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Summary: Deals with remaining in Christ

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“STAYING ON COURSE WITH GOD”

TEXT: HEBREWS 12:1-2a

Sunday, July 4, 2004

There is a sense that, in summer, church kind of slows down. Sometimes you get the feeling that church kind of shuts down. Well it doesn’t shut down; but it just kind of slows down. Being a Christian is a year-long thing; it is never ending; it is a lifelong experience. The only difference between now and the rest of the year is that we go at a different pace; the pace is a little slower, which is good. It’s good to slow down in our lives and grow.

The Christian life itself is not a sprint, it is a marathon. I think sometimes we grow in spurts; it feels like a sprint at times. I know the 40 Days of Purpose felt like a sprint to some, but all series are like that. I preach in series because I think we grow in spurts, but it’s important to realize that we spurt, and then we pace ourselves, because Christianity is really a lifelong pursuit. It is something we learn for a lifetime so it is important for us to be patient with ourselves and patient with God’s working in our lives. I avoid saying the phrase that we should pace ourselves because when you think of someone pacing themselves, the connotation is you shouldn’t really get all that serious about your faith. You stay the middle road and are mediocre and not too intense. That is really not what I would like to say. I would like to say that it is important to be intense and take your faith seriously, but it’s important to be patient in your growth. You will finish. You will receive the gold medal of salvation if you do these things.

Last week we talked about the importance of reading God’s word, spending time in God’s word, about staying connected to the church family, and about following up on the things that we decided to do. When we are on that spiritual mountaintop, it is important for us to follow through, realizing it is a real experience, God touches us, and we need to follow through on our commitments. Today I would like to continue that and add some more things to what we can do to grow spiritually. Referring to Hebrews 12 and probably just verse 1, I have two different translations, and I like them both. One has some strength in it in different areas, but here is what it says. Hebrews 12:1 (if you want to turn with me in your Bibles, you may if you learn better that way). Here is what it says: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith . . . .” [Let’s pray]

What are some of the things we can do to stay on course? I am using an analogy of a runner in a race because that is the analogy that the apostle Paul uses or the writer of Hebrews uses in this text. The image is of a marathon runner who is running during the Olympic races. What are we to do? The first things we can do (adding on one of the things from last week) is captured in the phrase ‘surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses.’ What is that referring to? You see the word therefore, and every time you hear the word therefore there is a wherefore. Therefore is a reflection upon what was just said. What was just said was in Hebrews 11-the writer talks about the heroes of faith.

What does it mean then that we are surrounded by this great cloud of the heroes of faith? The reflection is on the marathon and if you have ever seen the Olympics, you know that at the end of the marathon the runners run into the coliseum and they run around the track four times and everyone cheers. I remember that picture. Who was the U.S. runner that ran the one year in the 70’s? I was trying to remember his name and I couldn’t remember it. Yes, Frank Short. I remember to this day Frank Short running. It was wonderful. Is that the sense of this text?

Is the writer saying that we have this great cloud of heroes of faith who are in heaven cheering us on, saying we can do it, and they are praying for us. A lot of people read it that way, but the answer is really no. I think the New Living translation captures the meaning of this phrase. It says “therefore we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith.” The added phrase to the life of faith is really what this cloud of witnesses is doing. We have for us a group of people who have already lived the faith and they are recorded for us. They have been there and they have down that, and there are some lessons from their lives that we can learn, that we can grow from. That is what the writer is trying to say to us.

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