Faithlife Sermons

Faith's Endurance Race (Heb 12:1-2)

Hebrews: Jesus is Better  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  42:43
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How do we endure in the struggle of the Christian life by faith? By keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus.

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Intro: Olympic athletes compete in grueling races and perform ridiculous stunts… and you think “never.” And you’re amazed at not just the physical prowess but also the level of hard work and discipline it must take to be at this level.
This text is so much fun to study and teach I can hardly contain myself. It inspires me to keep battling and keep running. When we get through grappling with the text and letting it grip us, I pray that you’re ready for the long, agonizing run… that you’re ready for battle.
READ text - Hebrews 12:1-2
Hebrews 12:1–2 ESV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Outline: (Given all these examples of faith, in ch. 11, our author now says) Let Us Run (main verb - main clause esp. in 1-2a) - everything else is subordinating clauses & phrases, even the other verbs (are participles) - So very rarely do we get a “how to” sermon out of the text, but that’s the case today.

How to run faith’s race:

[slide more compact than what I say below]
Pay attention to the Witnesses - we have their example as motivation and guidance
Be prepared by putting off hindrances (to run unencumbered) - weight and sin
Run with endurance - the race marked out for us (in which the author identifies himself with his listeners)
Fix our eyes on Jesus - (who is our confidence) bc of who he is, bc of how he ran and what he accomplished, and bc his victory is won (so we’re running for his victory in us and thru us) - He cleared the path of faith (made it), in the process giving us a model to follow, and has already secured his title as Lord of All.
He initiated and completed the way, the path of faith in himself - “Fixing our eyes on faith’s initiator and completer, Jesus.”
Giving us the supreme model of endurance to follow
Securing his victory, his exaltation
Let’s take it at the transition at the beginning of verse one, referencing…

Witnesses Who Went Before

Listen to Faith’s Witnesses

… as examples to motivate us - witnesses to the value and blessing of living by faith to the finish.
(these martys are) Not spectators but motivators/examples to follow
Alpine skiers radioing back up to their teammates
Their stories of God’s continued faithfulness and the ultimate effectiveness of their faith forms a crowd of motivators… cheering “Run hard after Jesus.”
God is faithful to his promises… I’m living proof, no wait… I’m now dead proof… but you get the point. - Endure in the struggle of the Christian life by faith.
Our author continues his metaphor by speaking of preparedness by way of laying aside…

Hindrances - Weight & Sin

Put off Hindrances

Laying aside every weight (physical weight and unnecessary baggage) and sin (that tangles you up and hems you in)
Runners aren’t supposed to carry extra weight
Original Greek athletes to today’s olympians
It takes active effort; and it can be hard.
Don’t give up the battle against the world’s values. Don’t take the law back off the shelf to encumber yourself. - Don’t act like the extra weight is no big deal. It’s a total waste of Spirit-empowered blessing and usefulness for the kingdom.
I’m telling you, this is so pertinent to believers in every era… our author is right on the money. (Well, he should be, bc the ultimate source, the real author is God the Holy Spirit. On the money should be our expectation.) But sometimes, right, it’s like “oh, that cuts me deep. That one hurts so good. Man, Jesus is blowing off some chaff and purifying out some dross. Wow, that’s on the money. - We have time to read the newspaper or check social media, but not enough time for 15 minutes of devoting our hearts to God in Bible reading and prayer with Him. We have a tendency to overcommit and oversell ourselves to work and recreational opportunities. For some we’ve got our kids in everything, for others we spend an inordinate amount of time with video games and netflix, etc. [maybe repeat previous “don’t give up...”?]
What legalism looks like for us: the weight of “performance” —remember these are not witnesses to watch and be judging you to see if you fail! —these are witnesses saying, we kept our faith in God, so can you. - So sure you can and should work on your technique and mature as a runner, but be careful not to let performance become a weight. Rather, run hard after Jesus and learn from Jesus. Again, you most definitely need to be growing in imitating Jesus and putting to death the old self… holiness is a real call… absolutely! But don’t get the law off the shelf like it’s a measuring stick, and compare yourself to the other runners, etc. Keep your eyes on Jesus!) - I’m telling you, this can be a real problem for us. And it’s a tough balance to strive for holiness without burdening yourself with unnecessary weight. KEEP all your growth, your efforts, and your desires within the context of relationship to Jesus. relationship, relationship, relationship
[And] Don’t give up in the fight against sin. Stay in the ring. The knockout blow against sin has already been delivered. You need to lean on Christ’s resurrection strength to stay on your feet, or to get back up. Sin is going to keep attacking. Keep your guard up and evade that nonsense.
Don’t let Satan at your weak spots, man. Preventative measures, preventative measures, preventative measures.
And now when we come to the main verb, as we said, “let us run,” there are a couple of important qualifiers: Running with endurance and running the race that God has set before us.

Endurance Race

Run with Endurance

The Christian life is a marathon rather than a sprint. - Heb. 10:36
Hebrews 10:36 ESV
For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
The witnesses of faith confirm… it’s a marathon.
When does the race end? If you aren’t dead, you aren’t done.
Krueger’s race at this olympics. Headline: Norway's Krueger overcomes crash to win gold in men's 30km skiathlon.
Announcer in Krueger’s race: “sometimes a little bit of adversity goes a long way with motivation” - That may be true, but the fact is, we don’t normally face just a little adversity. (steep hills, wide swamps - not to mention some self-sabotage in sin) - With that being the case, we need to trust the one who is sovereign over...
The race marked out for us
The race (agōn - contest/struggle) marked out (set before) for us - With God sovereignly setting the details of the course… Keep faith in Jesus
Thankfully the difficulty of the path is not all the believer sees. - Your eyes will tell the story. (your focus)
Krueger: "I was completely last in the group," Krueger said, "so I had to start the race again and switch focus to catch up with the guys. When I did it, I was (saying to myself), 'OK, take one lap, two laps, three laps and just get into it again.”
What must be our focus to endure?

