TEXT: Hebrews 12:1-3
In the Olympics we can see a lot of sports and events, but what I like most is the athletics, especially the running competition. You and I would agree that we love watching the sprint competition, the 100-meter run, the 200-meter run, and any running game that involves speed…Most of us love to see speed, the rush of adrenalins the energy of being the first one to finish the race.
But did you know that race is not just seen in Olympics or any in tournament? You and I as Christians also have a race that has been marked before us. You and I are running this race, the race of faith, the race of living a life that is pleasing and acceptable to God.
But unlike our favorite sprint race, the Christian race is not about speed, it’s about endurance…it’s not about how fast we are, but how faithful we are. I know most of us are not really enjoying watching a marathon, but that’s exactly the picture that the writer of Hebrews is painting in our minds. Now in this passage the Christian life is not compared to a wind sprint, but to a marathon. In a wind sprint you run as fast as you can for a short distance, & speed is the critical factor. But in a marathon, endurance is the critical factor.
This race is not short, it’s not just a one-time run, but it’s a long race…a race that would only finish after we breathed our last breath here on Earth. The question is, “Will you make it all the way to the end?”
Many Christians today are getting tired of running the race…many are already planning to quit. Maybe because of so many problems, maybe because of unanswered prayers, maybe of some misunderstanding with fellow believers, but thou as it may, statistics would tell us that many, many believers are no longer excited with their Christian life; no longer as energetic as before in running or finishing this race of faith. But let me tell you today brothers and sisters, that today is not the day for us to stop in this race of life, this is not the time to quit! No matter how big your problems may be, your challenges may be – you and I can still run this race, resolve not to quit and finish it!
When people start the Christian life, & then quit when the going gets tough, they can become an object of ridicule to some & a source of discouragement to others. That’s the reason Hebrews 12:1-3 is so important. Finishing the race is critically important for all of us who would be followers of Jesus.
But you will ask me, “Pastor how can I finish this race?” “What must I do to rekindle that fire in my heart, that burning desire to run enthusiastically this race that had been marked before us?” How, how, how?
This Scripture gives 4 words of advice to help us run the race of life faithfully – how to run the race victoriously. Let me use the word RACE as an acrostic.
Know that there are others who have successfully completed this race of life and faith. (v. 1a)
The writer calls these people a “great cloud of witnesses.” But who are these witnesses? Well, the first thing you need to realize is that the first word in this chapter is “therefore.” It refers back to what was just written in chapter 11. And chapter 11 is an inspiring list of heroes of the faith from the Old Testament … people who ran the race of faith with integrity and with success. So, the first examples we have of people who have completed the race of faith are the …
• There are the great heroes of the faith in the Bible.
There are people like Noah. Remember, he spent 120 years building the ark. 120 years! Now, think about that. Some of us in this room are some of the most impatient people on the planet. Right? We get upset because the microwave takes 2:30 to pop the popcorn instead of 2:00. So we fuss, and complain, and live impatient lives. Some of us even get impatient when we think that God doesn’t move fast enough to suit us. Then we can remember a patient hero like Noah.
Or there is a hero like Joseph, who endured being sold into slavery by his own brothers. He was convicted of crimes he didn’t commit and was thrown into prison. And Joseph remained faithful. So God restored him to a position of power even greater than what he had known before. What can we learn from Joseph in the race of faith? Well, it’s easy to be faithful when life is good … but the real test of your faith is when you’ve hit rock bottom.
And there are many other heroes like Abraham, Moses, Samson, Samuel, and David … just to name a few. But together, these heroes of the Bible form a great cloud of witnesses who stand before us and shout, “Keep running the race! We made it! You can, too!”
Anytime you are feeling down in living the Christian life just go back and consider people like Noah, Abraham, Job and others! Hopefully, you will be encouraged to keep going.
