Summary: The Christian walk is a long marathon -- don't grow weary, pace yourself, and keep your eyes fixed on our model and Savior Jesus!
“Running the Marathon”
Text: Hebrews 12:1-4
© 2007, Sterling C. Franklin
Free for your use and encouragement
Story/Illustration: In high school, I ran several years of track. At the end of each season, there was a conference meet – a big gathering of schools racing against each other to see who the best was in the area. I came prepared to run on a rubber track, wearing my Nike Air Jasaris, light shoes with hard plastic soles and metal spikes. The meet got moved last-minute to a concrete track.
Running on concrete with hard plastic soles is torturous. The race I ran that day was absolutely long and painful, even though we did respectfully well in the meet. For 2 weeks following the race, I had massive bruises on my feet from the race. The Christian life is just like this race – it is long, difficult, painful, and often can leave us weary and broken. We need to have the right equipment, encouragement, and focus!
Proposition: By the urging of Scripture, we are to strive in the Christian marathon.
Background/Authorship: The Book of Hebrews is the only book in the canon of the New Testament that does not have an authorship that is considered confidently-known.
1. Some options: Paul, or one of his companions such as Barnabas, Silas, Priscilla and Aquila, or Apollos, or perhaps an unknown follower of our Lord (Koester 42-46).
2. What we know: The Holy Spirit inspired this work, and thus, He speaks to us through Hebrews even today.
3. Much of the book’s message focuses on the dangers of apostasy, and though Hebrews is an encouraging message, it is a warning for its readers to avoid falling away from God. This passage follows this theme.
Transition: In Hebrews 12:1-4, the Holy Spirit through the author tells us that we are to strive in the Christian marathon by running the race with perseverance!
Running the Race (1-4)
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
12:2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
12:3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
12:4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.
A. Let us run the race since we are surrounded by witnesses (1).
Context: Hebrews 12 comes right after the ‘Faith Hall-of-Fame’ or ‘Hall of Faith’ in Hebrews 11. In Hebrews 11, there are many saints mentioned – Abraham, Joseph, Rahab, David, and many others. This passage is the resolution of the entire of chapter 11 (note the ‘so then’ at the beginning of the section). Since these people have walked faithfully in the past, we ought to be encouraged and inspired.
1. Let us cast off the weight that burdens us (1).
Illustration: Though we are commanded to endure hardship as good soldiers of Christ Jesus by Paul in 2 Timothy 2:3, we do not have to run the race with heavy amounts of gear! Over time, the US Army has made its gear lighter, though still, according to a soldier in the US Army going through Basic Training, the weight is still burdensome.
a. Quote: “My armor weighs over 20 lbs, add to that my weapon, ammunition, 3 liters of water, Combat Life Saver equipment, etc and I am approaching 200 lbs. I weigh 150 normally. Eventually, the soldier will slow down and be easier to hit” (Sergeant TJ)
b. Comparison: The burdens in our lives can also parallel ‘body fat’ or even ‘clothing’ in athletics – the author is urging the reader to cast off everything weighing us down (Craddock 148), though I would not encourage running a marathon naked here in America!
c. Challenge: We are to cast off anything that besets us in this race, whether burden or sin. What baggage are you carrying that hinders you from seeking the Lord? Cast it off! Wouldn’t you rather take on the Lord’s easy burden?
Related Text: Matthew 11:28-30
28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
2. Let us cast off the sin that entangles us (1).
a. We are no longer slaves of sin, but of righteousness