Running the race – Hebrews 11.29-12.2

Here are the notes from my sermon this morning.

blessings, Rebecca

Introduction

Olympics
– how many of you are enjoying the Olympics and other sporting events this summer
– truly amazing what physical feats human beings can achieve
– extraordinary levels of commitment prepared to show so that they can become the fastest – the strongest – the best in their chosen field
– inspiring lengths they will go to that they can aim for a gold medal

Top athletes
– made great sacrifices – given up everything that will get in the way of them doing their best
– are completely focussed on their goal of winning

Appropriate that our reading from Hebrews this week comes at this time of year – sporting metaphor – writer has marathons in mind:

‘let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith’

So what is he saying it takes for us to live a Christian life?

  1. lay aside every weight

    Ancient Olympians competed in the nude

  • laid aside garment before began
  • Wimbledon – remove jacket before start play
  • not want to be hindered or let anything get in the way of what doing

    David one of great cloud of witnesses writer to Hebrews include in his list of heroes of the faith

  • when went to face the giant Goliath
  • King Saul lent him his armour
  • David put it all on inc sword but so weighed down he couldn’t move
  • laid it all aside and faced the great enemy of Israel with his shepherd’s staff, bag and sling
  • killed the giant who defied God with a stone from his sling

    if going to run a marathon, don’t carry heavy rucksack – don’t want to be weighed down by unnecessary baggage

    if going to live fruitful Christian lives we need to lay aside all the things that hinder us from

  • doing God’s will
  • becoming more like Christ

    top athletes are ruthless about their diet and training regimes and refuse to compromise on them – they make the tough choices most of us are unwilling to make we need to do that too

  • choice about how they spend their time
  • choices about what they read and watch so that they can become mentally stronger
  • choices about the people they surround themselves with
  • have to be intentional in every area of their lives if they are going to have a chance of winning the gold medal
  • make those choices because they believe the sacrifices are worth it
  • make those choices because they want to win

    We need to make choices too – be more intentional about how we live our lives – discard things that hold us back and leave them behind e.g.

  • unhelpful use of time e.g. too much time on social media which not only wastes time but makes us dissatisfied with our lives
  • unhelpful things we read and watch e.g novels and films which glorify or normalise lifestyles that are not godly
  • even some relationships which may be unhelpful and we need to put to one side
  • most of all need to abandon sin
  • sin is thinking we know better than God
  • sin is seeking to be in control rather than trusting God
  • sin is all the ways big and small we stray from God’s path
  • need to leave these behind if we are to win the race set before us otherwise be weighed down by excess baggage and get sidetracked along the way
  1. run race set before us

    people lining up to run a marathon do not get to choose the route

  • sometimes route well established e.g London Marathon
  • sometimes a new one – Olympics
  • either way, have to run route they are given if they are to have a chance of winning

    Red Sea

  • when Israelites were rescued from Egypt couldn’t choose the route
  • had to go between waters of the Red Sea on path God had provided
  • had to follow where Moses led or be drowned as the Egyptians were

    all running same race – to become more like Jesus

  • exact route be different for each of us
  • Moses’ race took him through Red Sea
  • Joshua’s took him 7 times around the heavily fortified city of Jericho
  • Samson’s race was a lonely one
  • Gideon ran with others
  • important thing is that we run the race set before us and follow the path God called us on
  1. focus on Jesus

    marathon runners need to make it right to the end of the 26.2 mile route if they are to have a chance of winning

  • have to persevere
  • have to continue even when their body is crying out for rest
  • watch top athletes competing
  • their eye is fixed on the winning line
  • their mind is focussed on the prize

    we will only persevere in our Christian lives if we keep our eyes on Jesus

  • Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith we heard
  • can be encouraged by the lives of people who have run the race before us
  • why the author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes about how men and women of the OT persevered in their faith
  • reminds us how they put their faith in God and remained faithful even when things were strange or difficult
  • Samuel anointed the youngest son of Jesse to be king instead of Saul because God told him too
  • David not the obvious choice and Saul not pleased but did it anyway

    last week – ‘faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen’

  • true faith is about trust and confidence
  • confidence in who God is
  • trust that he is willing and able to keep his promises
  • we have eg of the great cloud of witnesses to encourage us and help us to see what it looks like to live lives of faith but even more than that we have the example of Jesus

    Jesus is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith – what does this mean?

    he is the pioneer of our faith

  • Jesus shows us what it looks like to live a perfect life of faith
  • OT examples are great but these were real human beings with flaws like us
  • Rahab was a prostitute
  • Jephthah was an outlaw
  • David was an adulterer who ordered the murder of an innocent man
  • Jesus did not sin – ever – he is the example of what it looks like to persevere in a life of faith in good times and in bad
  • in the Garden of Gethsemane he was full of anguish about what was about to happen to him but he prayed ‘Your Will be done’ and went to the cross.

    Jesus is the ultimate example but he is also the perfecter of our faith

  • J not only inspires us but because of his life and death we can lay aside sin
  • J conquered sin so that it is no longer in charge of us and enables us to be filled with the HS so that we will not only want to live lives of faith but have the strength to do so
  • because J is sitting at the RH of God we can call God our father.
  • because J is sitting at the right hand of the throne of God we can be confident that God keeps his promises
  • because J is sitting at the RH of God we can know he is praying for us
  • because J is sitting at the RH of God we know what our destination is
  • because J lived a faithful life we can have the joy of knowing him in this life and spending eternity with him in the next.
  • Jesus gives us the strength to finish the race set before us

Conclusion

It is highly unlikely that any of us will win an Olympic Gold medal. However, we can all win the prize of eternal life with Christ. If we are to do so we need to choose to live lives of faith. We need to choose to lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely. We need to choose to run with perseverance the race that is set before us. We need to choose to fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Only then will we wear the victor’s crown. So as we enjoy the Olympics and see amazing athletes at work, let us take the opportunity to examine our lives and see what choices we are making and recommit to running the race that really matters.

 

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