The Race Set Before Us
PPT 1 Series Title Slide
Last week we began a new series, "The Amazing Race, winning the race that matters."
It is centered on the teachings and principles found in Hebrews 12:1-3, and since it is a passage that talks about running a race, I thought I could incorporate some of the ideas and lessons learned on the TV show, the Amazing Race.
This week I am going to speak on "The Race Set Before Us," from Hebrews 12:1
PPT 2 Scripture
Heb 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, (AV)
Heb 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. (NIV)
By the way, I hope as part of this series you will memorize the first 3 verses of Hebrews 12.
PPT 3 Video clip
Video: For this part of the race teams must...
In that short clip the host says
Teams must journey
Teams must chose
Teams must complete
This video illustrates very well what Hebrews 12:1 means when it talks about the race set before us. Just as in the TV Show the contestants don't pick their own course, if they want to win they have to do what the producers have laid out for them. So it is with us, if we want to win the race that really matters it is important we run the race that God lays out for us.
Let me give you some background about the book of Hebrews for starters:
Hebrews was written to Jewish believers who were suffering persecution for their Christian faith. People were dying horrible deaths, their goods were being confiscated, and they were being imprisoned for simply being a Christian. Some of those Jewish Christians were considering going back to Judaism because it was an accepted religion in the Roman Empire.
The, "Therefore" Hebrews 12:1 begins with, has to do with what was laid in out in Chapters 10 and 11. In 10 they are told that if they apostasies and return to Judaism they have no possibility of forgiveness in that faith because God no longer accepts the blood of bulls and goats. The only thing God now accepts is the sacrifice of Jesus, bulls and goats will never atone for sins, nor could they ever have cleansed as fully and completely as faith in Christ does.
In Chapter 11 they are told of all the believers who have gone before them and have suffered for their faith. Some were miraculously delivered and others died in faith, but all were victorious and remained true to God despite the things they suffered. Their faith under duress is the great example the writer of Hebrews points to when he tells them they are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.
So here in chapter 12 he talks not about the race they (the heroes of chapter 11had to run", but the race that is set before us.
Many of you are familiar with the popular TV show The Amazing Race, it is a reality television show in which teams of two people, race around the world in competition with other teams. Contestants strive to arrive first at "pit stops" at the end of each leg of the race to win prizes and to avoid coming in last, which carries the possibility of elimination or a significant disadvantage in the following leg. Contestants travel to and within multiple countries in a variety of transportation modes, including planes, balloons, helicopters, trucks, bicycles, taxicabs, personal car, jeepneys, trains, buses, boats, and by foot. Clues provided in each leg lead the teams to the next destination or direct them to perform a task, either together or by a single member. These challenges are related in some manner to the country wherein they are located or its culture. Teams are progressively eliminated until three are left; at that point, the team that arrives first in the final leg is awarded the grand prize.
This TV show is an incredible mirror of life, and as I see it, especially of the Christian life.
You see along the journey they are tested in every possible way. Some by the shows designers, and some tests arise from people and circumstance. They will be tested mentally, physically, emotionally, and relationally. During their most difficult moments their true character can't help but be revealed, because when pressure cracks the outer facade who we really are comes out. Will they keep promises they made to other teams? Will the end the game with integrity, or be known as lowlife. The game will reveal who they really are.
They will have to face and overcome fears, obstacles, personality conflicts, and fatigue. If they are going to win they will have to learn how push through pain, and continue when all that is within them says quit.
Some find the race to be too much and give up, but most keep enduring through the most difficult of struggles because of the prize awaiting the champion, and because they know others, such as their own children, are watching them.
Heb 12:1 ¶ Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
So let's talk about the race that is set before us, or as the NIV says, "the race that is marked out for us."
Today I want to make 4 brief points.
PPT 4 4 Race Truths
1. It is a set race,
2. It is a marked out race.
3. It is an individually crafted race.
4. It is a forward looking race.
PPT 5 It is a set Race
1. It is a set race.
This race has been laid out for us by God.
A. Race day was decided by God.
Your birth, your nationality, your height, your hair color, your intelligence, just like the money and plane tickets given to contestants on the Amazing Race were sovereignty given to you by God. Illustrate with $20 and tell someone they have to use a rickshaw to get to the next town.
There is no value in complaining about what you have been given, your only job is to make the most of what you can with it.
The A/R accept their assignments and realize that complaining will not change anything about the course design, all it will do is give you a bad attitude and slow you down.
God, if it's ok with you it's ok with me.
Unlike the A/R which has a monetary prize, the race God sets out for us has many purposes.
PPT 6 scripture text
De 8:2 "And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.
De 8:16 "In the wilderness He fed you manna which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do good for you in the end.
This passage shows that our race is a set one, it also lists two of its goals:
1. To know, or to show what is in our heart.
Pressure has a way of pushing out what is on the inside.
