Going For Gold!
3. Run With Perseverance
Hebrews 12: 1c
Week 3 of our series - “Going for Gold: Becoming a Spiritual Champion.” Today we’re going to learn how to push through so that we can run with perseverance the race set before us. 1st message - meandered through the hall of faith in Hebrews 11 in order to remember the witnesses. These men and women of faith serve as encouragers and examples to us today. Their faith should propel us to trust God. There are so many witnesses who’ve gone before us that it’s like a huge cloud that envelops us. I’m glad that God’s grandstand is filled with faithful followers who have finished their race. Since they lived by faith, so can we.
Last week we learned that we must remove hindrances if we’re going to get the gold. We must give up in order to go up. “Hindrance hurdles” and “signature sins” must be decisively dealt with in our lives because they create drag in our discipleship.
We must remember who is around us, we must remove what is on us, and we’re challenged next to run with perseverance by relying on what is in us.
Hebrews 12: 1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Believers in the 1st century had tasted persecution and were tired of it and others had become passive in their faith because everything had just become routine. Some wanted to bail out. Here’s a key principle: the depth of our devotion ultimately determines our impact. Just as athletes need determination to compete, so too, we will not just stumble into becoming spiritual champions. It takes discipline and determination and drive…and perseverance. There are 3 key training rules in this passage that we must put into practice if we hope to get a medal -
1. Get in the Game.
The one imperative, or command, in Hebrews 12: 1 is to run - “keep on running.” Psalm 119: 32 “I run in the path of your commands; for you have set my heart free.”
The Christian life is compared to a race that must be run. This seems pretty elementary but one must be in a race in order to win it – it’s hard to compete when you’re locked in a room. You won’t win just because your wife is saved and serving. You won’t get holy just because your husband is. You won’t medal just because your mom is growing spiritually. You won’t develop as a disciple just because your dad is devoted to Christ. Just because your child is sold out to Jesus, doesn’t mean that you’re good to go.
Spiritual growth does not happen spontaneously. In fact, our growth in Christ is intentional, not automatic. Friend, are you on the spiritual sidelines right now? Are you just watching what goes on? It’s time to get in the game.
New study - discovered a new trend called “cyberloafing” that is making its way into the workplace. The average worker spends 60 to 80 percent of his or her Internet time at the office engaging in tasks that have nothing to do with their jobs.
Are you loafing around instead of loving God with everything you have? Would someone refer to you as a spiritual slacker? What are you doing with the time you have left?
2. Keep on Going.
We are in a race of service and also of suffering. That leads to the second training rule: we’re to run “with endurance.” The Bible is filled with references to those who hung in there, of those who kept on going when the going got tough. 6 perseverance principles:
A. Look above and beyond circumstances.
Hebrews 11: 27 Moses… “persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.”
B. Focus on the reward.
Hebrews 10: 36 “You need to persevere, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised.”
C. Good things come to those who wait.
Hebrews 6: 15 “And so, after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.”
D. The path to maturity runs through perseverance.
James 1: 4 “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
E. Rely on God’s help to hang in there.
2 Thessalonians 3: 5 “May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.”
F. Jesus applauds endurance.
Revelation 2: 2 “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance.”
Some of us have been knocked off stride by stuff that we never saw coming. Perhaps you’ve been nursing a grudge against God or you’re harboring resentment toward an individual or you’re just plain mad about a situation that has happened. Friend, you have a choice. You can remove yourself from the race or you can get back in and keep on going. Hebrews 12: 12, the believers are urged to strengthen their “hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” instead of giving up. Remember the witnesses that are cheering you on. Remove any hindrances and run with perseverance.
By 7:00 pm on October 20, 1968, at the Mexico City Olympics, it was starting to get dark. The final marathon runners were cooling off. 1 hour later, as the last few thousand spectators were preparing to leave, they heard sirens coming from the gate entering the stadium. As the crowd turned, they saw a lone figure, wearing the colors of Tanzania, limping into the stadium. His name was John Steven Aquari. His leg was bandaged and bloody. The crowd stood and applauded. With each step he gained strength from the cheers. His limp became a walk, his walk became a jog, and finally his jog became a run. As he neared the finish line, even though he came in dead last, the cheering made it seem like he was finishing first.
