Let Us Run

Posted by on Feb 3, 2008

By Pastor Mike Withem

First Baptist Church of Ranson, WV

February 3, 2008

Sunday Morning

 

“Let Us Run”

 

Scripture Text: Hebrews 12:1-2

Introduction:

 

A.   If you’ve studied your Bible much at all, you know that the Word of God contains a number of allegories (symbolic representations) of the Christian life.

1. For example, the Bible compares the Christian life to a war or a warfare.

2. One example of this is Paul’s admonition to the young preacher, Timothy, in 2 Tim. 2:3-4, which says, “Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ….No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.”

3. Another example is Eph. 6:11, where Paul admonished the believers in Ephesus to “put on the whole armour of God.”

4. Why does Paul compare the Christian life to a war?

5. He answers this question in Eph. 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”

6. We, as believers, are definitely involved in a warfare, howbeit it is a spiritual warfare.

 

B.   Let me show you another Biblical allegory of the Christian life.

1. Not only does the Bible compare the Christian life to a war (warfare), it also compares the Christian life to a pilgrimage.

2. Look back at Heb. 11:13 for just a moment, “These all died in faith (meaning Abraham and Sarah), not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

3. The apostle Peter put it like this in 1 Pet. 2:11, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul.”

4. Why does the Bible compare the Christian life to a pilgrimage?

5. Simply because that is what it is, a pilgrimage, a very long and sometimes arduous journey with heaven as our destination.

6. (Illus.- In the year 1678, an English writer and preacher by the name of John Bunyan published a work entitled, “Pilgrim’s Progress,” which is an allegory about the journey of the main character, a man named “Christian.” Christian begins his journey from the City of Destruction, where he was born, all the way to the celestial Kingdom of Heaven. Along the way, he encounters a variety of characters, as well as many trials and tribulations which threaten to put an end to his pilgrimage. If you have ever read “Pilgrim’s Progress,” you know that it is a very accurate depiction of the Christian life, which is, indeed, a pilgrimage.)

7. And so, the Word of God contains a number of allegories (symbolic representations) of the Christian life.

 

C.   In our text, this morning, we find yet another of these allegories of the Christian life.

1. As we examine our text more closely, there are three things to which I want to call your attention.

2.  First of all, I want to call your attention to an…

 

 

I.       Event.

 

A.   What event am I talking about?

1. I’m talking about a sporting event, but not just any sporting event.

2. I’m talking about a race.

3. Why am I talking about a race?

4. I’m talking about a race because in our text, this morning, the writer of Hebrews compares the Christian life to a race.

5. Notice again Vrs. 1, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

 

B.   Now this raises a question.

1. What does the Christian life have in common with a race?

2. Well, think about it for a moment.

3. What are the elements of a race?

4. First of all, you have runners.

5. Who are the runners in the Christian life?

6. We are, those of us who have trusted Jesus Christ as our personal Savior (we are all runners in this race).

7. Now I may be speaking to someone this morning who is not saved (never trusted Jesus).

8. If so, you are not even in the race.

9. But those of us who are saved, we are the runners.

 

C.   Not only do you have runners in a race, but you also have a course, a course that the runners follow.

1. I don’t know whether you realize this or not, but the same thing is true in the Christian life.

2. God has given each of us a course to follow, a specific plan for our lives.

 

 

3. This is what Paul was talking about in 2 Tim. 4:6-7, when he wrote, “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand….I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:”

4. Not only had Paul run his course (race), he had also finished his course (race).

5. And so, you not only have runners in this Christian race, you also have a course.

 

D.   Last of all, there is a prize.

1. Some run for a ribbon, others run for a trophy, still others run for the gold, but in each case, they are running for a prize.

2. The same thing is true in the Christian life.

3. Listen to what Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 9:24, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.”

4. Paul put it like this in Phil. 3:14, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”

5. Now let me make something very clear.

6. The prize for which we, as believers, are running is not heaven.

7. Heaven is not a prize.

9. Heaven is not a reward.

10.   Heaven is not something that we can earn.

11.   Heaven is a gift, paid for in full by with the precious blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

12.   The Bible says in Rom. 9:16, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.”

13.   And so, the price for which we are running is not heaven.

 

E.   What then is the prize?

1. The prize is the crown (rewards) that will be given to believers at the Judgement Seat of Christ.

 

2. I quoted 2 Tim. 4:7 a moment ago, where Paul wrote, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:”

3. Now listen to what he wrote in the very next verse, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.” (2 Tim. 4:8)

4. That’s the prize for which, as believers, are running.

5. Not heaven, but rather rewards that we will be able to enjoy when we get to heaven.

 

F.    And so, the Christian life is like a race.

1. You have runners (believers).

2. You have a course (God’s plan).

3. You have a prize (rewards in heaven).

 

G.   But let me point out something very important.

1. When I say that the Christian life is like a race, I’m not talking about a 50 yard dash.

2. But rather, the Christian life is more like a marathon.

3.That’s why the writer of Hebrews admonishes his readers to “ run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Vrs. 1)

4. The word “patience” here is translated from a Greek word that literally means “endurance,” or a steady determination to keep on going.

5. It means to continue running, even when everything within you wants to give up or quit.

6. (Illus.- I’ve never been a runner of any kind. However, I’m told that long distance runners, especially marathon runners, when they run a race, usually reach a point in the race when every muscle in their bodies are crying out, “Stop! Stop!” I heard one runner refer to this as “hitting the wall.” A good runner, however, doesn’t quit, but rather forces his body to keep running. This is called endurance.)

