Summary: Christ Jesus well-equips us for the race of faith.
Sermon Text: Hebrews 12:1-3
CHRISTIANS ARE FIT FOR THE RACE
My former church in Ohio has an annual 5K race. The purpose is to get exposure in the community and, perhaps, find an opportunity to share the gospel with someone else. Similar reasons are behind our Oktoberfest.
Now, there was one member who had signed up to run. It surprised everybody because he seemed like the last person on earth to try such a thing. He was overweight, used to smoke, and in all likelihood, didn’t seem like a candidate for the race. But he was determined to run. He surprised everyone all right. Not only did he finish the race, he completed it in good time.
The Lord has called us to run a race. It’s not a 5K or triathlon, instead it is a race through this life. This is a race we run as members of the Christian Church on earth. Sometimes when we look at ourselves we might think we are ill equipped to run. Nothing could be further from the truth. As we look at where our congregation has been and where it seems to be going, we can take heart. We’re not out of shape or lagging behind. Today, God tells us that we CHRISTIANS ARE FIT FOR THE RACE. 1) The Course Is Clearly Marked. 2) We Have Help Along the Way.
1) The Course Is Clearly Marked
I traveled to Atlanta this past week. Initially, I was concerned about the congestion and traffic at the airport. Thankfully, my concerns were for nothing. The lines were longer, the security heightened, but everything moved along smoothly. Part of the reason for this was that directions and instructions were noticeable. Everything was marked clearly.This alleviated a lot of the potential confusion and frustration I envisioned.
It’s the same way with the race we run as Christians. We are fit for the running because the course is clearly marked. The Lord is the one who has marked out the course for us. Notice what the writer to the Hebrews says concerning this: “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Now, that passage might make it sound like our perseverance and faith is of our own doing. Don’t misunderstand. While it’s true that we are encouraged to throw off sin and it’s tangled mess, we cannot do it on our own. We cannot run the race on our own. In fact, we find that we are weighed down with sin from the very beginning, and we only add to the weight as we try to progress. This burden of sin disqualifies us from the race. We’re incapable of finding the starting line on our own, let alone taking the first step of the race. Sin and its guilt can press down on us and leave us weak and weary.
So, we’re encouraged to travel light, to get rid of the excess baggage. Again, I’m reminded of my recent trip to the airport. The new rule is one carry-on bag per passenger. That means if you are used to cramming three or four bags into the overhead compartment, you’re going to have to get rid of a few, you won’t pass the security check. You’ll have to check that extra baggage at the ticket counter. It’s will slow you down, and probably cause confusion and frustration.
Now, to check in that extra baggage means you have to know where to go. You have to read the signs, follow the course, and get in the proper line. That’s precisely why our faith- race has marked out for us, so we don’t get confused and frustrated. It also implies is that someone has already traversed the course for us. We’re told exactly who has blazed this trail: “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 God.”
Christ Jesus has already run the race set before us, and he shows us how to get rid of the excess baggage. He tells us to check it on him. Jesus became flesh to furnish our salvation. He is the one who has authored our faith. He’s also the one who brings our faith to perfection in heaven. From the beginning to the end, Jesus is the object and cause of our faith, giving us something to believe and the faith to do so.
We have perseverance, because Jesus first persevered. He carried our excess baggage of sin, claiming it as his own. He did so by carrying the cross of torture and disgrace for us. That was no easy load, but Jesus held up under it. And the joy Jesus found in completing our salvation far outweighed the shame he suffered.