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Hebrews 12_1-3

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"RACE STRATEGY"

(A Message from Hebrews)

Westgate Chapel 1/12/97 a.m.                          Hebrews 12:1-3

PROPOSITION:  Set before us, intentionally by our sovereign God, is a race to be run with eternal consequences, ridding ourselves of every weight that would slow us down, running with great perseverance, and looking only at Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith.

i. introduction

-     THERE are different times in our lives when old chapters are closed and new chapters opened.

-     NEW years are one of those times...and we look back on what the Lord has done in our lives over the past 12 months...but we also look forward to what He has in store for us in 1997.

*     The elders and I talked and prayed together yesterday morning about what the Lord has in store for us in 1997.

*     Some of the subjects the Lord has quickened to their hearts are....

•     God restoring the gifts of His Spirit, ministries and resources in 1997.

•     A supernatural anointing on lives holy and pure before the Lord.

•     Persistence in time of travail and childbirth.

-     SO we close out 1996 and move into 1997 together as God’s family.

-     THE transition between Hebrews 11 and 12 is like that.

-     HEBREWS 11 closes with a wonderful role call of great men and women of God.

*     Abel.......and a love for God that caused him to give God the first and best of his livelihood.

*     Enoch.....who gave God the best of his day, to fellowship with God and hear from Him.

*     Abraham......who left home and family, to occupy a land that God promised to give him.

*     Sarah.......who believed God's promise of a son, even though her womb was closed in menopause.

*     Moses.....who left his titles and wealth behind in Egypt, in order to lead God's people out of bondage into the promised land.

*     Men and women who gave all that they had and all that they were, in order to inherit the promises of a God that they had never seen.

*     Men and women who, says Hebrews 11:33-34,

      "........through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies."

*     Men and women who,

      ".......were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.....who faced jeers and flogging, .......were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated-- the world was not worthy of them." (vv35-38)

-     IN all kinds of adversity, in victory and in defeat, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health, in life and in death....they ran the race, kept their faith, and finished the course.

-     HEBREWS 12:1 says that these men and women of faith, along with millions of others who have tenaciously  run the race before us, surround us as a great cloud of witnesses this morning.

-     GRANDPA Rowlands is in that cloud of witnesses. My Dad..in that cloud of witnesses. Rita's Grandpa and Grandma Newton. Soldiers of the Cross of Christ.

-     I HAVE always thought of these witnesses of Hebrews 12:1 as being in the grandstands, cheering us on, watching.

-     BUT I learned that the Greek word for "witnesses" means much more than spectators........it literally means "martyrs."

-     A MARTYR is one who lays down his life.

-     WE are surrounded by a cloud of martyrs who gave their lives for the One on whom they fixed their eyes while they were in the race.

-     EVEN though they are dead, like Abel, they are still speaking of the faithfulness of God and the prize of the upward call of Christ Jesus.

-     AND the testimony of their lives fill our ears and hearts as we take our turn in the race in our day.

-     THEY aren't spectators because they aren't looking at us. Even though their race is run, they are still looking at Jesus.

-     BUT they surround us and are speaking to us about the meaning of faith.

-     AND because of their lives, their perseverance, their trust in God, their faith.......here is what they say to us about the race. Three things about the strategy of the race that we are now in.

-     YOU see, they had their turn. Now it is yours and my turn to run the race of faith.

-     GRANDPA Rowlands ran his race. He led the men and women workers on his farm in Africa to the Lord. He treated them like children of God. He sold his farm and used all the proceeds to build the church for the Indians in Pietermaritzburg, where he pastored.......even though it meant that he had no retirement fund. He died of a stroke while still serving God faithfully.

-     MY father has given his life, willingly, joyfully, for the work of God's kingdom.

-     THAT chapter is over, closed.

-     NOW it is my turn.

-     THEY are not here. It is my turn to run the race.

-     YOU are here. It is your turn to run the race set before you.

ii. what we must be rid of

-     AND the first thing that is spoken to us by the testimony of this great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us is found in the middle of verse 1.