A reporter asked him the obvious question, “You are badly injured. Why didn’t you quit? Why didn’t you give up?” Aquari, with quiet dignity replied, “My country did not send me 7000 miles to start this race. My country sent me to finish.”
Friend, perhaps you’ve been hurt or you’re hurting right now. Don’t give up. Hang in there. Pray through the pain. Finish the race set before you. 2 Chronicles 15: 7 “But you, be strong and do not let your hands be weak, for your work shall be rewarded.”
Get in the game. Keep on Going. There’s one more training rule.
3. Stay on Track.
Let’s look at the final phrase of Hebrews 12:1: “…the race that is set before us.” The word for race in Greek is agon, from which we get the word “agony.” The race is not meant to be easy. Notice that this race is “set before us” which means we don’t get to choose it. God has determined the race; our job is to run it and to stay on track.
There are 2 aspects of the race, or God’s will for our lives.
A. God’s Universal Will.
God has marked out some parts that are for everybody. We’re to live out the Great Commandment and fulfill the Great Commission. We’re to keep the fire burning by practicing the presence of God and by living out the spiritual disciplines. Did you know that the average Olympian trains more than 7000 hours for an event that may last less than 60 seconds? Just as athletes discipline themselves to achieve a goal - 1 Timothy 4:7 “train ourselves to be godly.” Here are some disciplines - Abstinence (from natural appetites) Simplicity (taming the desire for possessions) Stillness (being alone and silent in God’s presence) Meditation (thinking carefully about Scripture) Prayer (conversing with God) Reticence (controlling the tongue by listening) Stability (staying put) Worship (focusing on who God is)
If we are not practicing self-discipline and growing in the spiritual disciplines, God may bring “suffering discipline” into our lives. God doesn’t do this to punish but to restore. It’s not retributive; it’s meant to be redemptive. He loves us way too much to let us go astray. He wants to get us back on track, and as C.S. Lewis has said, pain is often His megaphone to get our attention.
Hebrews 12: 11 “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Rather than being angry with God when he delivers discipline, we should be grateful because this is His way of correcting harmful patterns so we start running the race again.
B. God’s Unique Will.
You must run the unique race marked out just for you. Hebrews 12: 1 “…Let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us.” Just as there are unique hindrance hurdles and signatures sins that are trying to slow you down and trip you up, so too, you have a unique calling.
One time Jesus told Peter some pretty personal things that had to do with his future ministry and even how he would die. Peter seemed more interested in what Jesus had in mind for his buddy John when he asked “Lord, what about him?” Jesus’ rebuke is instructive for us: “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” In other words, Jesus had a path for Peter and a job for John and He has a unique assignment for each one of us. Have you ever noticed that sometimes our dissatisfaction with life is directly proportional to our desire to run someone else’s race? It’s the “greener grass” thing. Here’s a good corrective to keep in mind: The grass isn’t greener on the other side of the fence. It’s greenest where you spend time watering it.
Friend, your race is uniquely yours to run. God has a plan and a purpose for your life that only you can fulfill. It’s time to get in the game and to keep on going and to stay on track. Can I encourage you to take the next step in becoming a spiritual champion? It’s going to involve some sacrifice and some discipline. If you don’t you’ll eventually start drifting and disconnect from others. And if you unplug you will eventually unravel.
Hebrews 10: 25 “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
While God has a task for you, you are not designed to go it alone. We’re made for community. Notice the use of “us” and “we” in Hebrews 12:1 - “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.”
Your race is designed for you individually but you’re not designed to go it alone. No one can do everything but everyone can do something.
Putting into Practice
I’m going to list a number of action steps. What 1 or 2 things will you commit to do this week?
1. Say yes to a ministry opportunity. “There are a lot of Christians who are doing nothing. But there are no Christians who have nothing to do.”
2. Get to know a spiritual hero from Hebrews 11.
3. Begin practicing the spiritual disciplines.
4. Rid your life of some stuff that is encumbering you.
5. Ask God daily for victory over a sin that has been entangling you.
6. Make a relationship right.
7. Reach out to someone in need.
8. Bow before Christ as your Lord and Saviour and receive the free gift of salvation.
9. Decide to be baptized.
10. Join this church.
Let’s…Get in the game - Keep on going - Stay on track.