Now when I get discouraged, I think not only of the great saints in Scripture, but also of people who have crossed my path, & who have inspired me. They are the heroes of the faith in your own life.
We all have heroes in the faith in our lives … people who had an impact … people who have gone on to be with the Lord and are still serving God even today…Maybe it was a parent or grandparent, or a teacher, or another adult in your church. But I’m sure that you can remember someone along the way.
- I think of our elders who stood side by side with Ptr. Dave for many years.
- Our church that has been administered by our Senior Pastor Dr. Dave Sobrepena, that every time we have challenges in Novaliches, I would always remember the so many tough times of our Sr. Pastor…
- think of my parents who are both serving God.
- I think about those CGS Students who had been an encouragement to me, that every time I’m tired and being tempted to quit, I would look back to the times they have grown through our ministry…
- I think of my Sunday School teacher who had never given up on me.
- I think of the so many members we have who had encouraged me and inspired me in so many ways.
- I think of all the senior ministers or the chronologically advanced pastors who had been a friend to me.
So when I think about quitting, I feel their hands on my shoulder. I hear them saying, “If we can do it, then you can do it, too.”
We need to be inspired by those who have gone before us, & to realize that at the same time we’re looking to others for inspiration, we are the inspiration for someone else. All of these people had experienced the same problems and challenges that we are experiencing today, and those men and women of the Bible had been mentioned for us to think that if they did it, we too can finish this race, we too can be faithful to our God!
The second thing the writer of Hebrews says is that we need to finish the race victoriously is to “…throw off everything that hinders.”
As I prepared this sermon I thought about the time that I was still joining the marathon with my uncle…We have put aside everything that hinders because we don’t want anything to keep us from reaching our goal. Then I thought, “Imagine trying to run a race wearing my suit. I wouldn’t last long at all!”
A. Throw off everything that hinders!
If you have ever watched the Olympics on TV, you have probably been amazed at the feats the human body is capable of doing! It has always amazed me how some of these people have spent their entire childhood preparing for a single event that in some cases is over within a few minutes! The amount of training and sacrifice is enormous…all for a single goal….a Gold medal and worldwide recognition that you are the best in humanity in that particular thing!
Since we are striving toward a more eternal reward, and more important recognition by God, are we as willing to make the appropriate action of laying-off or throwing off everything that hinders us in our Christian race?
The idea here is to encourage those who wish to win the race to get rid of those things that will slow us down or prevent us from finishing the race victoriously!
The word for “throw off” implies in Greek excess body bulk! It may also refer to the heavy garments one wears that must be “thrown off” as one prepares to make the run. Everyone knows what extra baggage can do to a runner in a race….no serious runner would ever consider carrying around extra baggage when they are competing to win.
- It might be relationships that are dragging you down & pull you away from your walk with the Lord.
- Anger in your heart…unforgiving spirit!
- Maybe you have some possessions that are hindering your witness for Christ or are distracting you from serving Him. Do you remember when Jesus came to the house of Zachaeus & Zachaeus looked into the face of Jesus? Some of his wealth he had gained dishonestly, & he said, “I’m going to give it back fourfold because I can’t look into the eyes of Jesus & keep this dishonest money at the same time.”
- Maybe you need to get rid of some habits that may, in & of themselves, not be sins, but they’re so time consuming, or so distracting that you can’t focus on Jesus. (Facebook, Friendster, Teleseryes…etc.) So you need to get rid of them, too.
Are you sluggish in living the Christian life? Have you lost some zip and zeal? Are you not growing in your faith? Are you encumbered by some things that get in the way of your relationship to Christ? Things that keep you from church, Sunday School, Bible study, prayer time, and Christian service? Well, perhaps you need to throw off some things that are weighing you down or dragging you down.
B. Lay aside the sin that easily entangles.
Illustration: As I read this passage I think of the old Tarzan movies.