      "......let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles......"

-     IF we are going to run the race of faith in our generation and time, there are some things that we must be rid of as we step up to the starting blocks of the race.

-     RITA and I watched some of the Olympics, televised from Atlanta last summer.

-     SOME of the competition in the track and field events was incredible.

-     BUT as those contestants stepped up to the starting blocks, it was obvious that they had already eliminated anything that would slow them down in the race.

-     THOSE that used training weights in preparation, had left them back in the gym. Their hands were empty and their ankles free at the starting line.

-     THOSE who had come to the arena in sweat suits had peeled them off and were standing at the starting line in as little clothing as possible. In Paul's time, Greek contestants used to compete without any clothes on at all. Nothing was allowed that might slow them down.

-     THIS race is serious business.

-     THIS is no time to be taking the race of faith lightly.

-     THIS is not church we are talking about. It is not religion.

-     WE are talking about a race that will have eternal, life and death consequences.

-     THIS is not the time to be running in your trench coat.

-     CAN you imagine a marathon runner in the Olympics, showing up at the starting blocks with his London Fog trench coat on.

-     THE gun sounds, and off they go as they head out of the stadium.

-     AS he rounds the first corner, the wind starts flapping the trench coat against his legs.......and the shoulder pads start to bind across his back.

-     THEN, after a few blocks, just as he approaches his first hill of the race, the belt comes loose and flaps against his ankles.

-     IN one of the long strides, going up that steep hill, the belt twists around one ankle and pulls loose from the belt loop......and in just a few more strides wraps itself around his other ankle.....and trips him, leaving him scratched and bleeding as the other runners step over him and pass him by.

-     WHAT a foolish scene! But that is how many of us try to take our turn in the race of faith.....weighted down and entangled.

-     THE writer says,

      ".......let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles......."

-     COME on, child of God! The results of this race are eternal. Let's get serious about this race of faith.

-     YOU have been running with weights around your ankles and a trench coat on and you will never reach the finish line that way.

-     THROW them off! Throw off the weights and the sin that entangles you so easily.

-     YOU say, "O, Pastor, a little self indulgence won't hurt me."

*     Having a little beer or wine with my meals just relaxes me. I deserve that six pack after a long day at work. Add five pounds around your wrists.

*     Pastor, that Playboy magazine is only to add interest to our sex life at home.

*     At least we watch "R" rated movies in the privacy of our home, not the theater. Add five pounds to your running weight.

*     Pastor, that is not really gossip. It is just that people are always coming to me. At least it helps us know how to pray. Add ten pounds for the race.

*     Pastor, I am really sorry that our family is only in God's house occasionally. We would love to be there more, but we golf and sail in the summer, and ski in the winter.....and in the fall and spring we need our rest at our vacation home. Add five pounds to your running weight, and also to every member of your family.

*     This temper of mine is something that I inherited. It is because of my red hair. I am just naturally spirited and a fighter. Add the trench coat to your running attire.

*     I love the Lord, pastor, but I really believe that my time and my finances are my own to use as I choose. I don't have the time to take two weeks to go to Liberia, I've already got my motorhome reserved for vacation. Add five pound weights around your ankles.

-     THIS stuff is easy to preach. I don't have much trouble identifying your weights.

-     WHAT I have trouble with is seeing my own weights.

-     ISN'T that true for all of us.

-     WE can spot someone else's weights from a mile away....but we have a tough time seeing our own.

-     HOW do you find out what your weights are? Reuben Welch says in his commentary on Hebrews, that you find out what your weights are when you start running.

-     JUST get into the race, in earnest, and you will quickly find out where your weights are.

-     AND whatever they are, must be thrown aside.

-     GET rid of it. It will kill you, trying to run the race of faith that way.

iii. how we must run the race

-     NOW, the next point made by this cloud of witnesses concerns how we are to run the race.

-     THE last part of verse 1 reads,

      ".......and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us."

-     THE first thing that I would like you to see is that  there is a race marked out for you.

