Summary: Our faith has put us in this contest; it is up to us to complete the course, to endure to the end so that we may receive the promised reward.
Finishing the Race of Faith
Reading: Hebrews 11:32-12:3
Ill: In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Tanzanian runner John Stephen Ahkwari was the last runner in the marathon.
He came in about an hour and a half after the winner, practically carrying his leg, as it was so bloodied and bandaged.
When asked, “Why did you keep going?” He said, “You don’t understand. My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start a race; they sent me to finish it.” (http://speedendurance.com/2007/07/15/how-to-finish-a-marathon-1968-olympics-in-mexico-city/)
Finishing the race is what the writer of Hebrews addressed beginning in the twelfth chapter. Finishing the race is critically important for all of us who would be followers of Jesus and in these verses the writer gives us several words of advice to help us run the race of faith to the end of the course.
The first is to remember that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and that we can be inspired by those who have gone before:
A.Therefore… what’s it there for?
1.This links us back to the examples produced in chapter eleven, and on this account both should be read in connection.
2.The entire eleventh chapter of Hebrews is a litany of those who lived lives deemed faithful by God.
a.For instance, Hebrews 11:7, he mentions Noah. Remember Noah? He spent at least 100 years of his life building an ark - 120 years!
Have you ever felt impatient with the speed of God’s plan? Thinking that God’s plan for our lives is not moving ahead fast enough? “Why is it taking so long?”
Now consider the witness of Noah and hear him whispering in your ear, “Look,” he says, “how long have you been waiting for God to work His will? I spent 100 years to build the ark, and it was never easy. But I kept on building, and when the floods came the ark became the vehicle of our salvation. You need to stay the course, too.”
b.Next, in v8, is Abraham. Abraham, called from his home in Ur of Chaldees to a place that God would lead him; Abraham, who in his old age was told that he and Sarah would conceive and bear a son; Abraham, who was told to take this precious son to the top of the mountain and offer him as a sacrifice. And Abraham passed every test.
So when you are uncertain concerning the live God has called you to, unsure of following His will, listen for Abraham whispering in your ear. “Listen,” he says, “if you follow God, the world will probably think you’re crazy because God’s ways are not their ways. But listen carefully to what He tells you, follow in His steps, and be true to His will.”
c.Or go on to v22 and the story of Joseph. Remember, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. In Egypt he was accused of crimes he didn’t commit, and thrown into prison. He was forgotten by those he helped. He was down about as low as a person can get. Yet he remained true to God. Then the tables were turned, and suddenly he is very powerful, second only to the Pharaoh in all of Egypt. He has control of money and grain and food and people. And yet, when he is at the top, he is still faithful to God.
So here is Joseph saying, “Look, it doesn’t take much to be faithful when things are going your way. But when you are at the bottom, and everything seems to be falling apart, make sure to remain faithful. ”
d.The list goes on. There’s Moses and Samson and Samuel and David and more besides. There is a great cloud of faithful gathered to bear witness, to give testimony to inspire us on. They whisper in our ear as we struggle along, and they say to us, “You can do it! Don’t give up! Don’t lose heart. You can succeed as we succeeded.”
3.The word picture here is one of a great stadium filled with the heroes of the faithful, all present to give testimony to the wisdom of following God. All available for us to draw upon for inspiration and confidence as we run the course they have already completed.
The next word of advice given:
B.Lay aside every encumbrance…
1.The word rendered “weight” does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament.
a.Its usual meaning is that of weight or burden, and there is allusion here, doubtless, to the runners in the games who were careful not to encumber themselves with anything that was heavy and in every way to remove what would be an impediment or hindrance.
b.They were careful not to allow anything that would be a weight or an encumbrance.
2.As applied to Christians it means that they should remove all which would obstruct their progress in the Christian course.