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Summary: What it takes to run the Christian race


Hebrews 12:1

Sunday, April 19, 2006

Pastor Brian Matherlee

Two gas company service men, a senior training Supervisor and a young trainee were out checking meters and parked their truck at the end of the alley and worked there way to the other end. At the last house a woman looking out her kitchen window watched the two men as they checked her gas meter. As they finished the meter check the older supervisor challenged his younger co-worker to a foot race down the alley back to the truck. As they came running up to the truck, they realized that the lady from the last house was huffing and puffing right behind them. They stopped and asked her what was wrong. Gasping for breath she said, "When I see two gas men running full speed away from my house, I figured I had better run too."

A "Do it yourself" catalog firm received the following letter from one of its customers: "I built a birdhouse according to your stupid plans, and not only is it much too big, it keeps blowing out of the tree. Signed, Angry The firm replied: "Dear Angry, We’re sorry about the mix-up. We accidentally sent you a sailboat blueprint. But if you think you are mad, you should read the letter from the guy who came in last in the yacht race."

I want to talk today about the race we’re in. For those of us who follow Jesus Christ, we have to understand what the Bible tells us about this race. Hebrews 12:1 says, “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

1. Commit to run

a. With a point

i. 1 Corinthians 9:24, “Run in such a way as to get the prize.”

ii. It takes no special effort or skill to lose!

b. With patience (starting blocks illustration)

i. What kind of race best exemplifies the Christian life? A sprint or a marathon? A marathon.

ii. We line up in the starting blocks like it’s a sprint. We take off and when we run out of gas we realize there’s a long way yet to go. Many give up.

iii. We have to recognize that there are times when we’ll develop and grow in bursts God most readily works in a steady way to cultivate deep roots within us.

c. With perseverance (hurdle illustration)

i. Nobody is going to find themselves in a spiritual race without obstacles.

ii. The obstacles come from the enemy of our souls. They come from the troubles of life.

iii. No matter their source we must overcome them.

iv. 1 Peter 1:13 “Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

v. This verse gives us an outline of how we can persevere:

• Prepare your minds for action—expect trouble and plan how to overcome it. Live as offensive Christians, not defensive.

• Be self-controlled—it’s an emphasis on holy living (see verses 14-16).

• Set your hope [on the Holy Spirit]—it is expressed in the FROG acronym, Fully Rely on God. Don’t try to do anything without God.

2. Commit to the course

a. The writer of Hebrews tells us the course is already set. The Amplified Bible calls it “appointed”.

b. What’s the course? Purity, yes. Knowledge of God, yes. Worship, yes. But most importantly it is summed up in the Great Commission. We are to go. And it’s not easy.

c. Jesus described it this way in Matthew 10:16, “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.”

d. It is interesting that Jesus chooses an image of trouble that would shock his pastoral listeners. It tells me that Jesus is not primarily concerned about out comfort. He wants us to know going about His business is dangerous.

e. The course laid out before us is a call beyond ourselves. It is a mission.

3. Commit to the true mission

a. In order to fulfill this mission we’re going to have to understand these basic truths about Christian life:

i. Church is not something we “do”. Church is who we are.

• Repeated examples in the Scripture point to this fact. We are the body. We are the expression of God.

• We get confused and think that we attend church. NO! We attend a celebration. We train for our mission. We gather for encouragement to press on.

• You are the church.

ii. The church is not meant to be institutional. It is meant to be incarnational.

• What’s the point of an airport? Wouldn’t it be ridiculous if someone went on a trip and all they could talk about was the airport. Adam Sandler had a routine about a guy who traveled all over the world and only told about the hotels he stayed in. The airport is not a destination. It exists to connect people to their destination.

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