Summary: A sermon to encourage believers to finish the Christian race.
Hardships & Hazards On the Home Stretch
Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. KJV
Introduction: Hebrews 11 is one of my favorite chapters of the Bible and I'm sure that it is for you too but I have noticed that most folks when they read Hebrews focus on verses 1-33 but they don't appreciate 34 through the conclusion of the chapter.
Let's think about:
I. The Balcony Saints -- Our Encouragment
Our text reveals: are compassed about -- Greek, "have so great a cloud (a numberless multitude above us, like a cloud, 'holy and pellucid,' [Clement of Alexandria]) of witnesses surrounding us." The image is from a "race," an image common even in Palestine from the time of the Greco-Macedonian empire, which introduced such Greek usages as national games. The "witnesses" answer to the spectators pressing round to see the competitors in their contest for the prize (Phi_3:14). Those "witnessed of" (Greek, Heb_11:5, Heb_11:39) become in their turn "witnesses" in a twofold way: (1) attesting by their own case the faithfulness of God to His people [Alford] (Heb_6:12), some of them martyrs in the modern sense; (2) witnessing our struggle of faith; however, this second sense of "witnesses," though agreeing with the image here if it is to be pressed, is not positively, unequivocally, and directly sustained by Scripture. It gives vividness to the image; as the crowd of spectators gave additional spirit to the combatants, so the cloud of witnesses who have themselves been in the same contest, ought to increase our earnestness, testifying, as they do, to God's faithfulness.
weight -- As corporeal unwieldiness was, through a disciplinary diet, laid aside by candidates for the prize in racing; so carnal and worldly lusts, and all, whether from without or within, that would impede the heavenly runner, are the spiritual weight to be laid aside. "Encumbrance," all superfluous weight; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, and even harmless and otherwise useful things which would positively retard us (Mar_10:50, the blind man casting away his garment to come to Jesus; Mar_9:42-48; compare Eph_4:22; Col_3:9, Col_3:10).
the sin which doth so easily beset us -- Greek, "sin which easily stands around us"; so Luther, "which always so clings to us": "sinful propensity always surrounding us, ever present and ready" [Wahl]. It is not primarily "the sin," etc., but sin in general, with, however, special reference to "apostasy," against which he had already warned them, as one to which they might gradually be seduced; the besetting sin of the Hebrews, UNBELIEF.
with patience -- Greek, "in persevering endurance" (Heb_10:36). On "run" compare 1Co_9:24, 1Co_9:25.
a. They walked in faith
b. They worked in faith not fear
c. They waited in faith
Heb 11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Heb 11:14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.
Heb 11:15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.
Heb 11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.
Heb 11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
Heb 11:40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
II. The Besetting Sins -- Our Exhortation
The Olympic runner was almost naked when he ran. He would do this to be as light as possible when he ran. Believers in Jesus are exhorted to "lay aside every weight" and the writer makes particular reference to "besetting sins" in the life of the Christian.
a. They are considered "soft" sins
b. They are primarily sins of the spirit
These would be things like envy, jealousy, bitterness, a critical spirit etc.
c. They are primarily secret sins
These besetting sins can be kept hidden for others, from our spouse, our friends and family, our church family and pastor but we cannot hide them from God.
III. The Blessed Savior -- Our Example