Summary: Its a challenge to live a life with impact.
This morning, I am challenging you to join us in a journey. A pursuit actually. Pursuing a life that matters. A life of impact.
Life is full of decisions. Do you agree? But, do you know that the decisions that matter in life are not always earth-shaking? It’s our day to day decisions that either make us closer or farther from God. We call it steps of obedience.
Now, there are three decisions we need to make in our pursuit of a life of consequence. And we find it in Hebrews 12:1-2.
“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.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NIV)
You may ask, what’s the “great cloud of witnesses”? We need not guess. Note the word “Therefore”. We have to ask, “Why is that “therefore” there for?”
Let’s check out the chapter before our verses.
It says in Hebrews 11:1, “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. It was by their faith that people of ancient times won God’s approval.”
The entire chapter 11 talks about people who won God’s approval because they lived a life of faith.
They are the “great cloud of witnesses.” Hebrews 12:1 is translated this way in the International Children’s Bible: “So we have many people of faith around us. Their lives tell us what faith means.”
“Their lives tell us what faith means.” They lived trusting God in every step they made. And we should imitate their faith. They went before us in this pursuit. And they are telling us, “The pursuit is worth it!”
Note the word “race”. That’s the reason why I called this a pursuit.
In the Purpose Driven Life, Dr. Rick Warren wrote, “If I asked you how you picture life, what image would come to your mind? That image is your life metaphor. It’s your description of how life works and what you expect from it. It determines your expectations, your values, your relationships, your goals, and your priorities.”
Here we picture life as a race. But this is not a 100-meter dash. Life is a marathon.
2 Timothy 2:5 says: “Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.”
Do you want to win this race? Compete according to the rules.
What are the rules? We find it in the three “Let us” in Hebrews 12:1-2.
“let us throw off everything…”
“let us run with perseverance the race…”
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…”
The first rule is assessment. We should have the right preparation.
In the ancient Olympics, an athlete must prove that he is a Greek citizen before he can compete. Otherwise he would be automatically disqualified. Therefore, if we haven’t accepted Jesus as our Savior, then we are not even in the race.
You also need to compete according to the rules not only during the race but even before the race. In those times, athletes have to prepare at least ten months for the games before the actual event. Then they swear to that before a statue of their god. To fail in preparation meant disqualification.
You know, we are tempted to take shortcuts. But if we take shortcuts, we might shortcircuit the process.
Verse 1 says “let us throw off…” That means to remove things that would prevent us from winning the race. Preparation involves sacrifice.
We need to “throw off… the sin that so easily entangles”. The New King James Version translated it this way: “the sin which so easily ensnares us”.
I’m not just talking about “big” sins like immorality or theft. I’m also talking about “little” sins like envy, bitterness and gossip.
Life is not meant to be a cycle of “repent and repeat”. God wants us to have victory over our sins.
We also need to “throw off everything that hinders”.
In one translation, it says: “everything that slows us down”.
In another, it says: “everything that gets in the way”.
Preparation requires discipline. There are things that are not sins. Yet it can keep us from becoming what God intended us to become. It hinders us. It slows us down. It gets in the way. In other words, as a Bible scholar said, it refers to that “which hinders the believer from being a winner.”
For example, our success can be our failure. Our strength can be our weakness. We can be tempted to sit back and relax. Once we start patting our backs, that’s the end of it.