for the cause. A witness who died for his or her testimony to Jesus. It also includes in our context those who did suffer greatly and die because of their faith (Heb. 11:35b-38). No saints in heaven who are hearing prayers by people on Earth. They do not have a preoccupation with things on Earth.
This is an amazing picture of runners in a vast universal stadium. This multitude of witnesses are still alive actively cheering us on till we reach the finish line. The heroes of the hall of faith are still participants in the race, now as witnesses, rather than as runners. They are aware of what is going on..
We also, includes all believers, we have a connection with those who make up this “great cloud of witnesses.” It is not a solo race. As they lived by faith, so must we. They had failures and triumphs, so do we. They were blessed and disciplined so are we. The have brilliant days and difficult days, so do we. They had times of suffering so do we. But now they are living in with Christ which is far better. They are enjoying heaven.
Spiritual Weight Watchers-Lose Weight – Two Conditions to Meet
“Lay aside every weight and every sin which doth so easily beset us.” “Weights” (which are hindrances) and besetting sin. This word “weight” is a medical term. It’s the term onchos. A cancer specialist is an oncologist. He is one who deals with “weight.” Actually, it derives from the fact that the word came to mean a tumour, and thus, he is one who deals with a tumour. So oncology is the science of tumours, and that is our cancer specialist. Both have a negative effect on us they hinder one from running the race with endurance and perseverance. A besetting sin is sin. We are to loose “every” weight. There may be many things which could serve as hindrances to our running well. There are many things that hamper us in the race, many weights. There are many things that are not wrong in themselves but they don’t help us to run well. It may be an event, a relationship, a place, a habit, an entertainment, TV, Computer, games, it is harmless at first them it become a weight. There are many Christians today carrying around a weight in life. Ask yourself does this encourage me to run as a Christian or does it hinder me, is it questionable? Will this be a weight in my life? It is like you carrying a hundred weight bag of potatoes on your back, it will slow you down and eventually you will stumble and fall. In order to run with endurance so as to complete the race set out for us we are to put off “every weight” (or hindrance) and “the sin which has such a strong grip on us.”
When you are running a race, you want to get into shape. Loose that extra weight. If you don’t it will be a hindrance. You put on light-weight clothing, along with the proper shoes. In ancient times runners will run barefoot, but this is not likely to be the case in a marathon.
A weight is anything that hinders us from carrying out our calling, something non-essential to our mission who consumes time and energy that could be better used in advancing God’s kingdom. A weight may be one thing for one believer and something else for another. We are to leave off extra baggage, something you don’t need.
A “weight” might be something that looks really spiritual, something for which one would be praised by other Christians. The goal is perseverance which leads to the completion of the “race”(Christian life) that is set before us. Being too active in Church or the Lord’s work is good but can become a weight that leads us from Jesus. You could spend so much time as a Christian musician or singer an loose sight of Jesus, your gift becomes a weight. You can wear yourself out or burn out and too many church activities might be a weight. There are many things that are not wrong in themselves but they don’t help us to run well.
“Every sin that so easily besets us.” These sins entangle us with ease. They wrap around your legs like overgrown weeds, that have grown high, and impede our progress. There are many things that hamper us in the race. Many things that “turn away” our feet from the race. The “besetting sin” is a specific sin, an area that you always fail in. It may be unbelief as it was for the Israelites in the wilderness. Unbelief holds you back, have faith in God. It may be jealousy, dishonesty. Don’t let any sin hold you back. It could be pride of self, of one’s office, of ones gifts, materialism, doubt, moaning and complaining, depending on your own strength, worry, a sexual sin, anger, a desire for potion to be noticed but it is your chink in the armour. That is the sin we need to deal with if we are serious about running our race well.
You may contribute to the Lords work but if it is insincere, it is wrong. You may lead but be slothful lazy in doing so , that also is wrong. You may be proud about showing mercy but that is not pleasing to the Lord. Using our spiritual gifts in the wrong way or wrong attitude is wrong. You may have the gift of giving but want to make a show of it is unacceptable to the Lord. Our motives must be right. They ought to be to glorify Him. You may give in to the wrong attitudes and complaining by others and this can be a weight that may turn into a sin. The besetting sin may be a cultural one, a racial one even a political one.
Let Us Run the Race By Means of Endurance or Patience
The word “race,” is, agona. It’s the kind of race that demands something from us. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon for most of us. This is a lifelong race. We need to have staying power. Our Lord does not want us to stumble, to fall down, to wander in the dark. He wants us to go on with Him. He does not want you to stay marching time in the same place. Some of us have not moved very far since we got saved. Paul said, “Know ye not that they that run in a race run all…” the all run to receive a prize. He went on to say “I therefore so run, not as uncertainly …(1 Cor. 9:24, 26). He rebuked the Galatians, “Ye did run well, who did hinder you..” Was it some person who put an obstacle in your way that caused you to want to give up, was it Satan who hindered you as he did Paul to try and prevent him from serving the Lord, was it yourself, have you being living in fear and worry, lost your faith. Do you say, “Why bother, I am going nowhere and doing nothing.” Who did hinder you? Be patient and keep running.
The Christian life is a race, that all believers enter. If you are not a believer you are not in this race. The race happens every day, not every four years. The New Birth gets one to the starting line. It does not get us to the finish line. The moment one is born again they enter into the race. You are born running. You may not be running it very well but you are in it.
He starts it. Eph. 2:8-9 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this [faith] is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast).
He finishes it. For I am sure of this very thing, that the one who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:6).
