Summary: This is the concluding message in the series on faith and the great heroes of the faith.
When Napoleon began his Egyptian campaign, he pointed to the pyramids and shouted to his men, “Soldiers, forty centuries look down upon you!” In a sense this is the message the author of Hebrews is trying to deliver to the struggling Hebrew Christians. Your contest of faith is not going unnoticed. It is being witnessed by former contestants, whose careers of faith ended without ever receiving what was promised, but who faithfully finished their course of faith. The message is that now it is our turn to do the same. The problem is though we have a real hard time seeing anything through to completion. The word commitment seems strangely absent from our society. When faced with serious temptation, we give in. If Christian leaders disappoint us, we drop out of church. If so called intellectuals ridicule the Bible, we doubt our faith. If money gets tight we quit giving. If we get rejected when we talk to someone about our faith we clam up. The people who please God are those who have enough faith to tough it out when the road gets hard. When we give up on the Christian life we give the enemies of Christ reasons to ridicule Christ and His church. It discourages other believers and destroys your sense of significance in God’s kingdom. But a faithful Christian life is an inspirational witness and it gives confidence to those who see it. In our text the writer of Hebrews compares the Christian life to a marathon, with those heroes we saw listed in chapter 11 in the stands cheering us on. Today I would like us to see the three incentives that the writer of Hebrews gives us for developing a faith that persevere when the road gets hard.
I. We can be inspired by the great heroes of the faith.
A. As we have seen Hebrews chapter 11 is jam packed with inspiring examples of faith.
1. The appeal to run with perseverance the race marked out for us suggests that the Christian life is more a marathon than a short sprint.
2. The writer is picturing athletes in a footrace, running for the winning post and urged on by the crowd.
3. Perhaps the best way to understand this is to picture something like a relay race where those who have finished their course and handed in their baton are watching and encouraging their successors.
4. With the stands full of the great examples of faith it is important for each of us to run well.
B. The reason we should find the examples of faith from chapter 11 so inspiring.
1. When we see their shortcomings we realize that they really are not too different from us.
2. We can be encouraged how they kept going despite the many times they fell along the way.
3. We can be encouraged when we see how they faithfully stood in the face of adversity.
4. These examples should encourage each of us to continue to press on.
5. They demonstrate the nature and possibilities of faith for believers in every generation. As contestants in the race, we are to look to their example for encouragement.
C. When you are discouraged and tempted to quit consider some modern day heroes of the faith.
1. Consider Ben Merold who at eighty-one years old is still faithfully preaching and leading a congregation that averages more than 4,000 each week.
2. You probably would not have to think very hard to compile your own list of heroes whose example of faith has impacted your life.
3. When tempted to quit consider the list of people that might be negatively impacted by your decision to do so.
4. Being surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses how can we not continue to press on.
II. Be prepared for the struggles that will definitely come.
A. Get rid of the stuff that spiritually weighs you down.
1. The Greek word onkos is translated "Everything that hinders" (only here in the NT), this word usually means any kind of weight. It was sometimes used of unnecessary bodily weight that the athlete sheds during training.
2. The writer is not talking about sin, because he addresses that in the next clause.
3. Ancient athletes carried nothing with them in a race (they even ran naked), and the writer is suggesting that the Christian should "travel light."
4. There will be things that we carry in our lives that are not necessarily sins but yet they weigh us down and keep us from being the person God has called us to be.
5. These could be possessions, habits or even some relationships.
6. The Hebrew writer is trying to help us see that we need to lighten our load so that we will be able to run the best race possible.