Summary: This is a Memorial Day weekend message about running a ’good race’ and not quitting.
Introduction: This Weekend is Memorial Day weekend, the official start of the Summer Vacation season, and from the looks of our attendance I’d say we have a few people doing just that this weekend. Memorial Day is the day we as a nation set aside to remember those who have died, especially those who died while serving in the military. But I think it is also a good time for us to remember all of the Saints who have gone on before us. Men, women, boys and girls who served the Lord faithfully while on earth, and are now enjoying being in the very presence of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The writer of the book of Hebrews mentions several of these “Saints” in the 11th chapter, and here in the passage we want to read today he refers to them as “a great cloud of witnesses.”
Before we read the Scripture let me give you a little background. The writer is writing this letter or “epistle” to a group of First Century believers that were from a Jewish background. However, someone, perhaps one of the Apostles introduced them to Jesus Christ, and they had gotten off to a great start. In fact, the writer of the Book of Hebrews at one point encourages them not to "forget those early days when they first learned about Christ." He says, remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrific suffering. He says, "Don’t forget." But now, for some reason it seems that they were actually considering going back to their old religion of Judaism. Things had gotten hard. There were probably being pressured by other Jews to come back and embrace Judaism and to turn their backs on Christ. So in this passage of scripture the writer of Hebrews pleads with them not to do that.
It may be hard for us to really capture his passion and commitment in this passage. But I want you to picture a pastor or prophet standing before this group of people and begging with them, not to quit. Picture Him pleading with them to keep the faith, instead of throwing in the towel.
Follow along as I read
“DON’T EVER FORGET THOSE EARLY DAYS WHEN YOU FIRST LEARNED ABOUT CHRIST. REMEMBER HOW YOU REMAINED FAITHFUL EVEN THOUGH IT MEANT TERRIBLE SUFFERING.”
" THEREFORE, SINCE WE ARE SURROUNDED BY SUCH A HUGE CLOUD OF WITNESSES TO THE LIFE OF FAITH, LET US STRIP OFF EVERY WEIGHT THAT SLOWS US DOWN, ESPECIALLY THE SIN THAT SO EASILY, HINDERS OUR PROGRESS”
“AND LET US RUN WITH ENDURANCE THE RACE GOD HAS SET BEFORE US. WE DO THIS BY KEEEPING OUR EYES ON JESUS, ON WHOM OUR FAITH DEPENDS FROM START TO FINISH.”
“HE WAS WILLING TO DIE A SHAMEFUL DEATH ON THE CROSS BECAUSE OF THE JOY HE KNEW WOULD BE HIS AFTERWARD. NOW HE IS SEATED IN THE PLACE OF HIGHEST HONOR BESIDE GOD’S THRONE IN HEAVEN.”
I think this passage can teach us something this morning about sustaining our spiritual momentum and enjoying a healthy relationship with the Lord for years to come.
1. First of all, if we are going to run a good race and finish well, then we will find strength from those who have GONE BEFORE. You know the Bible is not just a history book. It’s not simply meant to be a record of everything that has happened in the past. Nor is it meant to simply be a collection of moral teachings that we love and respect.
So these are words that were written with us in mind. These words have something to say to us about how to endure, how to persevere and how to keep running what has been described as the Christian race.
The writer of Hebrews begins this chapter by saying, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge cloud of witnesses." Now in order to really grasp what he’s talking about here, you have to look back at the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. You see in the 11th chapter, he talks about the Hereo’s of the faith, the “All Star Team of Christianity,” if you will.
It contains a long list of some familiar names and some not so familiar names of people who all had one thing in common. Their faith and commitment to God was so strong that they were able to overcome any of the obstacles that came their way. None of them ever quit or walked away from their commitment to follow God. Sometimes they were ridiculed for their beliefs. Sometimes they were mistreated. God called some of them to leave their families and go make their home in a foreign land. Some of them eventually paid the ultimate price, giving their own lives for the cause of Christ. The writer of Hebrews makes a point to say that all of those that he listed in Chapter 11, were still living by faith even when they died. They ran with endurance, and their commitment to God was just as strong, if not stronger than it was when they began following Him.