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Summary: Keep your eyes on Jesus - Sermon by Gordon Curley PowerPoint slides to accompany this talk are available on request – email: gcurley@gcurley.info

SERMON OUTLINE;

Look at the winners (vs 1a)

Look at yourself (vs 1b)

Look at Jesus Christ (vs 2-4)

Look at your status (vs 5-13)

SERMON BODY:

Ill:

• I showed you two film clips earlier on in the service;

• From the film 1981 British historical drama ‘Chariots of Fire’.

• Chariots of Fire: Harold's despair: https://youtu.be/xxRJu2MaDEk

• Chariots of Fire: I Run to Win: https://youtu.be/4MeadbGQx18

• The film tells the fact-based story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics:

• Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God,

• And Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.

• In the 94 years since the 1924 Paris Olympics,

• There has been a lot of change.

• You can see that in everything from diet to their sports kits.

• In the original Olympics there were only one event.

• Called the ‘stadion’ (or ‘stade’) race,

• This was a short sprint measuring between 180 and 240 meters,

• Or the length of the stadium

• Only men participated and only men watched,

• I’ll tell you why later.

Later on other events were added such as:

• Running,

• Boxing,

• The Pankration (Combination of wrestling & boxing & kicking)

• The Pentathlon (running, long jump, discus, javelin, wrestling)

THE WRITER TO THE LETTER OF THE HEBREWS:

• Whoever he was!

• Many think it was the apostle Paul,

• And some like the theologian John Calvin are convinced it wasn’t!

• But whoever he was, used sport for his illustrations.

Ill:

• Here in Hebrews chapter 12 verse 4,

• He refers to two of those Olympic events:

• Verse 1: Athletics mentioned “Running the race”.

• Verse 4: Boxing may be referred to “Resisted to the point of shedding blood”.

It was a patriotic thing to be a good athlete and to bring glory to your country:

• And Paul combines those two things:

• Athletics & Citizenship in this chapter.

• In fact no-one could take part in the official games,

• Unless he was a citizen of Greece and also a ‘freeman’ (not a slave).

So in this chapter the writer of the Hebrews:

• Uses the picture of the race (vs 1-13)

• Which we will look at this evening.

• He uses the picture of citizenship (vs 14-29).

• Which you will look at next week.

Note:

(a).

• The author was writing primarily to Christians,

• This is not about starting the race (i.e. how to become a follower of Jesus),

• It is for those who are already in the race (i.e. already followers of Jesus).

(b).

• Not only is the author writing primarily to Christians

• But to Christians who had been converted from a Jewish background,

• That is why the book is heavy with Jewish imagery, history and tradition.

• These Jewish/Christians were struggling in their faith;

• They were finding following Jesus tough & felt like giving up,

• And so the writer of this letter writes to them;

• To specifically encourage them to keep pressing on, not to give up.

Note: One theme that dominates this chapter is Endurance:

• Verse 2: “Jesus.... endured the cross”.

• Verses 3: “Not grow weary”.

• Verse 7: “Endure hardship”.

• . And it is a point mentioned again and again earlier on in this letter.

So in times of difficulties & hardships;

• The writer gives his readers some encouraging advice,

• To keep them going forward.

Ill:

• On the 20th October 1968 Tanzanian marathon runner John Akhwari finished last.

• That is because during the race, Akhwari suffered a significant fall,

• He sustaining injuries to his knees, shoulder, and head.

• Akhwari had every reason to give up.

• Many others already had;

• Out of the 74 participants, 17 didn’t make it to the finish line,

• And Akhwari could have been the 18th;

• If he was not a man of sheer determination and unrelenting resolve.

• It was already dark when Akhwari crossed the finish line.

• The awarding ceremony was long over and the crown had mainly gone home.

• Out of the darkness of the Mexican night,

• Akhwari emerged as a limping man to finished the race last.

• A reporter asked him this question?

• “Why did you carry on with a serious injury and no hope of coming anything but last?”

He replied;

“My country did not send me seven thousand miles to Mexico to start a race.

They sent me seven thousand miles to finish it!”

That is the kind of attitude Paul wants the Hebrew Christians to have:

• And to help them develop that mental toughness he gives them three examples.

• To encourage them to keep going, even when the situation is difficult.

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