Summary: A message of encouragement for those times when the race of life gets difficult
Gearing Up for Your Race
Introduction: United States runner Marla Runyon has been legally blind for 22 years. Even so, she competed in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. In fact she qualified for the finals in the 1500 meter race. (Marla finished eighth, three seconds behind the medal winners.)
How does she do it? Marla can’t see in color, and what she does see is just a fuzzy blob. In a race she just follows the blob of figures in front of her. She told TV commentator Tom Hammonds that the real difficulty was in rounding the final turn and "racing toward a finish line that I can’t see. I just know where it is."
As believers in Jesus Christ, we can’t see the promised prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus either, but we know where it is. Therefore, we keep running. Even when the race is tough we keep running. Even when it is painful to run, we keep running. Even when we fall down, we get back up and keep running. In this passage, we are urged to keep running. The writer gives us four tips for running the race of faith.
I. CONSIDER YOUR EXAMPLES (v. 1)
a. In the previous chapter, the author gave a recounting of the deeds of those who completed the race in faith.
i. They were ordinary people of extraordinary faith
ii. They were flawed people who served a flawless God
b. The image in this text is of these “witnesses” who completed the first leg of the race looking on to see how their offspring in the faith will perform in the final leg of the race.
c. When we consider how God used these ordinary and flawed people we should be encouraged; God can use us as well to fulfill his plan
II. CAST OFF YOUR BURDENS (v. 1)
a. Greek runners often used training weights as they prepared for these races. Running a race with these weights would be absolutely foolish and ensure a loss. So they had to be stripped off.
b. However, the author instructed his readers to lay aside every weight. This reminded them that the runners in Greece took it all off when they ran!
c. There can be nothing that will hinder our run with Christ if we are going to complete the race.
i. Weights that hinder may include – worry, fear, discouragement, doubt, or worldliness…
ii. The sin that so easily ensnares or entangles us is UNBELIEF.
III. CARRY ON WITH ASSURANCE (v. 1)
a. The race referred to here is not a sprint, but a distance race that requires less speed and strength and more endurance and patience
b. In our race, we will encounter difficulties that will either tempt us to give up or push us toward reaching the goal – the choice is ours.
c. Sometimes, it is not the major problems in our life that threaten to derail us, but the little hardships (Illustration: Sand in the shoe)
IV. CONCENTRATE ON JESUS (v. 2)
a. A winning runner does not look at the competition around him, but he fixes his eyes upon the finish line and maintains that focus
b. The writer points to the suffering of Christ as an inspiration to the runner (v. 3)
c. We too must focus our attention Jesus Christ who is our best example of what is needed to win this race of life. “Your faith is only as good as the object it is focused upon” – Alex McFarland (Illustration: Buddha’s Finger in Hong Kong)
Illustration: A man who had hitchhiked from coast to coast and had walked many miles in the process was asked what he had found the most difficult to endure. To the surprise of his questioner it was not the steep mountains or the dazzling sun or the scorching desert heat that had troubled him, but, in the words of the traveler, "it was the sand in my shoe." We need the strength to endure more that just the big trials…the little things will drag us down too.
Illustration: Thousands of people in Hong Kong are lining up to catch a glimpse of a 2500-year-old relic on loan from China. According to an Associated Press news article in the Virginian Pilot Newspaper, the loan of this relic represents fresh hopes for peace and calm between Beijing and the one time British protectorate city of Hong Kong. Rule of that famous city, which has long been the financial powerhouse of the east, reverted back to the Chinese government several years ago.
One woman named Margaret passed by with tears in her eyes as she spent a few moments gazing at one of Buddha fingers encased in bulletproof glass. Amid the backdrop of three giant Buddha statues and monks chanting prayers, thousands of people like Margaret passed by hoping view one of the faith’s most sacred relics. Some reported feeling an atmosphere of peace while others complained that they were not allowed enough time to look or that they were too far away to see the finger clearly. According to historians, Indian monks preserved the bones of the Buddha after his cremation and some of those pieces were later brought to China.