Sin is like that. Just a puff. Just a drink. Then pretty soon out comes another tentacle. Just a thought. Just a lustful look. But then comes another tentacle. Just a little lie, a slight rearrangement of the truth, & out comes another tentacle & soon we are completely entangled. Sin begins to corrupt a Christian. Then it starts to control a Christian, change a Christian, conform a Christian to the world and then consumes a Christian.
“If you find yourself loving any pleasure above prayer, any book better than the Bible, any house more than the house of God, any table better than the Lord’s, or any person more than Christ, take alarm.” – Thomas Guthrie
The writer says that we need to throw aside all those things that entangles – those sins! KAYA KA PAGOD NG KRISTIYANO, GUSTO NANG UMAYAW, AYAW NG MAGPATULOY AY MARAHIL SA MGA KASALANANG PILIT MO PA DING NIYAYAKAP AT IBIG NA GINAGAWA SA IYONG BUHAY! It’s not right that you’re asking God to set you free from all of those sins, but you’re not making a strong of decision of turning away from it!
An old deacon who frequently led the prayer meetings would often conclude his petitions with the words, “O Lord, clean all the cobwebs out of my life!” Finally a man who lived next door to him could no longer stand it for he knew that he was a self-seeking, carnal Christian. So one Wednesday night, when the old fellow ended his usual manner, his neighbor jumped to his feet and shouted, “Don’t do it Lord! Don’t do it! Make him kill the spider!”
What does it mean, if you really would like to finish this race, you must willfully decide that you would turn away from all the sins that are entangling you…hindering you to go on! HINDI PURO BIBIG LANG, AT PANALANGIN, DAPAT MAY PAGHAKBANG!
Perseverance is an attitude of not surrendering though the odds or challenges are great! And that’s what the writer is telling to us…the race that has been marked for us is not a smooth plain, it has potholes! In our life challenges and problems are inevitable, but the big difference is our attitude…are we going to quit when the going gets tough, or are we going to persevere even when we are surrounded by hurdles and challenges in life?
In the 1986 New York City Marathon, almost 20,000 runners entered the race. What is memorable is not who won, but who finished last. His name was Bob Wieland. He finished 19,413th—dead last. Bob completed the New York marathon in 4 days, 2 hours, 47 minutes, and 17 seconds. It was unquestionably the slowest marathon in history—ever. So, what is it that made Bob Wieland’s marathon so special? Bob ran with his arms. 17 years earlier while in Vietnam, Bob’s legs were blown off in battle. He sits on a 15 pound saddle and covers his fists with pads. He uses his arms to catapult himself forward one arm-length at a time. He can run a mile in an hour. That is real endurance in the face of adversity. Contributed by: Ed Wood
I was a marathon runner. Marathon runners tell us that there are two critical times in the race. The first one is at the beginning. When you begin to run you feel so good, & the temptation is to run too fast too soon. So you expend all your energy & don’t have enough left for the end of the race.
APPLICATION: Some Christians have done that, too, haven’t they? They started out with great promise but didn’t finish the race.
The second critical time in a marathon is at the halfway point. You suddenly realize that you still have as far to go as you’ve already run & you’re already very tired. Runners call it “hitting the wall.” You’ve come to the end of your endurance & you’re not sure you can put one foot in front of the other anymore.
APPLICATION: I’ve seen it happen in the Christian life, too. You’ve been around for a while & you’ve fought the battles, but you’re not sure there is enough energy left to make it to the end, & the temptation is to quit.
“Pay as little attention to discouragement as possible. Plow ahead as a steamer does, rough or smooth, rain or shine. To carry your cargo and make port is the point.” – Unknown
So much more in the Christian race or life, to cross the finish line is our goal, our point! That’s why the writer says that we are to “run with perseverance the race that’s marked out for us.” Don’t grow weary & don’t lose heart – NEVER QUIT! We all love stories about people who have not quit in their endeavors, they serve as inspirations to us all…in contrary we don’t love people who are so called “quitters!” We don’t talk about them…they are discouragements to us! All the more in our Christian life, the more we strive to run the race, the more others can see that we are determined to please God and to stay committed to Him, the more they are being inspired to be like you…to also run their races with perseverance! But if you are a quitter, never you’ll be an inspiration to others!
