Running the race of faith


Jan-Gerrit tells us how to run the race of faith according to Hebrews 12
Therefore let us also, seeing we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider him who has endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, that you don’t grow weary, fainting in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to blood, striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which reasons with you as with children,
“My son, don’t take lightly the chastening of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by him;
6 For whom the Lord loves, he chastens,
And scourges every son whom he receives.”
7 It is for discipline that you endure. God deals with you as with children, for what son is there whom his father doesn’t discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have been made partakers, then are you illegitimate, and not children. 9 Furthermore, we had the fathers of our flesh to chasten us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they indeed, for a few days, punished us as seemed good to them; but he for our profit, that we may be partakers of his holiness. 11 All chastening seems for the present to be not joyous but grievous; yet afterward it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been exercised thereby. 12 Therefore, lift up the hands that hang down and the feeble knees, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that which is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed. 14 Follow after peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no man will see the Lord, 15 looking carefully lest there be any man who falls short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby the many be defiled; 16 lest there be any sexually immoral person, or profane person, as Esau, who sold his birthright for one meal. 17 For you know that even when he afterward desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for a change of mind though he sought it diligently with tears. 18 For you have not come to a mountain that might be touched, and that burned with fire, and to blackness, darkness, tempest, 19 the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which those who heard it begged that not one more word should be spoken to them,20 for they could not stand that which was commanded, “If even an animal touches the mountain, it shall be stoned ;”21 and so fearful was the appearance, that Moses said, “I am terrified and trembling.”
22 But you have come to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable multitudes of angels, 23 to the general assembly and assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better than that of Abel.
25 See that you don’t refuse him who speaks. For if they didn’t escape when they refused him who warned on the Earth, how much more will we not escape who turn away from him who warns from heaven, 26 whose voice shook the earth, then, but now he has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” signifies the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things that have been made, that those things which are not shaken may remain. 28 Therefore, receiving a Kingdom that can’t be shaken, let us have grace, through which we serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.
 
 
 

Intro
Today I want to speak about running the race. Running a race can be really tiresome.
e.g. running yesterday, after doing nothing for a couple of weeks.
Hebrews 12 is all about running the race of Faith, about enduring in tough times and about finishing strong!
Read: Hebrews 12:1-11
Running a race can be very tiresome
Hebrews 12 paints a very realistic picture of Christian life. Life can be hard ons us.
Running the race of Faith can be very tiresome, till the point you want to give up.
The Hebrews were persecuted after being enlightened (10:32-35):
– Suffering;
– Some went to prison;
– They had their property plundered
Tough situation!
Hebrews is not about prosperity preaching: you’ve become a believer, now you will become rich and you’ll prosper.
On the contrary: they went through a really tough period!
Just like the Hebrews suffered in their days, we can face challenges as well and we might have to endure some suffering of our own! E.g. same sex marriages. In the Netherlands the official who doesn’t want to be part of same sex ceremonies.
In some countries it is not safe to be a Christian, perhaps in countries you´ve come from.
So there is real suffering, both for the Hebrews as for us. Suffering can have the effect that you want to give up, that you start doubting if you ever took the right course.
And it can make you wonder if somethings wrong with your Faith. Hebrews tells us that´s not the case. There´s nothing wrong with us, suffering is part of Christian life.
At first the Hebrews knew they had a joyful position as they were part of the body of Christ. They knew they were saved and that their position was permanent! It’s like they are starting to doubt their position because of what is happening to them.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews wants the Hebrews to endure!
He wants us to endure!
The writer to the Hebrews is not judging them. He is not telling them they are doing something wrong. He is encouraging the Hebrews to endure.
Why then do we have to endure? What is the purpose of enduring all this hardship?
The purpose is to keep the Faith alive. That is essential! It is essential to keep the Faith alive for three main reasons:

 

