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Summary: "Run the Race" VBS wrap-up sermon. True Christian living can be compared to an Olympic-style race. With the crowd in place and the prize set before us, we have everything we need to run.

1. Feeding off our Encouragement (12:1a—cloud of witnesses)

2. Getting rid of our Encumbrances (12:1b—lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us)

3. Building up our Endurance (12:1c—let us run with patience the race that is set before us)

4. Looking to our Example (12:2)

HEBREWS 12:1-2

What a blessing it has been to see these buildings filled with children, youth and adults this week. The Lord has blessed us by moving in children’s hearts and lives. I am so thankful to all the workers and teachers for all the love and effort they put into this week. It is amazing what can happen when God’s people come together, united for a common purpose. I’m sure most of them feel like they’ve just finished running a huge race. Of course that’s an appropriate feeling. Not just because of all the hard work they’ve put in, but also because of the theme of Bible School this year. As you can see from the decorations, the theme this year was sports. But not just sports for sports’ sake—sports as an illustration of what it takes to be a follower of Christ. Archaeologists and historians tell us that sports have been around for almost as long as people have. It seems like we are wired with a built-in love for physical competition. I don’t know, but if I had to guess, I’d say that God made us that way for a reason. Probably because physical competition gives us such a great picture of what it takes to overcome all the real struggles in life. Real struggles aren’t any fun to go through. But it is fun being victorious over the make-believe struggles that are presented to us in sports. And when we see those make-believe struggles and victories, they give us great pictures of overcoming the real struggles of life. The writer of Hebrews understood that as well. In our passage this morning, the Holy Spirit inspired him to describe our life as a Christian in terms of a great sporting event. Of course, in those days, the most popular sports today hadn’t been invented. They didn’t have football, baseball, basketball, tennis or golf. But they did have many of the Olympic-style games we have today. They had the decathlon, javelin, shot-put, archery, and jumping events. But the most popular sporting events they had were the running events. They loved watching the races. They gathered in huge arenas by the thousands to watch men run races. And they would run, not for money. They would run for a simple little wreath that was placed on the winner’s head. Our passage shows us that true Christian living can be compared to an Olympic-style race. With the crowd in place and the prize set before us, Jesus Christ has given us everything we need to run. All we have to do is just do it. I want each of us to leave this place this morning determined to run the race well that God has given us to run. In order to do that, we’re going to look at four essentials to running the race that is set before us. The first essential is we must feed off our encouragement. Look with me at the first part of verse 1:

HEBREWS 12:1a

We must feed off our encouragement. I got to coach my son’s little league baseball team for a couple of years. Anytime you deal with children, you quickly learn about the differences in personalities. I’m sure our VBS workers got to experience some personality differences this week. Just because a certain type of treatment works on one child doesn’t mean it’s going to work on another one. Some kids need a whole lot more attention than others. We had two boys on our team that I will never forget. One was named Cameron. He had the best personality. He had absolutely NO skills—but a great personality. He’d strike out swinging and just smile. “Missed it again coach.” He’d hustle and play hard and was an absolute joy to be around. And then there was Travis. Travis had some issues. He was always too hot. Or too tired. Every time he messed up, it was always somebody else’s fault. He would rarely move faster than a slow trudge. Unless it was time for the after game snacks. Then he’d run to get to the front of the line. Discovering the different personalities and figuring out how to deal with those different personalities is one of the biggest challenges to dealing with kids. But one thing works across the board. Whether you’re dealing with a Cameron or a Travis, whether you’re dealing with a child or an adult, whether you’re dealing with a young adult or a senior adult, everybody needs encouragement. We want it, we need it, we feed off it. All through the chapter before our passage this morning, God’s Word highlights a group of people. We like to call them God’s Hall of Fame of faith. The writer begins chapter 11 by giving us a working definition of faith. Verse 1 tells us:

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