Summary: Effective disciples and relevant Churches in the twenty-first century must always “keep their eyes fixed on Jesus.” This is a two-part series on Hebrews 12:1-3.
Last Sunday we began looking at one of my favorite passages of Scripture which has done so much to inspire me both as a Disciple of Jesus Christ and as an avid runner. As Effective disciples and a relevant Church in the twenty-first century we must always “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.” From our text last week we discovered that effective disciples and relevant Churches: (I.) Throw off everything that hinders our witness and ministry for Jesus Christ and the sin that so easily dogs our feet. (II.) Run with Perseverance the Race Marked out for Us. What other valuable truths does the Holy Spirit show us in this passage that will enable us to be effective disciples and a relevant Church for our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ?
As we run our spiritual races both individually and as Trinity United Methodist Church, we must always “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.” This is our key to victory. The world tells us that unless you “win the gold,” you are a failure. After all, the only names any of us ever remember are those of the gold medalists. How many names of silver or bronze medalists can you recall? 10,651 athletes competed in the 2000 Sydney Games. Only 900 medals of any color were awarded. By all worldly standards, the overwhelming majority of the athletes were losers.
It is not so in our spiritual race, as Paul testifies in II Timothy 4:7-8:
“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for His appearing.”
Everyone who finishes the spiritual race is a winner. Each one will “receive the crown of righteousness.”
To win that crown, we must “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.” One reason we can be confident of victory is because we are “surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.” The setting of our text is the stadium of the Ancient Olympic Games where a race is about to begin. Imagine the seats all filled to capacity including those who have won Olympic glory in the past. Athletes always perform better when they compete before past champions. Throughout our spiritual race the grand stands of heaven are filled with all the saints from time immortal who already have won their victory of faith.
Our text comes on the heals of Hebrews 11, the great chapter that honors the faith of Old Testament Saints: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, and David to mention only a few. These heroes are sitting in Heaven’s grandstands cheering us onto victory. Add to these such New Testament Saints as: Peter, James, John, Paul, Silas, Timothy, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Mary of Bethany, Martha, and Lazarus. Include also John Wesley, Francis Asbury, William Otterbein, Martin Boehm, Jacob Albright, Susannah Wesley, Evangeline Booth, Mother Teressa, and our own Christian loved ones God has already called home.
We are in the current race. The Church victorious is all assembled in heaven’s grandstands watching our progress and cheering us on to victory. I can find in the life of at least one of these saints an individual much like me, one who has already won victory over similar obstacles I am battling today. United they stand as examples of encouragement to lead all of us to eternal victory.
But for us to win that victory and join them in heaven’s grandstands, we must “keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.” As the Author of our faith, He is the All-time Champion Who was victorious by the way of the cross and the empty tomb. He is our supreme cheerleader and encourager, because he has endured and overcome every single temptation, heartache, trouble, sorrow, care, and pain any of us will ever face! With our eyes fixed on Jesus we stand on Hebrews 4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin.”
As the Finisher of our faith, Jesus is the Judge of our race, the One who will present us each of us our own “crown of righteousness.” With the laurel crown, the prize that He would award the victor, in his hands, the judge of a race in the Ancient Olympics sat in his chair at the finish line. From start to finish, all the runners kept their eyes fixed on the judge and the prize in his hands. Never once would they look back; they kept their eyes glued on the judge and the prize they longed to win. Jesus waits for us at heaven’s finish line with our prize “the crown of righteousness” in His hands. He stands ready to award it to each of us who “longs for His appearing.”