Summary: The essentials for winning in the race.
Running The Race
Our generation is generation that loves sports. Many of you ladies can identify with the wife who was told by her husband, "Honey, now before football season starts, is there anything you would like to say to me?"
If the Apostle Paul were alive today, he would no doubt read the sports pages of the newspaper and follow the progress of various teams and athletes. Those who are familiar with the epistles of the Apostle Paul are fully aware of his frequent use of athletic references in his writings. He referred to boxing, wrestling, and in our text to running.
Paul writes in Hebrews to a group of persecuted, beaten down, discouraged Hebrew believers and encourages them to keep moving forward in the Christian lives.
Now there are some of the same things which are essential to being victorious in a race are also key to being victorious in our Christian life.
I want us to look at some of these essentials.
I. Faith is required
Notice Paul says that we that are in this race are "compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.”
Who are these witnesses? These witnesses are those who have come before us, have run the race, and have completed it! They are examples to us as to how to successfully and victoriously run this race!
We find many of them listed in chapter 11 which is often referred to as "The Hall of Faith."
We are all creatures of inspiration. We need a reason for doing things, and we need encouragement while we are doing them. One of the greatest inspirations and comforts should be all the believers from the past who have gone before us.
They are "witnesses." Not watching us as we perform. The idea is not that we should faithful lest they are disappointed. They are examples not onlookers. They have proved by their life that the live of faith is the only life to live. The same God who was their God is our God. The God of yesterday is the God of today and tomorrow.
The first essential element to running this race is what the witnesses in chapter 11 have testified to - Faith.
A. We must have faith to enter the race.
The Christian life begins by placing faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and what he did on the cross. It is through faith in his shed blood and His resurrection that we enter the race.
B. We must have faith to endure in the race.
1. There will be hurdles.
2. There will be hindrances.
3. There will be hurts.
Endurance is essential to those participating in a race, and endurance is key to Christian living. There will always be hurdles or obstacles to overcome. We will always run into things or people or circumstances that will seek to hinder us in our Christian living. To endure, faith is essential. Faith is not only essential to enter the race, but it is essential to be able to endure while in this race.
C. We must have faith to be effective in the race.
Whether or not we run well, our race will be dependent upon our faith in God.
Faith in God will keep us going when we feel like quitting! To be victorious, to be effective as a believer in this world that we now live in....faith is incidental but essential
II. Freedom Is required.
In the Grecian games to which Paul here refers, all bodily hindrances had to be laid aside.
Likewise, heavenly runners must lay aside all weights within and without that would hinder spiritual progress, and by disciplined elimination refuse to allow anything that would hinder our running.
We need freedom from:
A. The weights that encumber us - "let us lay aside every weight"
One of the greatest problems runners face is weight.
A man once went to the doctor with back trouble. After examine the patient the doctor said, "You are not having back trouble. You are having front trouble." What he was saying is simply the excess weight is causing you the problem.
1. Call to discern what impedes us -
The weight that could constrict us is not necessarily bad in itself. Often it is something perfectly innocent and harmless. However it weighs us down, diverts our attention, saps our energy, dampens our enthusiasm for the things of God.
A winning runner does not choose between the good and the bad, but between the better and the best.
The problem is not in what the weight is, but in what the weight does. It keeps us from running well. A weight is something that is lawful, but yet it is not helpful. All that does not help, hinders!
2. Courage to discard what impedes us - "lay aside"