 

7. This is how we, as believers, should live the Christian life.

8. Because the Christian life is sometimes difficult and filled with obstacles, we will be tempted to quit.

9. However, we must not quit.

10.   We must endure.

11.   We must keep running.

12.   We must finish the race, that is if we hope to win the prize (receive rewards at the Judgment Seat of Christ).

 

H.   Now I want to call your attention to the…

 

II.      Encumbrances.

 

A.   You know, one of the greatest concerns that runners have is their weight.

1. (Illus.- Several years ago a man who had won a gold medal for the 100 meter run came to the United States for an invitational track meet. However, when he ran the preliminary heat, he did not even quality. In an interview afterwards, he said the reason he did not qualify was because he was overweight. Since winning the gold, he had trained too little and had eaten too much. While he had not gained a great deal of weight, it was enough to keep him from qualifying.)

2. This is also true of us, as believers, excess weight can be a problem.

3. This is why the writer of Hebrews admonishes us in Vrs. 1 of our text to “lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.”

 

B.   For example, unconfessed sin in our lives will weight us down and be a hindrance to living the Christian life.

1. Why is this true?

2. It’s true because unconfessed sin hurts (hinders) our fellowship with God.

3. Let me give you just one example.

4. The psalmist wrote in Psa. 66:18, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me:”

5. Can you imagine trying to live the Christian life, when God has shut his ears to our prayers (cries for help)?

6. There are so many times, as I live my Christian life, that I encounter situations that I don’t know how to handle.

7. When that happens, I have no other choice but to pray (call out to God for His wisdom and for His help).

8. However, if God is not hearing my prayers, then I get no help at all.

9. And so, unconfessed sin in the life of a believer will greatly hinder him when it comes to living the Christian life.

10.   What can we do about this?

11.   The answer is found in 1 John 1:9, which says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

12.   The one prayer that God will always hear, no matter what, is the prayer for forgiveness (providing it is sincere).

13.   Once God forgives us, our fellowship with Him is restored.

 

C.   Not only will unconfessed sin be a hindrance to living the Christian life, but there are other things that can weight us down, that are not sinful in themselves.

1. (Illus.- Let me give you an example. I knew a pastor once who loved to fish. I say he loved to fish, but it would probably be more accurate to say that he was obsessed with fishing. Every spare moment of his life was occupied with fishing, and when he wasn’t fishing, he was thinking about fishing. He even named his bass boat “visitation,” so that when someone called for him at the church, his secretary could say that he was “out on visitation.”)

2. But someone says, “What’s wrong with fishing? Is it a sin to go fishing?”

 

3. Of course not, fishing is one of the most wholesome hobbies that a person can have (there’s nothing sinful about fishing).

4. However, if someone is obsessed with fishing to the point that it interferes with the performance of his God given duties as a Christian, it definitely becomes a weight that can hinder one’s Christian life.

5. The fact is, there are lots of things that, in and of themselves, are not sinful, but can easily become hindrances to living the Christian life.

6. If we are going to win the prize, we must lay these weights aside as well.

 

D.   Last of all, this morning, I want to call your attention to the…

 

III.    Example.

 

A.   You know, every young athlete has a hero, some great athlete to whom he looks as an example (roll model).

1. (Illus.- As you know, I’m sure, there is going to be a ball game this evening, I believe it’s called the “Super Bowl.” One of the teams, the New England Patriots, is undefeated and is favored to win the game. The quarterback for the Patriots is a fellow named Tom Brady. While I don’t know what kind a person Tom Brady is, other than the fact he is an extremely talented quarterback, I do know that there are boys and young men who, as far as the game of football is concerned, look to him as an example or a roll model.)

2. Every sport has it’s heros, whether it be Tom Brady, or Cal Ripkin, or Michael Jordan, or Tiger Woods, or Dale Earnhart, or someone else.

 

B.   One of the wonderful things about being a Christian is that we have a hero too!

1. We have a role model, an example to follow.

2. Who is our example?

3. Notice again Vrs. 2 of our text, “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.”

4. Our example is none other than Jesus Himself.

 

C.   First of all, Jesus is our example when it comes to how to live the Christian life.

1. The Bible says in 1 Pet. 2:21, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps:”

2. Not only is Jesus an example of how to live, He is also an example when it comes to “patience” or endurance.

3. What did Jesus endure?

4. Our text tells us that He “endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Vrs. 2)

5. Did you realize that at any point in Jesus’ life, right up to that moment when He spoke the words, “it is finished,” Jesus could have called it quits? (John 19:30)

6. Do you remember what Jesus told Peter when they came to arrest Him and Peter drew his sword?

7. He said, “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?” (Mat. 26:53)

8. In other words, “Peter, don’t you realize that if I didn’t want to do this, I could put a stop to it without your help?”

9. But He didn’t!

10.   He “endured the cross,” and we should be extremely thankful that He did!

 

D.   And so, in Christ, we have an example.

1. An example of how to live the Christian life.

2. An example of how to endure (keep on going).

Conclusion:

 

A.   As I prepare to close, this morning, I want to ask you a few questions.

1. First of all, are you in the race (are you saved)?

2. Secondly, are you trying to run the race with weights around your ankles (unconfessed sin, other hindrances)?

3. Finally, are you looking to Jesus (following His example)?

 

B.   Perhaps I’m speaking to someone this morning who has been running the race, but you have grown so weary that you are seriously considering quitting before the finish line?

1. Before you quit, ask yourself this question, “Where would I be, if Jesus had quit on me?”

2. If you won’t stay in the race for the price, will you do it for Jesus?