Summary: The Christian life is like a race. It has three focal points, the start, the second wind and the finishing line

Group Service Binham 19-08-01

Hang on in there when the going gets tough

Story: In spring of 1867, a young American shoe salesman came to Bristol and one day was invited to a prayer meeting in a private home.

During the meeting, the minister, Henry Varley stood up and spoke. He said one memorable thing in that prayer meeting:

“The world has yet to see what God can do with one man wholly committed to him.”

The young American walked out of that prayer meeting an hour later – with these words etched on his mind. They gave him no peace and he resolved to be such a man.

No one remembers Henry Varley – but that young American was D.L.Moody - who went on to become the “Billy Graham” of the 19th Century.

Thousands came to Christ through his ministry his day.

The world has not seen what God can do with a man totally committed to him.

I would like to speak this morning on our epistle reading - Hebrews 12:1-2, which encourages us in a total commitment to Christ:

Therefore since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the Cross, despising its shame, and has sat down at the right hand of God.

For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against himself, so you will not grow weary and lose heart…Hebrews 12:1-3

The writer to the Hebrews – like Paul in 1 Corinthians (1 Cor 9:24-27) - uses the metaphor of a long race like a marathon to describe the Christian life.

Being a Christian is not just a short sprint – on Sunday. It can feel like a long haul.

And the message of this morning epistle reading is: Hang on in there - when the going in your Christian life - gets tough.

I am told that a marathon has three focal points.

1. The start

2. The second wind, when the runner feels like giving up and

3. The finish

1. The first focal point in the race is the start

Those of us who have already decided to follow Jesus Christ have already crossed the start line.

We will be in the race until we die and go to be with the Lord, unless we decide to opt out.

Having started the race, the writer of the book of Hebrews encourages us to fix our eye on Jesus so that we will reach the finishing line. He warns us not to get distracted. We need to finish.

Story: Edison’s light bulb

Thomas Edison, the inventor of the electric light bulb said he had to experiment 10,000 times before he succeeded. "These were not failures," he insisted. "I just discovered 9,999 different ways that the bulb didn’t work. "

If he had given up after the 9,999th time the light bulb had not worked, he would not have invented the light bulb.

The writer to the Hebrews tells us to “lay aside every encumbrance and sin that entangles us so we can run the race that is set before us.”

What are the things that can side track us from following Christ?

1. One such encumbrance might be family ties:

In Matt 8:22 Jesus called a man to follow him and the man said: “Lord, let me first go and bury my father”. However Jesus replied, “Follow me and allow the dead to bury their own dead.”

Jesus is not saying that to follow him means giving up care for the family. However, Jesus saw through the man’s excuse not to follow Christ immediately.

As Michael Green puts it, in essence he is saying: “Wait Jesus until my father is dead and buried.” Jesus was challenging the excuse. Hard words. But Christ is looking for single-mindedness

His encumbrance to following Christ was his ties to his family.

2. Another encumbrance might be the love of money

In Luke 18:23 a Jewish ruler asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replied that he should sell all his possessions and give them to the poor and follow Christ. We read that the man turned away sorrowfully from Christ. There is nothing wrong with wealth – but we need to hold our wealth loosely in our hands.

As one Bible Commentator put it: “The affluent are always tempted to rely on things earthly than cast themselves on the mercy of God.” That was Jesus’ challenge to the man.

2. The second focal pouint in the race is the second wind

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