God Sets the Course
“The race that has been set before us.” God “set before us” it is a course for our lives, which includes victories and apparent defeats, suffering and persecution, blessings and discipline. But it is one He Himself has run. He set the record, He won the gold, He never gave up, He is cheering us on to the finishing line, and He is waiting for us. He endured great suffering and persecution. He knew about abuse, as He ran. He knows the difficulties that we would meet. Paul we could say in 2 Timothy 4:7-8, I have competed well; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith! Finally the crown of righteousness is reserved for me. The Lord, the righteous Judge, will award it to me in that day – and not to me only, but also to all who have set their affection on his appearing.”
Keep Your Eyes on Jesus
Vs. 2 “Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the author (pioneer) and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.” So often we let things that we see affect our faith. When we see people who profess salvation but have an unchristian life styles cause us concern. When we see suffering sometimes it has a negative effect on us. When we experience trials we lose heart. He tells us to keep our eyes fixed on “Jesus,” on His walk in a human body on earth. Our Lord in His humanity thought from Gods perspective He had the right attitudes, lived right, and made the right decisions. Jesus is our example. He is the proto type. Jesus humbled Himself and became obedient to the Father’s will even unto death on the cross of Calvary.
“keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.” Refers to looking away from something and then looking intently on something else. The Christian is challenged to look away from those things which distract from Jesus to keep their focus on Jesus.
Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of Faith
The Creator of the universe knows all things. It was all created for His own good pleasure. He created everything. He was there before time space and motion. He set out the course of the heavenly bodies, the universes. He set out the course for Calvary, he set out the course for your life and mine (Col. 1:16-17, Eph. 1:9-10; Romans 11:36).
The Author. Jesus is the creator of faith, the object of our faith, and the sustainer and perfecter of our faith. He trusted God his entire life. He is the perfect illustration of faith. He shows us how to live by faith. His faith was perfect. Psalm 24 tells us He’s the pioneer, he made the way for bringing his people on into Heaven, so that they might rejoice together in the family of God. He entered into glory. He was the first to rise from the dead and live forever more. He pioneered the way though this life. He triumphed over all obstacle and opposition. He made it possible for us to win.
He had faith at Calvary, the greatest moment of his suffering. He depended upon his father (10:7-10). Psalm 22:9, He had perfect faith. Even when he was hanging on the cross, and the enemies of our Lord looked at him, what did they say about him? He trusted in God. He trusted in God. He saved others and so on. But, pre-eminently, he trusted in God. He is the representative of faith, in its highest development even though development is a word I wouldn’t have used with reference to him.
“The finisher of faith.” It is our Lord who will ultimately be responsible for us finishing. He is greater than the angels, greater than Abraham, Moses and the prophets. He never failed. He is the Omega of faith. “He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (1: 3).
Jesus was motivated by the “joy set out for him. The race was set out for us and the joy was set out for Him. The “joy” set out before Jesus was the joy set out for Him by the Father. For this joy, the Lord Jesus endured the cross, despising its shame. He bore the punishment for our sins. The cross was a shameful thing. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us because it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree” (Gal. 3:13). With His eyes fixed on the “joy set before Him,”. It was a joy to be back in heaven with the Father. It was a joy to be where there are “eternal pleasures are forever at your right hand” (Ps. 16:11).
“He endured the cross”. The physical pain was real. He endured the scorn and shame. Jesus endured the shame of the cross, the mocking crowd, the separation of the Father and the Spirit, and the desertion of His disciples, so that we might be reconciled to God. He defeated death for us and is the rising Son of life and resurrection, which is the proof of our Lord’s ability to save. “I am the resurrection and the life, he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and he that liveth and believeth in Me, shall never die.”
Jesus’ Exaltation By Faith.
“He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He believed God, He never wavered, He was faithful to God’s Word. He pleased God and without faith it’s impossible to please Him. He was perfect in His faith. God honoured Jesus by raising Him from the dead, and seating Him at His right hand in glory. He is crowned with glory and honour.
Consider Him—Lest ye Be Wearied-Think of Him – Don’t Lose Heart
Vs 3 “ Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” There was a danger that these believers would faint, black out collapse in their souls, because of the trials, troubles, hardships and persecutions they had come through. They had left Judaism and were being ostracised. They had given up on religion and religious ritual. They had now come to consider Him, that is, Christ. He was their Saviour, He was their hope. He was everything to them. Once you lose sight of Him you get weary and faint. This is why so many Christians are discouraged today, they lose sight of Christ. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.
We are commanded to consider Him, it is not an option. Jesus not only endured (stayed under pressure) the shame of the cross and the wrath of His Father; He also endured the opposition of sinners who cried out to “crucify Him, crucify him.” The shame was that He was innocent and they let Barabbas, a terrorist go free.
Keep On Running
Keep on going forward but remember you are not alone, it is not a solo race. Elijah alone, David felt alone. Elijah said to them: “I am the only prophet of the Lord who is left, but there are 450 prophets of Baal” (1 Kings 18:22; see also 19:10, 14; Romans 11:3). Elijah was wrong. There were 7,000 faithful saints who had not bowed the knee to Baal. Elisha’s servant thought they were alone. We are not alone.
Remember you have a great cloud of witness cheering you on and supporting you.
Keep on running you are being watched by God, by the angels.
Keep on having control over your thoughts and your body. This will help you run well.
Keep on running He set the course for you , trust Him.
Keep your eyes upon Jesus.
In Psalm 24 He’s the pioneer, he made the way for bringing his people on into Heaven, so that they might rejoice together in the family of God. He entered into glory. He was the first to rise from the dead and live forever more.
Psalm 22:9, He had perfect faith even in His last hours. Keep on running to the end. He trusted in God.
The Lord Jesus Christ is uniquely first in defeating sin, death and Satan. He stands alone. He is the first to be sinless. He done his marvellous work despising the shame. He endured under the false accusations, under the cruel high priest, under Pilate, under crucifixion. He had victory over it all and is now seated at the Fathers right hand. Don’t lose heart keep on running.