The Great Race
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Hebrews 12:1-4 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
This morning as I was praying about what to say in my blog this portion of Scripture came to mind. It's placement in Hebrews chapter 12 comes after we see in chapter 11 all those who have gone before us that God has placed in His “hall of faith”. They are the ones who stood steadfastly in faith believing for all kinds of promises that God had made to them. Some of them received those promises in their lifetimes and some didn't, but the testimony is still the same; they stood in faith believing to the end!
The ultimate example of a life of faith is that of Jesus, who the Bible records, is the author and finisher of our faith. It is by looking at His faith-filled life that we can stand in faith believing even when we don't see the natural manifestation of that for which we are believing.
The Word says that in order for us to run this race of faith there are several things that we must do:
1) Lay aside every weight – what is it that is weighing you down today? What load are you carrying that is too heavy for you to bear? In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus commands us not to worry! Worry chokes the word of God from bearing fruit in our lives; it places what we are worrying about above God and the thing that we are actually worrying about becomes a god to us. It carries a higher place in our lives than the Lord because it becomes our focus. We need to lay those things on Jesus; He is our burden bearer.
2) And the sin which so easily ensnares us – sin breaks our fellowship with the Father. But it's very easy to get rid of. 1 John 1:9 says: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. To confess simply means “to agree with”, so when we confess our sins to God we are agreeing with Him that it is wrong and we understand that we are in the wrong by holding on to them. The promise is that when we confess He forgives and cleanses us. Why do we continue to hang onto those things that are sin in our lives when forgiveness and cleansing is so readily available? With the forgiveness and cleansing comes the help that we need to overcome. He is just waiting for us to agree with Him and turn from those things that are placing a wedge between us and Him. Release your sin to God today and experience the forgiveness and cleansing that you need to walk before Him unashamedly. All of us have made mistakes, wrong choices in life. We are all forgiven, but that forgiveness does not apply to our lives until we confess the sin and receive the forgiveness. It is our choice.
3) Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us - how many times have you felt like you weren't going to make it through whatever it is that you are experiencing? We have need of endurance in order to make it to the end. Hebrews 10:35-36 says: “Therefore do not cast away your confidence which has great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” That word for endurance means constancy, perseverance, continuance, bearing up, steadfastness, holding out, patient endurance. It describes the capacity to continue to bear up under difficult circumstances, not with a passive complacency, but with a hopeful fortitude that actively resists weariness and defeat. Are you enduring by holding on to shoestring, or are you enduring the Biblical way by actively resisting weariness and defeat with a hopeful fortitude? I get the picture in my mind of the poster of the little kitten timidly holding on to the rope with a frightened look on its face and the caption that says, “If I can just hold on to the end”. That's not the way we are to run our race with endurance! We run actively resisting weariness and defeat with an attitude that says that we know we are going to make it because our God is with us, strengthening us and enabling us to win! He is bigger than our problems and the victory is in sight! The battle is already won! That's endurance!
Now, you may be saying, “but it's impossible to run the race of faith like that”! I can't do it! And you're right; it is impossible in and of ourselves to run the race of faith without falling or having thoughts of defeat and discouragement that cause us to stumble and at times, fall. But the key to running this race successfully is found in verse 2: looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith! He is the One who enables us to succeed! Our focus has to be on Him. When we take our focus off of Jesus we will sink, just as Peter when he walked on the water. But if we look unto Jesus our faith will be built up; we have the perfect example to follow. Here are the keys that Jesus used to win:
1) Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross – Jesus looked not at the shame or pain of going to the cross, but at the joy of winning; the joy of paying the price for all mankind to be forgiven of their sins. Jesus kept His focus on the goal; the prize; the joy of what laid beyond the pain and suffering of the cross. He set His face like flint! (Isaiah 50:7; Luke 9:51) In Matthew 26:41 He gives us a key to success: “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Are you watching out for the temptations that could come your way? Are you praying before you get to the temptations so you will be prepared when they come? Are you looking at the victory? Are you focusing on the joy of winning? Does the victory carry more weight for you than the pleasures that only last for a season? Where is your focus?
2) For consider Him – lest you become weary and discouraged. We can always look at what Jesus endured for us and see that what we experience on a daily basis running our race doesn't compare in any way, shape or form to what He had to go through. Our difficulties in life are nothing compared to His suffering on our behalf. He endured to the death! We have all strength available to us to win! He resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. We are spoiled and pampered to the point of thinking we can't make it, but we can!
What is holding you back this morning from running your race and winning? Is it the temptation to eat to cover up your emotions; to comfort you when you are depressed? Do you need to resist the temptation to sit on the couch all day in front of the TV? Get up, folks, let's get motivated to do what is right for our lives; let's move; let's make healthy life choices! Let's see ourselves as the victors that Jesus has made us! He is the commander in chief of the army of God and we are in His army! Let's move out as bold, confident winners! Let's run our race with the victory in sight! In Hebrews 11:26 it is recorded that Moses won his race of faith by looking to the reward. Are you looking to the reward, or succumbing to the temptation?
Father, this morning I am thankful that You have made the way for me to win in my race of faith! Thank You, Lord, for securing the victory for me. I know that I can run my race with endurance by looking unto You, Lord Jesus, for You are the author and finisher of my faith. You are the One who put faith in me to begin with and You are finishing it as I yield to You and follow Your directions. Thank You for making me more than a conqueror in You. Father, I pray for my Spark Friends this morning, that You would encourage them to continue running their race with the goal in sight of winning. Father, I pray that You will build them up in faith and fill them with the vision of the goal at the end of the race. Give them the stamina to continue making the right choices that leads to the victory. Thank You, Father, for giving them strength to run! Please help them to lay aside the things that are holding them back, to confess their sins to You and receive Your forgiveness and cleansing. Thank You, Lord, for holding them in the palm of Your hand. Thank You for giving them the victory! In Jesus name I pray. Amen.