The final word is this, “we must focus our attention on Jesus.” Notice what he says, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, & sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary & lose heart.”
- a. He’s the greatest example of a finisher!
If you’re looking of a great example, or looking for a winner, look unto Jesus. Jesus was and is the winner of all winners. HE CONQUERED DEATH AND SATAN ON THE CROSS! On the cross, Jesus said to Satan, “I win and you lose.” Jesus is the ultimate winner in life who encourages us to keep going. He is the one who can save us, motivate us and encourage us to make it in the journey of life!
The word “looking” comes from a Greek word (aphorao) that has the idea of concentrating your gaze. It means to look away from other things so that you can focus all your attention on one object. It is the picture of a lost child walking alone down a carnival midway, enthralled by the lights and sounds and smells. Her eyes flit this way and that. She doesn’t even realize that she is danger. Suddenly through all the surrounding noise she hears her mother’s voice. Looking up, she sees her mother calling for her to come. With her eyes now fixed on her mother, she walks straight ahead, ignoring everything else. Soon she is safe by her mother’s side.
We should always consider Jesus when we are weary and tempted to give up. We should always look to Jesus for support, encouragement and strength. We can do all things through Him who strengthens us. Phil. 4:13.
We have a Savior who understands what we’re going through in this life. He is completely sympathetic and able to help us in life. He is merciful and will give us His grace to endure, survive and succeed.
When I am driving I have noticed some driver in the car ahead looking around, gazing at the scenery, etc. And to me, that’s a sure way to have an accident. Any time we take our focus off the main thing and put it on something else we’re headed for trouble.
And any time we take our focus off Jesus it’s a sure way to have a spiritual accident. I am absolutely convinced that the reason most of us have so much trouble in life and wanting to stop or to quit this Christian life is because we lose our spiritual focus. We take our eyes off Jesus. Every Christian, every church needs to hear this because it’s so easy to quit. It’s so easy to say, “I don’t have to do this anymore.” But the writer says, “Focus on Jesus.”
Look to Him daily in Scripture and prayer. Keep your focus on Him and you’ll find that traveling life’s highway is a whole lot better. It’s always better to have the winner sitting beside you, giving you instruction and encouragement. HINDI PO ITO ANG PANAHON NG PAGTIGIL…NG PAG-QUIT…WALA PA PO TAYO SA FINISH LINE!
The true finish line is when we step out of this life and into eternity with Jesus Christ. The race is over when we hear those blessed words from the mouth of Jesus, “Well done. My good and faithful servant.” This life that we are living is wonderful, it is important, and it is special … but it is only temporary. Real life is found in heaven, in eternity, with our Lord Jesus Christ.
- b. The writer is telling to us that we need to fix our eyes to Jesus not because He is our greatest example, but also because HE IS OUR GREATEST REWARD.
Like the runner who is looking for the gold medal, we too must continually run this race with joy, perseverance and zeal because we know and we know for sure that aside from the cheering of the angels, the cheering of the clouds of witnesses, we will be welcomed by our dear Savior…what greater prize you and I can ask for when you’re already in the presence of your Maker!
PERO HINDI MO MARARANASAN IYAN KAPATID, KUNG TITIGIL KA NA AT HINDI NA MAGPAPATULOY SA TAKBUHIN NG ATING BUHAY KRISTIYANO! Just like all the runners that are competing in the marathon, never you will receive your reward, never you would hear the cheer of all the spectators if you will not cross that finish line!
You want to receive the prize coming from Christ? Run the race with patience. Don’t lose heart. Don’t become discouraged. Don’t quit. Keep on running the race that has been set before us.