On the wall on the left side of the sanctuary is a poster from the A/R and it says, "it's not how far they go, but what happens along the way."
From the contestants prospective it is how far they go, from the producers perspective it is how good a story they can get from it.
From the eternal perspective its not about how far we go, or how good a story can be told, but the person we become.
Romeo and Juliet is a good story but it is a tragedy.
The producers don't care if your marriage falls apart, or you lie and break promises from their point of view that is a good story.
God doesn't want simply a good story, but he wants much more.
Paul put it this way:
Ga 4:19 ¶ My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you,
That is what God is looking for.
2. The second purpose of our set race according to the passage in Hebrews is, "to do us good at our latter end."
Our heavenly Father, is an wonderful parent, everything He does, He does with good in mind.
Not simply good, but our good. The race is designed for an awesome awards ceremony. In a few short weeks we will be watching the summer Olympics, and we will see many receive medals. One of the things that is always amazing is to see athletes weep when their national anthem is played. You see it is not just about personal glory, but also bringing glory for your people.
In like manner reward day in heaven, will not simply be about personal glory, but the opportunity to bring glory to our Lord who has been so good to us. To be able to do that is what good at our latter end is all about.
PPT 7 It is a Marked Out Race
2. It is a marked out race.
I will be speaking primarily about this next week. But let me just say this for today. Our course has been clearly marked out for us. God has not left it to us to guess what we must do. We have the bible, the Holy Spirit, the counsel of others, and divinely ordered circumstances to see to it that we stay on the right path.
I will be the first to admit, that if you are not paying attention you can miss a clue. Even if you do we have an early warning detection system to help us get turned around, it is called a check in your spirit. We will talk more about this next week. Let me close this section with an encouraging verse:
PPT 8 scripture verse
Isa 30:21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it." (NIV)
PPT 9 An Individual Race (Lone Runner)
3. It is an Individually crafted race.
They had theirs you have yours.
Each and everyone has their own race course. Some have high hurdles, some have a leisurely journey, some have to run the idatarod in the frozen north, some very few have a leisurely stroll along a beach in the South Pacific. We don't get to pick our course it is the, "race set before us."
Some have many hills to race over, some have long flat plains, some have a race/life that is so short we could call it a sprint.
But most of us run a marathon. That is why we are told to run with patience the race that is set before us. Recognizing there will be lonely stretches, hills, bumps, pot holes, curves, inclement weather, weakness, burnout, fatigue, hot pavement, and cool grass. Places where traction and footing will be sure, others where loose gravel, and hilly terrain may make running treacherous.
I promise you, the race will have it all.
I want to give you two important truths right now.
A. The race is not the same for everyone, and often doesn't seem fair.
Read chapter 11 of Hebrews, some had miracles, some died without miracles.
You don't get to pick your race, you just run it the best you can.
B. You can't run someone else's race. It is the race set out before you. If you try to run in someone else's lane you can be disqualified, and lose your possible reward.
We must run the race set before us. This race is not my race, but the race set before us by the Lord. God set the race before us to run. God has a plan with each of us and each one must fulfill the call of God for his life. A person running his own race will be disqualified.
PPT 10 Forward Looking
4. Finally, it is a forward looking race.
(Next week in recap talk about who moved my cheese.)
The race is set "before us."
The writer of Hebrews explains that thought a little better with this statement:
PPT 11 Scripture passage
Heb 12:2 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.
Every runner understands that there is a point in every race when the runner reaches the point that he believes that he cannot run one step more. For many of us that is about thirty seconds after we start, but even the true marathon runner experiences this phenomena that they refer to as "hitting the wall."
It is at that point of extreme discomfort the runner has to find something that is of more value that relief from physical distress. Jesus faced that moment in the garden of Gethsemanee, pleasing His Father, and earning our salvation is what saw Him through. When Jesus hit the wall He thought about me and you. Next time you hit the wall and are wondering if God cares about you, remember what Jesus thought about when He hit the wall.
We need to have something to look forward to or we will not have strength to make it through in difficult times. Depression results when someone thinks there is no hope for good down the road, and suicide is what happens in extreme cases. As human beings we need hope.
PPT 12 scripture
Ps 27:13 [I had fainted], unless I had believed to see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
How do you have hope when you see nothing good on the horizon?
You look beyond the horizon.
God promised those who sow in tears will reap in joy.
This passage in Hebrews is so full of wisdom let me close with the writers advice to Hebrew Christians whose horizon in not looking very bright:
1. Run unencumbered (lay aside...)
2. Run focused (fix your eyes )
3. Run with endurance
Close: Prayer for those who need assurance of salvation, because they sense a need to have joy set before them. (A good future)
Prayer for those who may be feeling they have hit a wall. Prayer for those who see nothing good on the horizon.