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August 2, 2013

Text:  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and sin which  clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of  God.”  Hebrews 12:1-2

Twenty six miles and 385 yards. That is the distance of a Marathon. In 490 B.C. Pheidippides  ran that distance from the battle at Marathon to the city of Athens to announce the Athenian victory. Entering the city, he shouted, “We won”, and fell dead. This event became a part of the modern Olympics in 1896. There are more than 500 marathons run in the world each year.

The writer of Hebrews had such a race in mind as he penned our text. He knew it was a long grueling race that pushed one’s physical and mental resources to the limit.  Of the thousands of competitors in, say, the Boston Marathon, most merely desire to finish.  The writer compares  the race to our arduous trek to heaven.

An athlete trains vigorously for four to six months to compete in a Marathon. He watches his weight and diet. He runs daily and competes in mid-distances and marathons. When he is injured he smells like analgesic and spends hours in the whirlpool. He gets proper sleep. When competing, he wears very light- weight shoes, a jersey like a basketball player and light-weight shorts . On top of all this, he must  be able to overcome pain and fatigue and finish the race.

 The writer compares  the race to our arduous trek to heaven. You are in a figurative, spiritual race. You have a goal.  What must you do to endure the race? Consider what Paul wrote in I Corinthians 9:26-27a. “So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control…”

The author of Hebrews cites a great number of onlookers,  men and women of faith who have already experienced the rigors of the testing you now face. They look down from the parapets of heaven, cheering your progress, and urging your efforts. Among them: Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Moses, Deborah, Hannah, David. Their great faith empowered them to complete their trials. From them you must learn two great lessons.  (1) Emulate their faith.  (2) Take courage from their examples.

We find more advice for completing our course: “Let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely…” Our troubles and sins are burdens that weary us and impede our progress. In the movie Legend of the Lost with John  Wayne, the gold seekers attempt to return across the desert. Along their route we  see the discarded items they had brought with them: coats, tools , blankets, etc.  Our trek to heaven should  be strewn with our sins: greed, malice, hatred, selfishness, etc. We can’t enter heaven with them.

“…and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us…”  We must keep on the correct pathway to arrive at the proper destination.  Jesus said that the path of evil is wide and easy. But  he  informs us that the path to heaven is narrow and hard. The way to heaven is dangerous, but it will pay the ultimate bonus. We should be ready to outlast the rigors of our testing.

Finally, there is one last, great lesson: “…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”  Focus!  This has a meaning close to “fasten your gaze”:, or “constantly fix you gaze.” The object of all this attention is none other than Jesus. There is much said here about Jesus. Let’s consider the phrase “…(He) endured the cross, despising the shame. Get your mind around the fact the he endured the cross.  (Yes, for you and me and all.)  And while you take that all in, consider the position he now occupies: “…seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”  

Sing with all the saved, “HEAVEN HOLDS ALL TO ME…”

  1. Larry permalink

    Great message! We need to hear it over and over.

  2. Very powerful and very apt message for our race to the prize…HEAVEN

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