Summary: What is fellowship all about? I try to answer that question in this sermon.
A. It probably won’t surprise you, if I told you that I have never run a marathon.
1. Not only have I not competed in a marathon, I have never competed in an ironman triathlon (which is a race where on a single day every participant does a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bicycle race, and then caps it off with a 26.2 mile run).
2. But what you may not know is that I did run some track in junior and senior high, and I used to doing some running as an adult until my left knee would not allow it any longer.
3. Why do I tell you this? I tell you this to let you know that I have a little experience in running races.
4. I know something about pacing yourself, and how it feels when your legs get rubbery, your stomach starts to cramp, your lungs feel like they’re on fire, and your so drained and exhausted that you just want to quit.
5. What keeps a person going at a time like that?
a. One thing that keeps people going in that kind of competition is the joy of crossing the finish line, even if you are not the first one to cross it.
6. I’m sure that some of you know what I’m talking about.
B. I find it interesting that when God chooses a physical activity to use as a metaphor for the Christian life, it’s often a picture of running. Here are a few examples:
1. In Acts 20:24, Paul said, “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me.
2. You are probably familiar with the text of Hebrews 12:1, “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.”
3. Toward the end of Paul’s life he wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim. 4:7)
C. Why do you think running is such a powerful picture of the Christian life? Several reasons come to mind.
1. First of all, it emphasizes the continuous, lifelong nature of discipleship.
a. The Christian life is not a 100 yard dash. It is no jog in the park. It is much longer than a marathon or triathlon.
b. It requires endurance and commitment for the long haul.
2. A second reason God uses running as a metaphor for the Christian life is because it is such an individual activity.
a. No one else can run the race for you.
b. In the same way, no one else can trust and obey God for you. No one else can walk with Christ for you.
c. Every person has to do it for himself or herself.
d. Each one of us is responsible and accountable to God for our own faith, devotion and obedience.
e. Just like the runner has to choose to take each step, so we have to choose every day to follow Christ. No one can choose it for us.
3. You might be wondering what all this has to do with a sermon on fellowship, right? Well, here is the answer: the third reason God uses running as a metaphor is because runners need encouragement from others.
a. Christian fellowship is how we equip, strengthen and encourage each other so that we can both run the race and actually finish the race.
b. Fellowship is all the things we do and say to assist one another in living for Christ.
c. Think about the Boston and New York Marathons. In addition to the runners and the race officials and helpers at the race, who else is present? The spectators.
d. There are hundreds of thousands of spectators who line the route.
e. They wave and cheer as the runners run the race.
f. They don’t say things like: “You are a looser!” “you will never make it!”, rather, they say things like: “You can make it! Don’t give up! You’re almost there!”
D. Our role as members of the body of Christ is just like that.
1. We are supposed to refresh one another.
2. We are supposed to catch one another when we fall, and bandage up the wounds.
3. We are supposed to encourage and cheer one another on.
4. The only difference is that none of us are spectators or bystanders. We are all runners in the same race.
5. And as we run, we are all supposed to be helping one another in the race.
6. Ultimately, that’s what fellowship is all about.