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The Great Race

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! Text: Hebrews 12:1-3


While it takes a great deal of training to run an Olympic race, we are engaged in a race of far greater importance.

I.                  In Running the Great Race, We Must Key Into the Requirements of Training.

- Participants must meet strict requirements.

A.    Getting rid of dead weight

***  In Jules Verne's novel The Mysterious Island, he tells of five men who escape a Civil War prison camp by hijacking a hot air balloon.  As they rise into the air, they realize the wind is carrying them over the ocean.  Watching their homeland disappear on the horizon, they wonder how much longer the balloon can stay aloft.

   As the hours pass and the surface of the ocean draws closer, the men decide they must cast overboard some of the weight, for they had no way to heat the air in the balloon.  Shoes, overcoats, and weapons are reluctantly discarded, and the uncomfortable aviators feel their balloon rise.  But only temporarily.  Soon they find themselves dangerously close to the waves again, so they toss their food.  Better to be high and hungry than drown on a full belly!

   Unfortunately, this, too, is only a temporary solution, and the craft again threatens to lower the men into the sea.  One man has an idea:  they can tie the ropes that hold the passenger car and sit on those ropes.  Then they can cut away the basket beneath them.  As they sever the very thing they had been standing on, it drops into the ocean, and the balloon rises.  Not a minute too soon, they spot land.

   Eager to stand on terra firma again, the five jump into the water and swim to the island.  They live, spared because they were able to discern the difference between what really was needed and what was not.  The "necessities" they once thought they couldn't live without were the very weights that almost cost them their lives.  The writer to the Hebrews says, "Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles" (Heb. 12:1, NIV).

1.      Entanglements of life

-          might be innocent in and of themselves.

2.      Enticements of sin

-          Throw off (aorist puts this act in the past)

B.     Gaining confidence from others

1.      A clear course

-          a map laid out for you

2.      A completed course

- its been done before

II.               In Running the Great Race, We Must Key Into the Recommendations for Running.

- a concentrated focus from start to finish.

***  On day six of the ill-fated mission of Apollo 13, the astronauts needed to make a critical course correction. If they failed, they might never return to Earth.

   To conserve power, they shut down the onboard computer that steered the craft. Yet the astronauts needed to conduct a thirty-nine-second burn of the main engines. How to steer? Astronaut Jim Lovell determined that if they could keep a fixed point in space in view through their tiny window, they could steer the craft manually. That focal point turned out to be their destination--Earth.

   As shown in 1995's hit movie, Apollo 13, for thirty-nine agonizing seconds, Lovell focused on keeping the earth in view. By not losing sight of that reference point, the three astronauts avoided disaster.

   Scripture reminds us that to finish your life mission successfully, "Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Heb. 12:2).

   -- Stephen Nordbye in Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.

A.    Keeping our eyes fixed on Christ

1.      The drive behind our faith

-          The author, the beginning, the start and reason for our faith.

2.      The one who completes our faith

-          both presently helping us complete our faith, and having completed our faith.

B.     Considering the obstacles

1.      External obstacles

-          sinful men

2.      Internal Obstacles

-          Weariness and loss of heart

III.           In Running the Great Race, We Must Key Into the Rewards of Winning.

- Every prize must be worth the running.


A.    Eternal Joy

1.      Outweighs temporal pain

-          no pain as bad as the joy will be great

2.      Outweighs temporal embarrassment

-          no embarrassment as bad as joy will be great

B.     Eternal Life

1.      A life worth dying for

-          Give up your life to keep it.

*** When Jesus said, "if you are going to follow me, you have to take up a cross," it was the same as saying, "Come and bring your electric chair with you.  Take up the gas chamber and follow me."  He did not have a beautiful gold cross in mind--the cross on a church steeple or on the front of your Bible.  Jesus had in mind a place of execution.

   -- Billy Graham in "The Offense of the Cross" (from Great Sermons on Christ, Wilbur M. Smith, ed.).  Christianity Today, Vol. 36, no. 12.

2.      A prize worth winning

-          Crown of life (Rev. 2:10)

-          In the winners circle


    Both the cost of failure and the prize for victory are great. This is one race we cannot afford to lose.

    Many others have run the race and completed the course. We too can run the race as they have, and we can gain confidence from a well mapped out course and a champion who both gives us strength to live the life of faith day by day, and who stands beyond the finish line beckoning. That champion is Jesus.

    Let us get set for the race by laying aside our sins and burdens that hinder our running, that we may run with our focus on Christ that we may join Him at the winners circle with garlands of joy for all eternity.

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