-     YOU are not just cruising through this life, aimlessly bumping from around like a ball in a pinball machine, bouncing from one crisis or problem to another, sometimes being flipped to the top of the heap, sometimes running out the bottom of the machine.

-     YOU are not in a holding pattern, just circling the field, never to land.

-     BY God's intentional design for your life, there is a race marked out for you. This verse says as much.

-     NOW this runs against the popular belief that if we could only have things differently than they are......then we could really serve the Lord.

*     If only I had more money, I could do what God wanted from me.

*     If only I had a more spiritual wife, or husband, then I could live for the Lord 100%.

*     If only my job was not so stressful, then I could be a better husband, and I could serve the Lord and be faithful in the ministries that I commit to.

*     If only I had more time, then I could be used of the Lord in His kingdom work.

*     If only I was a stronger individual, then I could do a better job resisting temptation.

*     If, if, if, if.........

-     HEY! God has put you were you are, and made you who you are, and has marked out the specific race for you to run.

-     THEY main point of this verse and the passage we are studying this morning is the verb......run. RUN!

-     RUN with perseverance!

-     DON'T struggle and strive.

-     BUT don't quit. Persevere!

-     YOU won't always feel great, content, happy, excited, joyful, on top of things.......but that is not the key of the life of faith. The key is to stay in the race.

-     IT is perfectly natural to feel down at times, to not feel like you have faith, to be winded......but that is part of racing.

-     EVERYONE is keyed up at the start of the Boston Marathon........but 20 minutes into the race you won't find that same type of excitement.

-     WATCH the faces of the pack of runners when they come to one of those long pulls. They are reaching way down inside for every step.

-     THEN I am told there are those times when runners get a second wind, and feel a rush of adrenaline. It is great to be in the race!

-     BUT it is important to know that we are not intended to feel GREEEEEAT all the time. It is not a sign of weakness to get winded at times in the race.

-     IT is unrealistic to think that if we were really spiritual, things would always be great. Satan will use that as an effective weapon against us.

-     WHAT is important is to keep in the race.

-     UP hills, down the other side, over the rocky terrain, when the road is smooth, into the head wind.

-     STAY in the race. It is not the 50 yard dash. It is the long haul that is important.

-     THIS is the emphasis of the whole passage. Persevere!

 

iv. where we must look in the race

-     HERE is the last point made by this cloud of witnesses. It is found in verses 2&3.

      "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

-     WHERE must we look as we run the race?

-     ON those who are around us who are in the race too?

-     ON the cloud of witnesses who did so well?

-     ON the pastors?

-     NO!

-     WE are all to fix our eyes on Jesus.

-     HE is our example of faithfulness.

-     HE endured the Cross. HE thought nothing of the shame. HE ran the race set before Him, and suffered the opposition of sinful men.......so that He could purchase our souls from sin and judgement.

-     WE must look away from others. People will let us down. They will disappoint you.  So you must look away from others.

-     WE must also look away from ourselves. Because we are often the ones who let others down, and disappoint others and ourselves.

-     WE are to purpose in our lives to look away from everyone and everything else and fix our eyes on Jesus.....the author and perfecter of our faith.

v. conclusion

-     THAT is the strategy for the race set before us.

*     Throwing off everything that hinders and sin that so easily entangles.

*     Running with perseverance the race set before us.

*     Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

-     LET'S get out of the grandstands saints.

-     TIME is running out, and we have a race to run and a finish line to cross.

-     THIS is not a week end jog-a-thon for the casual runner.

-     THIS is serious business.

-     SO serious that the apostle Paul said of himself in I Corinthians 9:24.

      "Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualifed for the prize."

-     AFTER all the years you have lived, after all the good that you have done, it would be terrible to have treated lightly, or casually the only race that will have eternal consequence and impact. That was Paul's concern.

-     IT must be ours too.

*     Get rid of every sin that entangles you this morning. No sin is of small consequence in this race.

*     Run with perseverence. Don't quit now.

*     Keep your eyes on Jesus. He is the only one who can keep you strong 'till the finish line.

 

 

 

 

 

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