Focus Fixed on Jesus

Fix Your Eyes on Jesus

The witnesses persevered in faith by looking forward to Jesus coming; we have now received his promised fulfillment, so we run after our author and perfecter to reach the completion of our hope.
Faith’s author and perfecter
(Gk archēgos can mean both that) Jesus is the author (originator), and/or that he is the trailblazer/captain/pioneer leader
Perfecter/finisher - He not only finished the course perfectly and shows us how to finish well, but he perfected the path of faith in Him and also will bring our salvation to completion:
The Pillar New Testament Commentary: The Letter to the Hebrews C. Let Us Run the Race with Endurance, Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus, 12:1–2

By the single offering of himself to God, Christ was perfected through suffering and obtained perfection for all who believe in and obey him (2:10; 5:9; 7:28; 9:14; 10:5–10, 14).

Hebrews 2:10 ESV
For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.
Hebrews 10:14 ESV
For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
Philippians 1:6 ESV
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Secondly, we learn from Jesus as the supreme example of faithful endurance…
Our supreme example
even to death on a cross... staying focused on the joy ahead rather than on the temporary suffering and shame.
In fact, it says here that he despised/scorned the shame… meaning he placed little value in the world’s version of what the cross meant. He knew the cross was the path to victory, so he faced even that with joy… because he knew the end result was his exaltation to the right hand of God. (again alluding to Psalm 110:1)
Exalted champion
So Jesus’ focus was on the joy of exaltation, of accomplishing the Father’s will, which leads to glory for the triune God.
Again, what we know and keep clear focus on is that the winner of this race, this battle, this contest… is Jesus, and he has gone before you. In fact, he has already triumphed and is exalted. That’s why it says he’s seated at the right hand, in the place of authority and majesty. - But it’s not like, if he has already won, what am I struggling for? No, you’re on his team now, and you rejoice to see him win. Even in and through your own life. Through faith you belong to God, and if that’s the case, then you know that his winning means we reap his reward together with him!
So you can’t see every hurdle in this struggle before it comes, but you can see Jesus on ahead at the finish line. (And you don’t know when this struggle will end, but you do know who promises to be with you TO the end.)
[fight for contentment; fight for joy]
Remember, “I am going to where my savior is, seated in majesty.” - The joy set before Jesus was exaltation to the Father’s right hand. Our joy is reaching Jesus!
‘Well done, good and faithful servant. […] Enter into the joy of your master.’ (from parable in Mt 25:23)
[Before I conclude…] A few corresponding applications I don’t want us to miss (to hopefully go with the other implications you are finding in the text for your life):
1. Take time to “rest” in order to maintain undistracted attention fixed on Jesus. You need to give yourself a break from some weights that might even be good but aren’t BEST in order to pursue Jesus with your whole heart… to love the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength. (which makes me think too… next point)
2. Remember your co-runners, co-laborers, co-fighters. Love your neighbor as yourself. Consider one another above yourselves, looking not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. one another one another one another. (You might even realize that you need the challenge from other believers, and that God can use you to be an encouragement/comfort to them. But are you investing in running alongside them? It’s hard to have deep fellowship with people you don’t know.)
3. Also speaking of the fact that some of us have the privilege to run together as teammates, it’s helpful and important to note how this endurance race isn’t a competition with other runners. Triumphant running isn’t about coming in first, but about whose you are and by whose strength and method you run. The goal is to run well to the finish. - To whom do you belong, and do you run in your effort, your way... or by his effort, his way?
[conclude] How do we endure in the struggle of the Christian life by faith?
We stay attentive to examples who have gone on before us, who testify to value of faith and the blessing of living by faith to the finish.
We strip ourselves of burdensome weights—the world’s values and religion as a system—and put off our sin that wants to hem us in and tangle us up...
(So that) We will run with endurance the race God sovereignly places before us
And we do it especially by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus (who proved himself to be…*)
Jesus is *the way of faith, the how of faith, and the why of faith. - He is the author and perfecter, the supreme example/leader for us to follow in endurance, and WHY/the motivation for continued perseverance is his glory and receiving him at the finish line.
[So] Who willingly and joyfully engages in a long, agonizing race? The person who has been made alive to God, the person who has the heart and mind of Christ.
From Hebrews 12:1-2, you know what to aim for, pray for, strive for, and long for—run to Jesus, in Jesus, like Jesus, for Jesus.
Many have finished their leg of the race when their bodies gave out (having gone before us in death).... But Christ has led the way! So you’re still running. And Jesus is there as the trailblazer and the finisher of your faith. - If you’re on a long and steep uphill section, He’s saying, “I know you’re tired. I know you think you can’t do it. But I’m here, and I can do it. Let me help you.” And if you are coasting a bit on a downhill slope, it’s probably more treacherous than you realize, and you need God’s warning: “Don’t be thinking you’ve got this in your strength. Don’t be carrying burdens you shouldn’t. Don’t be complacent about how dangerous your sin is.” Actually, if you’re fighting to follow Jesus like our text describes, I don’t know why it would ever seem like you’re coasting, honestly. Some hills may be easier than others, but laying aside legalism and worldliness and fighting sin to gain holiness, and having eyes only for our first love Jesus.... There’s no coasting—only joyful, Spirit-empowered, character-building running after Jesus.
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