Summary: We must fix our hearts upon our Lord and determine that we are going to run the Human Race, come what may.
The Human Race
Reading: Hebrews 11:1-16
Text: Hebrews 12:1
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews, in the passage we just read, speaks of a city prepared for those who were called out of this world to follow God by faith. A city founded in a better country then the faithful found in this world, a heavenly country God has prepared for the faithful sojourner. For in order to arrive in this better country all the faithful had to first live faithfully in this world. And it remains the same for all the faithful of God today.
Jesus has gone ahead to prepare a house for those who follow Him but we must first make our way faithfully in this world. John 14:1-3 We are not left without direction, Jesus leads the way, we are but to follow. And there is more than just direction; we are also given support and instruction on how to find our way. And that is the lesson for us to consider today: Hebrews 12:1
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
Between now and the time of our departure from this life, there is a "race" that has to be run; a Human Race in which we are all participants, believers and non-believers alike. The difference between the two is what the writer of the letter to the Hebrews addresses, and what we are going to examine in this lesson.
I. A Great Cloud Of Witnesses
When we run as God’s people, we are doing something that many, many others have done before us. And the writer of Hebrews describes those who’ve gone before as a "great cloud of witnesses.”
A. Examples to follow
The “role call of the faithful” found in Hebrew 11 are without a doubt lives from which we may draw inspiration and encouragement. In studying their lives we can learn how to better live our own but that is not all that the writer of Hebrews is telling to us in this verse.
B. Encouraging Support
The word picture in this verse suggests a stadium full of supportive spectators urging us on, cheering, "You can do it!"
Ill: San Diego Rock N Roll Marathon 3 June 2007. 21,400 participants, 3000 volunteers supporting the runners, 45 live bands along the course, thousands of cheering supporters along the way. There were some with signs of specific encouragement; most were just cheering for any and all who were running by them.
We do not struggle alone, and we are not the first to struggle with problems, persecution, discouragement, even failure. Others have “run the race” and crossed the finish line, and their witness stirs us to run and win also. What an inspiring heritage we have! These great believers’ lives, examples, and faithfulness in God, without seeing his promises, speak to all believers of the rewards of staying in “the race.”
II. Lay aside every weight and sin
In addition to supporters, we have our own part to play in this race.
A. Every encumbrance
The word rendered “encumbrance” –ogkon- means what is crooked or hooked, that is any thing that is attached or suspended by a hook that is, by its whole weight, and thus means weight.
It does not occur elsewhere in the New Testament. Its usual meaning in classical Greek writings is that of weight or burden, and there is allusion here to the runners in the games who were careful not to encumber themselves with anything that was heavy. Their clothes were so made as not to impede their running, and they were careful in their training not to overburden themselves with food, and in every way to remove what would be an impediment or hindrance. The writer exhorted the Hebrew readers (and us) to lay aside every worldly hindrance or embarrassment to their Christian race.
As applied to Christians it means that they should remove all which would obstruct their progress in the Christian course. Thus, it is fair to apply it to whatever would be an impediment in our efforts to win the crown of life; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life, and even harmless and otherwise useful things which would positively retard us in our race.
It is not the same thing in all persons. In one it may be pride; in another vanity; in another worldliness; in another an ungovernable temper; in another a corrupt imagination; in another a heavy, leaden, insensible heart; in another some improper and unholy attachment. Whatever it may be, we are exhorted to lay it aside, and this general direction may be applied to anything which prevents our making the highest possible attainment in the divine life.