Summary: Let the Bible help you learn about Jesus whose own example can encourage you to continue on with perseverance!
The Christian Marathon
Text: Hebrews 12:1-3
Reading: Hebrews 11: 32-12:3
The Summer Olympic Games are currently being played out in Athens and many of you may be following the outcome of the various events. I have to admit I haven’t seen much of the televised coverage of the games (most of it occurs past my bedtime!) but I have followed the games through the daily section in the newspaper. Tonight will be the running of the men’s marathon, an event steeped in the history of ancient Greece and synonymous with the meaning of endurance. And endurance is at the heart of our lesson today, the endurance required in the Christian marathon. We have been studying the book of Hebrews in the Sunday morning adult class and throughout the study there has been a continuing thread on being steadfast in our faith:
• The admonition to encourage one another
Hebrews 3:12-14 “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end,”
• The need for a faith that endures
Hebrews 6:11-12 “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you will not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”
Hebrews 10:36 “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.”
But how do we go the distance? These few verses in Hebrews 12 offer some insights, with our own life of faith described as a race. The first one is...
I. INSPIRATION OF THOSE WHO CAME BEFORE
A. We Have So Great A Cloud Of Witnesses
1. Hebrews chapter 12 begins with the word "Therefore." That connects it with the previous chapter.
a. The “cloud of witnesses” refers to those mentioned in the previous chapter
b. Those Old Testament saints like Noah, Abraham, Moses, etc.
2. These are our examples of faith.
a. By their lives, they have borne witness to the value of faith
b. By their example, they encourage us in running the Christian marathon.
II. WE NEED TO LAY SOME THINGS ASIDE
A. Note The Comparison To Running...
1. The runner who seeks to win:
a. Loses as much weight as possible without hurting performance
b. Wears clothing that is light and allows freedom of movement
2. Excess weight, chafing clothing, etc., can be the difference between victory and defeat!
B. We Too Must Lay Some Things Aside...
1. “every encumbrance”
a. Those things which hinder our spiritual progress
1) Matthew 6:19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. “But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
3) Colossians 3:2 “Set your sights on things above, not on things on the earth.”
b. Such things make “running the race of faith” difficult, if not impossible!
2. “the sin which so easily ensnares us”
a. Any and all sins should be laid aside
4) Luke 21:34-36 “Be on guard, so that your hearts will not be weighted down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day will not come on you suddenly like a trap;
5) Colossians 3:8-9 “But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices,”
c. From the context, I understand “the” sin to be the “sin of unbelief”
1) The epistle was written to encourage faithfulness to Christ and His covenant
2) We’ve seen warnings against unbelief - He 3:12-13
3) When one no longer believes, the race is lost! - He 10:26-39
[With a full assurance of faith, and with every hindrance laid aside,
we can “run the race of faith” as God intended. But as we comprehend
the true nature of the “course” set before us, we can appreciate the
need for the element of endurance...]
III. WE NEED TO HAVE ENDURANCE (1)
A. The “Race Of Faith” Is A Marathon, Not A Sprint...
1. It does not require one quick burst of energy, in which the race is soon over