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Summary: We can go the distance and finish well, if we will prepare ourselves and keep the right focus throughout the race.

GOING THE DISTANCE

Hebrews 12:1-3 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, 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. 2 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 the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Intro: In high school, I played football for the Prairie City Panthers. I was a fullback. For high school, I was a little bigger than a lot of running backs. I weighed somewhere between 180 and 190 (Oh to see those days again!). Because of my short stocky build, I could usually plow straight ahead and pick up 4 or 5 yards per carry, dragging linemen with me. Coach used to kid me about my running ability. He would say, Yeah, Mark can beat just about anybody off the line, but after 5 or 10 yards, even the linemen catch up with him. I was good for the short sprint, but not for the open field.

-Now, in track, some people are built for the 100 meter sprint, but others are built for long distance. I always admired those who ran cross country and those who trained for marathons. Anyone can survive for 100 meters, but 26 miles is a real test of endurance. About a decade ago, I put a challenge out to all the kids in our Christian school. We were having a jog-a-thon, and I told them that I would buy a coke for anyone who could run more laps than I did in an hour. BIG Mistake! I ran somewhere around 26 or 27 laps. There were several kids who got close to 30 (lightweights!). I was so sore after that! I think I walked funny for a week. See, I hadnt really prepared for the race. I was not in shape for running. I was not prepared to go the distance. Well, today I want to share some thoughts from Scripture about how to prepare for and run the race of our lives.

Prop: We can go the distance and finish well, if we will prepare ourselves and keep the right focus throughout the race.

Interrogative: What is the right focus that will help us finish the race well?

T.S.: Our text gives us three words of encouragement that will help us run the race and go the distance.

I. Lighten Up (12:1)

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,

A. Let us throw off everything that hinders

-The writer encourages believers to get rid of anything that would slow them down or hinder them from running their best in the race. He is not talking about sin here, because he addresses it in the next line.

-There is a terrible story about a man who went out to play golf early one Saturday morning. His wife became concerned when he had not returned home by dinner time. It wasnt until about midnight when he came through the front door, exhausted.

Where have you been? she demanded

Ive been playing golf came the reply.

But that was 18 hours ago. What happened?

I was having the best game of my life. I was two under par when on the seventh tee Harry had a heart attack and died. His wife still didnt understand.

After that it was hit the ball, drag Harry - hit the ball drag Harry . . .

Is there something or someone slowing you down? [William Neel, sermoncentral.com]

-In keeping with the illustration of a runner who has trained for a race, the idea of losing all excess weight or mass may be in view here. If you have ever watched Olympic runners compete, you rarely see much mass on them- that is for the body builders or wrestlers. The runners are usually very lean because they have literally run all of the excess fat off of their bodies. The spiritual application is obvious. Dont let yourself get out of shape spiritually, through lack of exercise, or because of an imbalanced diet of things that really do not strengthen us for the race.

-Another possible idea is that of excess clothing. If a runner were to wear a tunic or cloak or other heavy clothing, he would soon tire, overheat, and not do well in the race.

-The point the author is making for the believers to whom he is writing is that we need to be willing to throw aside anything that would hinder our relationship of love and obedience with Jesus. We must eliminate anything that slows down our spiritual growth and progress.

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