Summary: Finishing the race is critically important to all of us who would be followers of Jesus. And Hebrews 12:1-3 contains at least 3 pieces of advice that will help each of us faithfully run the race that is before us. (Powerpoint Available - #185)
MELVIN M. NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
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ILL. The 1992 Summer Olympics featured two tremendously heart-rending moments. American sprinter Gail Devers, the clear leader in the 100 meter hurdles, tripped over the last barrier. She agonizingly pulled herself to her knees & crawled the last five meters, finishing fifth - but finishing, nevertheless.
Even more emotional was the 400 meter semifinal in which British runner Derek Redmond tore a hamstring & fell hard on the track. He struggled to his feet & began to hobble, determined to complete the race.
His father ran from the stands to help him off the track, but Derek refused to quit. He leaned on his father, & the two limped to the finish line together, accom-panied by the deafening applause of the thousands assembled there that day. (John E. Anderson, "What Makes Olympic Champions?" Reader’s Digest, February 1994, p. 120)
A. I like to hear stories about people who won't give up. Quitters aren't much of an inspiration, but people who stay with a commitment even though the going gets tough are a source of inspiration to us all.
Do you remember the man who came to Jesus & said, "I'll follow you wherever you go"? Jesus told him, "Before you make that kind of commitment, you need to realize that foxes have holes & the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."
"In other words, if you follow me, realize that there will be difficulties. There will be times when you will not know where you'll sleep, or where your next meal is coming from. There will be difficult & discouraging times. But after you realize that, & then put your hands to the plow," He said, "don't look back."
B. When people start the Christian life, & then quit when the going gets tough, they can become an object of ridicule to some, & a source of discouragement to others. That's the reason Hebrews 12:1 3 is so important.
As some of you know, the apostle Paul often compared the Christian life to athletic events. And he is doing so in this passage. Listen as I read it to you.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders & the sin that so easily entangles, & let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author & perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, & sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
“Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary & lose heart."
Now in this passage Paul is not comparing the Christian life to a wind sprint, but to a marathon. In a wind sprint you run as fast as you can for a short distance, & speed is the critical factor. But in a marathon, endurance is the critical factor, & the concern is that over the long run the runner will not “grow weary & lose heart.”
The Apostle Paul was faithful. In his last letter to Timothy he wrote, "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.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)
PROP. Finishing the race is critically important to all of us who would be followers of Jesus. And I believe that Hebrews 12:1-3 contains at least 3 pieces of advice that will help each of us faithfully run the race that is before us.
I. INSPIRED BY THOSE WHO HAVE GONE BEFORE
The first piece of advice is to remember that you are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, & that you can be inspired by those who have gone before.
A. Notice that chapter 12 begins with the word "Therefore." That connects it with the previous chapter. And in chapter 11 the writer of Hebrews gives a long list of people who have been found faithful.
1. For instance, in vs. 7 he mentions Noah. Now I confess that patience is not one of my finer virtues. And every once in a while, when something I'm concerned about seems to be moving too slowly, I'll complain, "Why is it taking so long?"
Then I can hear Noah whispering in my ear, "How long do you say you've been waiting? It took me 100 years to build the ark, & it was never easy. I tried to warn the people, but no one would listen. Yet I kept on building, & when the floods came the ark was the vehicle of our salvation. You need to keep on, keeping on, too."