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Summary: Keys to running the race of life in the way that pleases God.

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*ILL>In 1863, as Abraham Lincoln prepared to sign the Emancipation Proclammation he took his pen, moved it to the signature line, then dropped the pen. When asked why, the President replied: "If my name goes into history, it will be for this act; and if my hand trembles when I sign it, there will be someone who asks why I hesitated." He then turned to the table, took up the pen, and bodly signed his name.

<>In the first century, as Christianity was taking root, the first converts (Jewish) were undergoing intense persecution and suffering.

Many of them hesitated, even considered giving up their walk and returning to practicing Judaism, compromising their beliefs for the sake of a more comfortable life.

In the middle of all that the writer of Hebrews wrote this letter to show how Jesus has fulfilled Jewish Law, has called us to spread the truth of the good news, and why it’s imperative that we not quit, but instead move forward in the mission God has called us to.

In the first eleven chapters the writer lays out the arguments, finishing with a listing of the "Hall of Faith," chapter eleven.

But then, in summing up the entire first eleven chapters and moving to his main points, he begins chapter twelve with a sports metaphor: that of running a race, equating that to running and being successful in the game of life, and the commitment of faith.

To be successful in OUR race, we need to heed those lessons:

As we run, there are two things we need to anticipate, and four keys to pleasing God amid the race...

ANTICIPATING...

1) We should expect conflict.

*Heb.12:3-4 -- "Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

We’ll face opposition as we’re confronted with pain and suffering that God allows to come our way.

And yet, through it all, we can learn to see God’s hand involved in leading us through it, being confident that...

2) We can and should anticipate victory.

*Heb.12:28 -- "Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude..."

If we look to the finish line we’ll see that Jesus is already there, having already turn the race ahead of us, and having already won the race that is now set before us.

FOUR KEYS TO RUNNING THE RACE, LIVING OUR LIVES IN A WAY THAT WILL PLEASE GOD...

1) We’re to run with enthusiasm and energy.

*Heb.12:1 -- "...let us RUN...the race..."

We’re not instructed to jog, walk, or trot...we’re called to crank up the level of our energy, and run.

>There’s an intensity about running: it requires energy to move forward.

--We’re to set our sights on our goal and run with haste, enthusiasm, and excitement.

*ILL>An easterner who walked into a western saloon was amazed to see a dog sitting at a table playing poker with three men. He asked, "Can that dog really play cards?" One man answered, "Yeh, but he ain’t much of a player. Whenever he gets a good hand he wags his tail."

Well, that’s how we should be...we’re to run with such enthusiasm we can’t keep from showing it.

We’re to run to win, give our best, and run with every drop of energy, every ounce of effort, leaving nothing on the field.

Pleasing God means going beyond just "going through the motions," but running to win the prize.

It means being intense, getting serious, staying serious...doing whatever God leads us to do...with enthusiasm.

2) We’re to run with endurance and determination.

*Heb.12:1 -- "...let us run with endurance..."

The word translated "endurance" here (KJV: patience)literally means persistence.

It means we’re to finish the race.

A similar idea is expressed by Paul in Philippians 3:13-14 -- "Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

We’re not to stop halfway to the goal, we’re not to quit just because the going gets tough, or if results come slowly.

We’re called to press on, not give up...we’re to keep on running until we cross the finish line.

*ILL>In a far country a band of minstrels traveled from town to town presenting music...but hadn’t been experiencing the kind of success they hoped for. Times were hard and most folks had very little spendable money, few could pay to hear the minstrels, even though their fee was small. Finally, one night when the snow was falling outside, the group met. One troupe member spoke: "I see no reason for a concert tonight. Whou would come out on a night like this, anyway?" A second member agreed: "Last night we performed for just a handful and tonight I doubt many will venture out in the snow. Why not give back their meager fees and cancel the concert? No one can expect us to go on when just a few are in the audience." A third echoed: "How can anyone do his best for so few?" They then turned to the oldest member and asked his opinion. He responded, "I know you are discouraged. I am too. But we have a responsibility to those who might come. We will go on and we’ll do the best job we are capable of. It’s not the fault of those who came that others didn’t. The shouldn’t be punished with less than the best we can give." So they went on with the show and never performed better. After the crowd was gone, the old member called the troupe together and read a note that had been handed to him by one in the audience as he left. The old member began to read the note: "Thank you for a beautiful performance." It was signed, simply, "Your King."

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