1. Without Faith it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6).
It’s simple, without Faith you can not please God. You can do all the things in the world, but without Faith you won’t please God with what you’re doing.
Faith is based on a heart to heart relationship. God is primarily after your heart, not after what you can do for Him. He doesn’t need you, although He loves to work with you, but most of all He wants to show you His heart.
2. Faith enables us to trust in Jesus and to invest in our relationship with Jesus ;
We endure by realising that God is good, at all times. He is the same, yesterday, today, tomorrow!
He will use all things for good for those who believe in Him (Rom. 8:28). That is comforting and gives you assurance.
We learn to walk with Him, even when times get tough. When we know Him in good times, that will effect us in bad times. It will give us strength, it will give us hope, it will build confidence.
We learn to trust Him and to walk with Him.
3. Because of Faith we can do great things (Heb. 11:33-34)! (uitwerken e.g. cloud of witnesses)
– Through Faith they conquered kingdoms;
– Through Faith they enforced justice;
– Through Faith they obtained the promises;
– Last, but certainly not least: Faith enables us to endure! (Heb. 10:32)
So it is essential to keep the Faith alive and that means we have to be strong during tough times in our lifes, that means we need to endure in the midst of suffering.
How then do we endure?
So we’ve seen that we are called to run the race and that running the race can be tiring.
Yet we are called to endure! How then do we endure?
First of all we need to deal with our sins!
“Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely” Heb. 12:1.
– Weight and sin, two different things!
– It clings so closely: we have to be well aware!
Running with luggage, tough.
The people, part of the cloud of witnesses, laid aside weight and sin. They acted out of Faith and they endured.
So we need to deal with sin and lay aside what hinders us from following Jesus. We cannot do that without a sharp vision. The vision is Jesus!
So, secondly, the writer of the letter to the Hebrews encourages them, and us, to look to Jesus.
We are told to “look to Him, the founder and perfecter of our Faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured”.
Jesus is called the founder and the perfecter of our Faith. How great is that?!
Jesus not only brings Faith to us as a founder of Faith, but He also perfects our Faith!
He is not starting up something, without finishing it, He ran the race and He completed it.

Jesus is the founder of Faith. He invented it!
Faith flows from Him! That’s why we are encouraged to fix our eyes upon Jesus.
Jesus wants you to have Faith and to walk with Him, so that He can perfect your Faith so you will endure! He wants to finish what He started: He is the founder of Faith and He wants to perfect your Faith!
Jesus endured, for the joy that was set before Him! (sir Nicholas Winton)
Sir Winton did something courageous: he risked his live, to save the lives of others, not knowing if he would ever see them again, not knowing if those others were to live long and prosper.
Jesus came to earth, with only one mission: to save what was lost (Luke 19:10). For Jesus it is no surprise that many were saved! That was His vision, His plan from the start! He wants to present you to His Father in heaven.
That is the joy that was set before Him: being with His Father, and you there being with Him!
So Jesus vision was clear: He came to seek and save what was lost. What is your vision?
Do you believe that Jesus saved you? Do you believe you’ll spend eternity with Him?
No more pain, no more sorrow, no more mourning. All things are made new (Rev. 21: 4-5).
A clear vision of the joy that is set before you will definetely help you to endure!
Hebrews mentions a third theme which helps us to endure. Discipline
Hebrews teaches us that the Lord disciplines the ones He loves (Heb. 12:6). For the moment discipline seems painful. (e.g. father that corrects his child)
Jesus is the perfecter of Faith. He doesn’t always gives you an instant solution, not a quick fix. He wants you changed, He wants your character changed! He wants your Faith perfected! That’s not possible with a quick fix. Changing your character takes courage and endurance!
We can find comfort in being disciplined:
1. We are being treated as sons, the purpose of discipline is that we share in His holiness;
2. Although for the moment being disciplined can be painful, it will yield fruit!
Things can happen to us, but God can use our worst for His best!
If we embrace that we are being disciplined, and are trained by it, then it yields fruit!
Don’t focus too much on your own situation, step back and focus on Jesus and the other witnesses.
Conclusion
The goal of running the race is to keep the Faith. Jesus is founder and perfecter of Faith! To run that race succesfully is to realise that things can get tough, but that He will help us in all things He is the founder of Faith and He is the perfecter of Faith and He tells us to endure. We can succesfully endure by laying aside every weight and sin that hinders us from following Jesus Furthermore we need to look at Jesus, the vision is Jesus, He did it all.

to know who you are in Christ; to support each other, be a supporter! (cloud of witnesses)
to have a vision: the joy of life with the Father.
Finally we need to accept that He disciplines us out of love. He wants to make us perfect, because He wants us to be with Him who is perfect.
So run the race and run it with Faith.
When you run in Faith, you are moving, you are making an impact and best of all, you are pleasing God, because God loves to see Faith in action.
AMEN.