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The Race and the Goal of Faith
Hebrews 12:1-4

 
Introduction

 
Christian life is not a walk in the park. It’s not an easy ride along the boulevard. Christian life is full of struggles and tribulations (Jn. 16:33). If the Lord’s people in the Old Testament experienced trials and sufferings, we will also experience it. In our text, Christian life is compared to a race (1 Cor. 9:24, Gal. 5:7, Phil. 2:16). It’s not a sprint but a marathon that requires, endurance, patience, discipline, and fixing our eyes on the finish line. In this life our goal is our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The cloud of witnesses is, the Heroes of Faith in Chapter 11. The word witness, as used in the New Testament, doesn’t mean, a spectator, but one who bears testimony in his life. The word witness comes from the Greek “martyrs” and carries the idea of testifying. The OT Hall of Famers life of faith serves as a witness or a testimony for us. It is not that they are watching us. We live to please God alone.

 
I. Lay aside everything that hinders (Heb. 12:1a)
A. Things which slow down our spiritual progress
1. Things that are not necessarily wrong but can hinder our spiritual progress or things that hinder the believer for being a winner. Doing overtime at work and working on weekends to earn much needed money is not wrong, but it takes toll on your body, and reduces the time for you to do spiritual things. Playing sports, reading books, talking to your friends, even social media are not necessarily wrong. Unless the Christian makes use of his time wisely (Eph. 5:16), these are weights that keep believers from studying the Bible, weights that keep them from praying, weights that keep them from attending church, weights that keep them from witnessing. Anything can be such a weight, and we must be ready to give it up for the sake of running the race that God has set before us.
2. There’s a lot of Christians who are not committing outright sin, but their life is so weighed down with earthly things, and cares of this life that they are greatly hindered in their relationship with Christ. Paul said, lay aside every weight. Anything which slows us down and hinders our race must be avoided.
B. Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.
We must forsake sin. All kinds of sins, worldly things which we can summarize into four words, fortune, fame, power, pleasure.
1. Fortune, money. The world system is driven by money; it feeds on materialism.
2. Fame. That is another word for popularity. Fame is the longing to be known, to be somebody in someone else’s eyes.
3. Power. This is having influence, maintaining control over individuals or groups or companies or whatever. It is the desire to manipulate and manoeuvre others to do something for one’s own benefit.
4. Pleasure. At its basic level, pleasure has to do with fulfilling one’s sensual desires.
C. In the race, our competition is not with other believers. Our competition is Satan and the world.
D. The Apostle Peter rightly wrote: 1 Peter 2:11 Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.

 
Illustration/Application: What Is Sin?
Anything that fails to conform to the law of God. Evil is a complex phenomenon in the Scriptures. The idea of sin is conveyed by a variety of expressions with meanings like missing the mark, rebelling, going astray, transgressing, stumbling, etc. Basically, “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4), referring to an inward attitude as well as to the breaking of written commandments. All people commit sin (1 Kings 8:56; Rom. 3:23). To deny that we have sinned is to make God a liar (1 John 1:10); all his dealings with humanity are on the basis that we are sinners. But the blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin (1 John 1:7)
The Shaw Pocket Bible Handbook, Walter A. Elwell, Editor, (Harold Shaw Publ., Wheaton, IL; 1984), p. 359

 
II. Let us run with patience (Heb. 12:1b)
A. The word patience here is also endurance. Webster defines it as continuance, a state of lasting or duration; lastingness. A bearing or suffering; a continuing under pain or distress without resistance, or without sinking or yielding to the pressure; sufferance; patience.
B. The idea is to bear up under a load. Our life ought to be marked by “perseverance and endurance.” We must have determination to stay in the race no matter what the circumstances are.
C. Our strength to run is not our own. Our strength comes from faith in Christ and the enabling power of the Holy Spirit.

 
Illustration/Application: Tears in The Night
In Western Africa, it was fourteen years before one convert was received into the church. In East Africa, ten; in New Zealand, nine years before one baptism and two more years before one communicant; in Tahiti, it was sixteen years before the first harvest.
William Carey labored seven years before the first Hindu convert was baptized. In Burma, Judson toiled for seven years before he had one. Once writing England:
“Beg the churches to have patience. If a ship were here to carry me to any part of the world, I would not leave my field. Tell the brethren success is as certain as the promise of a faithful God can make it.” Encyclopedia of 15,000 Illustrations: Signs of the Times.

 
III. Looking unto Jesus (Heb. 12:2)
A. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb. 12:2) We must focus on Jesus Christ during the entire course of the race. Looking unto Jesus describes an attitude of faith. It was looking to Him or putting our trust in Him that we are saved. We must never be distracted because:
1. He is the only Saviour
2. He is the author and finisher of our faith. From the start Jesus Christ will see us through. It’s all about Him! The word author means originator or preeminent
example. That means that the whole race, from start to finish is for Him. The
term “finisher” literally means “perfecter”. The idea here is carrying through to perfect completion.
3. We must look to Jesus as our model for faith and for our salvation. We are to look to his holy life; to his patience and perseverance in trials; to what he endured in order to obtain the crown, and to his final success and triumph. Our Lord endured far more than did any of the heroes of faith named in this chapter and therefore He is a perfect example for us to follow.
4. For the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, (Heb. 12:2b) Jesus succeeded in running the race by looking at “the joy set before Him”. The “joy” that inspired Him was likely that privilege of being seated at God’s right hand – (Psa. 16:9-11; Acts 2: 25-31). With the anticipation of such “joy”, Jesus… “endured the cross” (the physical pain), “despised the shame” (the emotional and spiritual agony). Just as Jesus looked at the joy set before Him, so we must look to Jesus! At the right hand of God, Jesus serves as our great High Priest. With Jesus there and ever serving to make intercession for me, I can run with patience.

 
IV. The Consideration (Heb. 12:3-4)
A. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. (Hebrews 12:3) The word consider comes from the Greek “analogizomai” and means to “estimate.” It carries the idea of calculation. As we run the race, we are to consider Christ who ran before us. We are to focus on Him, consider His sufferings and calculate His reward. He has finished His course and is now seated at the right hand of God. We too will sit down some day with Him.
B. In comparison, Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. (Heb. 12:4). Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ endured the cross! This involved shame, suffering, the “contradiction [opposition]” of sinners, and even temporary rejection by God the Father. On the cross He suffered for all the sins of all the world! Yet He endured and finished the work the Father gave Him to do (John 17:4). Though the readers of Hebrews had suffered persecution, they had not yet “resisted unto blood” (Heb. 12:4). None of them was yet a martyr. But in Jesus’ battle against sin, He shed His own blood.
C. We are reminded in this verse that our sufferings do not compare to the shame and punishment Christ endured in our place. We have not suffered near as much for our stand on behalf of Him as He did in standing for us. It has not cost us our blood to resist the onslaught of sin. I get tired of hearing folks whine about how much they had to give up to be a Christian. We need to keep in mind the terrible price Jesus Christ paid and we will realize that we have nothing to complain about.

 
V. Conclusion:
We must get rid of everything, good or things that are not necessarily sinful that hinders our spiritual progress. Forsake all known sins, run with perseverance, develop patience and endurance, most of all fix our eyes on our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, have faith on Him and always be dependent on Him. Will you do it my friend?

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