Summary: In running the race set before us- we must be aware of dangerous trip wires that will keep us from moving forward in our quest for godliness.
The Tortoise and the Hare
While the real text that we’re going to deal with begins in Hebrews 12:12—it is so important to see the context of this chapter. It extends back a few chapters. Hebrews has a double-edged theme. On one hand the author is proclaiming that Christ is so much greater than prophets, angels, priests, etc. So one part of the theme is that Christ is greater! The other part of the theme is built on that theme of greatness.. because Christ is greater Hebrew believers who had found the Christian walk difficult should not turn back to the old system of sacrifice and seek salvation through their own works.
Way back in chapter ten the author declares that the beleivers should not shrink back, but should move forward into the promised land of salvation. He declares that real faith is simply believing God and moving forward in that obedience, all the while warning—“Don’t Go Back!” He reminds his audience that God judged the Hebrew Children who refused to enter the promised land. He points at the heroes of the faith (chapter 11) as examples of those who moved forward in their trust in God.
Chapter 12 begins with an encouragement to run the race that is set before us and an admonition to lay aside anything that might trip us up or slow us down as we follow God.
A this point, I am reminded of the story of the tortoise and the hare. It is likely you all heard this story at some time or other. The hare was bragging about how he could run and could beat any animal in a race. The tortoise heard his challenge and accepted, even though the hare and some of the other animals laughed. When the race began the hare took off like a rocket, speeding towards the finish line. But along the way, he decided that he was well in the lead and stopped to take a nap. As he rested, the tortoise continued toward the finish line at a pace that was slow, but steady. The hare woke up but he was too far behind and he was terribly embarrassed when the tortoise crossed the finish line first.
I’d like to use this illustration to analyze some of the reasons why we as Christians find ourselves not progressing towards the finish line.
1) The Hare stopped and rested because he stopped looking at the FINISH line and started looking at where he was in comparison to others.
If you look at others – they will disappoint you—you can always find someone that in your own eyes you are further ahead of.. Focus on Christ.
By the way—it is ONLY by FOCUSING on CHRIST-that we are able to discern those who are truly moving forward in the faith and those who are clearly off course. Paul told Timothy to follow him in the same way he was following Christ. He made Timothy aware that Christ was the ultimate goal.
2) The Hare stopped and rested because he was satisfied with his progress.
THIS WAS THE SAME MISTAKE THAT THE CHURCH AT LAODECIA made! They thought they had enough, yet Christ tells them (in Revelation 3- that in reality they were poor, wretched, and blind. They had taken their focus off the goal line and failed to fellowship with Christ.
3) The Tortoise made certain his full focus was getting to the finish line-
Now we can look back to our text. The author then tells us to lay aside the things that keep us from running our race. Things that weigh us down and things that trip us up. We’re going to talk about trip wires.
One of the first tangle points is how we respond to the discipline of God—as we studied in this chapter last Sunday. We learned that we are not to take too lightly God’s discipline and neither are we to allow it to discourage us. God’s discipline is a demonstration that we belong to the family of God, that God loves us, and that God intends to use His discipline to bring about holiness in our lives.
TRIP WIRE NUMBER ONE – Our Response to God’s Discipline
The first trip wire we need to watch out for is our response to God’s discipline. If we get bitter and tangled up in God’s discipline we will not allow Him to produce the harvest of righteousness described in verse 11.
Then we get to verse 12 where the author continues his racing allegory. He tells the believer to shake off the pain and tiredness and to choose their steps wisely to prevent stumbling.
Then the author names another trip wire—Human relationships—SEE VERSE 14
TRIP WIRE NUMBER TWO – Unresolved Conflicts
The second trip wire we’re going to discuss about this morning is interpersonal conflict. The author tells us clearly of the believer’s responsibility to seek peace. THE NIV says “Make Every Effort” and is good for as far as it goes.. but the concept in the Greek is more like PURSUE or CHASE IT DOWN!