Summary: Ditch the Rat Race. Run the Right Race. 1) Run after a better prize. 2) Run as others have done. 3) Run empowered by Jesus.
Would you believe me if I told you that Canadians today are working fewer hours than they were over thirty years ago? Statistics Canada reports that in 2011 the average Canadian worked 36.4 hours per week compared to 38 hours per week in 1976. However, as you can see from the chart (displayed on the screen), the time spent at work has been steadily increasing the last few years. That may explain why you feel like you never have a moment to yourself. You wake up just in time to get lunches made and homework finished before rushing out the door. You then hustle home at the end of the day to make supper, drive to dance, and finish the dishes before collapsing into bed. Weekends don’t seem to offer any respite either. Whatever errands didn’t get tackled during the week have to be finished in between dropping kids off at birthday parties or hockey and soccer games. It doesn’t have to be this way. In fact the Holy Spirit has this word of advice for us this morning. Ditch the rat race. Run the right race. Run after a better prize. Run as others have done. And run empowered by Jesus.
“Ditch the rat race? Oh I’d love to Pastor, but we live in a real world. If I want to pay the mortgage, I have to work as hard as I do. If I want my kids to be decent athletes or musicians, then my evenings and weekends will be spent driving them to lessons and tournaments. If I want to stay current with my friends, I better hit all the get-togethers I can!”
Perhaps that’s what went through your mind when you heard the sermon theme. But there is a much better prize to run after than the prize of owning a nice house populated by 2.2 children with straight teeth. The Apostle Paul put it well when he said: “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:13b, 14). The eternal joy of heaven is the much better prize to race after.
Think of it like this. If you were walking along the Sturgeon and came across a carp that had jumped onto the riverbank, you would find its gills gasping for breath as its scales dry out. How could you make that fish happy again? Cover it with a mountain of cash? Give it season tickets to the Oilers? Bring it a martini and turn on its favorite reality show? Send it to the beaches of Mexico perhaps? None of those things will make the carp happy because fish aren’t made for life on land! (adapted from Joel Schulz)
Neither are we made for life in a sin-filled world. Stay away from those who promise happiness here if only you made six figures, if only you could head south for spring break, if only you could lose fifteen pounds, if only you would remodel your house, if only you had the right pair of basketball shoes. Let’s be realistic. This is not heaven, so don’t expect it to be. There will never be a newscast without bad news. There will never be a church without gossip or misplaced priorities. There will never be a new car, a new girl, or a new baby who can give you the everlasting joy your heart craves. Only God can. And God will. It says in Isaiah 64:4, “No eye has seen no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” What a breathtaking verse! Heaven is beyond our wildest imagination. No one has come close to describing it. Not all the songs about heaven or the artists’ portrayals. Nor any of the sermons preached, poems written, or chapters drafted. When it comes to describing heaven we are happy failures (adapted from Joel Schulz). We can say this about heaven: it’s a place of no pain or sadness and nothing will ever shatter that happiness. But you’ll only get to heaven if you ditch the rat race and run the right race. How do you do that? Listen again to our text: “…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” (Hebrews 12:1b).
I have yet to see an Olympian race the 100m dash in boots or even in sweatpants and sweatshirt. To tell you the truth it seems like these athletes are wearing less and less these days. And why not? If you want to win such a race, you better not let anything slow you down. It’s the same with the race to heaven. That’s why the author of our text urges us to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. That may mean cancelling your cable subscription if you keep tuning into programs that inflame your desire for people you are not married to. It may mean severing friendships with those whose sole aim on the weekend is to get drunk. It may even mean changing jobs, and downsizing your house so that you’re not so busy trying to earn money to pay for things that will burn up on Judgment Day.