Summary: This is a sermon about our life of faith with an outline somewhat borrowed from Chuck Swindoll.
Intro: The New Testament often describes the Christian life as a race to be run or a fight to be fought. These metaphors stem from the literal reality of the athletic events that were conducted in ancient arenas.
Physical training was an important part of Greek education and centered in the gymnasium .... Foot races were held in the stadium (Gk. stadion a distance of about two hundred yards). Several of these stadia still survive with their starting and finish lines (cf. the mark or goal in Phil. 3:14). The Greek stadia accommodated spectators on the grassy slopes on each side
of the flat running surfaces.
The major sports were running boxing the pankration (an all-out combination of boxing, wrestling, and kicking in which no holds were barred except for biting and gouging), and the pentathlon (which included running, long-jumping, throwing the discus, and throwing the javelin, and wrestling).
Imagine for a moment, running a race. Strapping on your running shoes and heading off. Now imagine someone throwing stuff our in front of you; chairs, barrels, hurdles, obstacles of every nature. That would be a hard race to run, wouldn’t it?
Becoming a Christian means we enter an arena where there is
pain, heartache, sickness, sorrow, pressure, hardship, and even death. It is there that we run against formidable competition. It is there that we are tested as to who we are, the stuff were made of, the heart and soul of our very being.
If we are to be victorious in the arena of real life we need endurance and encouragement. That is why we have the roster of Hebrews 11 that we have looked at in past weeks. There, listing for us are those who ran the race with endurance and cleared the high hurdles placed in their paths.
I. As Christians We Are Always On Display.
A. We have the example of those saints of faith who have gone before us. (12:1a)
1. As we come to chapter 12 we see these same spiritual athletes of chapter 11 ushered off the track of time and up into the grandstands.
a) They are, figuratively speaking, now cheering for us!
b) They cheer you and me on with their encouraging testimonies of faith in the midst of conflict and trials on this race through life.
c) We, in essence are now on the track and they are all around us cheering as we take up the baton and carry on the Olympic tradition of enduring faith.
2. The Christian life is not a game of hopscotch.
a) It is a hard-fought, tough-minded race.
b) The word translated race is from the Greek term agona, from which we get the word agony.
3. The writer is picturing athletes in an agonizing footrace running for the finish line for all they are worth.
ILL. I know there are some people who like to run. For me, running or jogging is some cruel punishment invented by those who manufacture jogging shoes. For me, running is agony. And that is the picture we are given here of the task of living by faith that the author gives us.
B. We must understand that our race of faith will have an impact on those who follow us.
1. We are only fooling ourselves if we think that others around us are not watching us run this race of faith.
a) People are constantly observing us to see how we respond to conflict, how we reply to confrontation,
b) How we answer back to someone’s pointed barb-shaped tongue as they lash out at us.
c) They are checking out how we run the race of faith when sickness, disease and even death is on the track ahead of us.
2. Some of those watching are cheering us on and hoping for us to do well.
a) These are our brothers and sisters who have been rooting for us all along and want to see us run the race of faith well!
b) They are perhaps our spiritual mothers or fathers that introduced us to this race in the first place.
3. Perhaps there are some who are watching but they are hoping we will trip or fall.
a) Then they can smugly say, “See, I knew she couldn’t run the race!”
b) They are those who for whatever reasons don’t believe you are running the race and are just a poser, pretending to be running but your nothing but a hypocrite.
4. Then there may be those who don’t know what to make of your running this race called faith.
a) But they are watching! Fascinated by seeing the things you are doing and the way you respond to the hurdles that life throws in front of you.
b) They have never seen anything like it before.