Going for Gold!
4. Reach for the Goal
Hebrews 12: 2, 3
Athletes know that nothing will knock them off stride or slow them down like becoming preoccupied with how well they are doing or by looking at the competitors around them. They must be focused on the finish line. In the ancient Olympics, tiers of seats filled the stadium for spectators or witnesses. The starting place for races was at the entrance and at the opposite end was the goal, where the judge sat and held the prize. All the competitors fixed their eyes on the judge and the glory that would be given to the winner.
As we conclude our series today, our aim is to Reach for the Goal by realizing who is before us. 3 weeks ago, we said that if we’re going to go for the gold, we must remember those around us. 2 weeks ago, we took a look at how to remove what is on us by throwing off “stuff that encumbers” and “sin that entangles.” Last week we learned that the only way to persevere is to get in the game, to keep on going and to stay on track.
Hebrews 12: 2, 3 - Here we see that Jesus is at the finish line. He is the winner and is waving us home. We must keep our eyes on Him if we hope to win: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
Focus on the Finish
Our challenge is to make sure that the distractions of life do not slow us down or knock us out of the race. The phrase, “looking unto Jesus” has 2 aspects. We are to look away from everything else and look toward the one who should be everything to us. We are to glance at the witnesses but we are to gaze at the winner.
In the context of the Book of Hebrews, we are to lock on to the Lord, not Moses or the Law, or anything else for that matter.
This relates to what we learned last week. Christian growth is intentional, not automatic. It takes discipline, devotion and determination. We must make choices throughout the day about where we will set our minds and how we will set our schedules - Colossians 3: 2: “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
1 Chronicles 16: 11: “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.”
Philippians 3: 13, 14: “…but one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what is ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.”
Psalm 27: 8: “Your face, LORD, I will seek.”
We must understand who Jesus is and then we must fix our eyes on Him at all times. We must know about Him and then we must know Him personally. This passage not only tells us what to do: look unto Jesus. We’re told how to do it as we’re given at least 4 descriptions of Christ to help us focus more clearly.
1. Christ the Captain.
Jesus is called the “author” - meaning, “to lead” and “the first.” Put together -“the chief leader; one that takes the lead and sets the example.” Jesus has prepared the path. He’s crossed the finish line and is now cheering you on. Will you fix your eyes on the Captain?
2. Christ the Completer.
Jesus is not only the one who starts; He is the finisher. He’s the pioneer and the perfecter; the captain and the completer. “…Finisher of our faith”- phrase packed with meaning. Jesus will carry through to the finish - idea of making something complete or perfect.
Philippians 1: 6: “Being confident of this, that He began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.” Jesus always finishes what He begins. There’s another title given to Jesus that brings the names “Captain” and “Completer” together - Revelation 22:13: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Alpha is the first letter of the Greek alphabet and Omega is the last - the idea is that there is nothing lacking in Jesus Christ. Here’s another beautiful truth. These words, along with Captain and Completer, describe perfect continuity. The power of Jesus is continuous, acting before history began, all through history, today, and forever - Hebrews 13: 8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” As you run your race of faith, don’t be distracted and don’t celebrate too soon. Make as your focal point Jesus the Captain and Completer.
3. Christ the Crucified.
v. 2: “who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame…” In exchange for what Jesus had in heaven, He set this aside in order to accept the cross and shame. When Jesus ran his race, He always kept the finish line in front of Him. His route was lined with hatred and anger, with rejection and opposition, but He never faltered. Luke 9: 51 – he “…resolutely set out for Jerusalem” even though He knew where this path would lead Him.
The cross did not happen accidentally to Jesus; He went willingly and joyfully to His death because He knew what it would accomplish. Enemies really didn’t take His life; He gave it. Jesus is jubilant about presenting us “before his glorious presence without fault…” Jesus had the joy of obeying God in difficult circumstances because He knew He would be raised from the dead, that He would ascend and then be exalted.
Jesus endured the cross, taking the full brunt of pain and agony that came with it. John Piper writes: “No one has ever deserved suffering less, yet received so much…the only person in history who did not deserve to suffer, suffered most…if we had been forced to watch, we probably would have passed out.” Jesus also scorned the shame, putting up with the slapping, spitting, mockery, abuse, and the shame of public execution, a method reserved for the worst of criminals.
We’re beginning a new series next week called, “The Suffering and Victory of the Saviour.” In order to help us approach Easter, we’re going to focus on the prophecies of Isaiah which communicate both the depth of His agony and the profound results that continue to impact lives today.
4. Christ the Conqueror.
Last phrase of v. 2: “...and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He is the seated Son. He has finished the race and is now crowned with glory and honor. He has sat down, and He remains seated. The work is finished. That’s why He’s seated.
He will never have to arise and repeat redemption. Jesus occupies the position of preeminence at the right hand of the throne of God. He is both ruling and at rest. 1 Peter 3: 22 - Jesus “has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand-with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.” Everything is subject to the Saviour. The King has been crowned there is nothing outside of His sovereign control.
One of our problems is that we don’t lock our eyes on the Lord like we should. As a result, our circumstances can become overwhelming, we can compare ourselves with others and become intimidated or judgmental, we can focus on ourselves and become proud and we can end up dropping out of the race. Based upon the 4 titles of Jesus that we just looked at - Hebrews 12: 3: “Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
“Consider” means to consider by way of comparison. When we’re faced with our own trials, we’re to contemplate Christ, and concentrate on what He did for us. When we do, we know that He suffered opposition way more than we ever have, or ever will.
What comes to your mind when you gaze on Jesus? What thoughts do you have when you consider Christ? This passage is telling us that if we focus on Christ as the Captain, the Completer, the Crucified and the Conqueror, we will be able to stay in the race and run it with perseverance. But, if we take our eyes off Christ, we will sink in the waves of discouragement and fear, just like Peter did.
When we see the Saviour as He is, we’ll serve the Savior as He deserves.
Friends, listen carefully. According to this verse, one of the reasons you may be weary and ready to give up is precisely because you have not been considering what Christ went through for you. The phrase, “grow weary and lose heart” was a common expression used of the exhaustion that marathon runners face. Runners who relax and want to just collapse. The author of the Book of Hebrews is telling believers that they are still in the race. Keep your gaze on the goal because you’ve not crossed the finish line yet. We are to consider Christ so that we will not grow weary and lose heart. How do you know if you’re still in the race? Is your heart still beating? Then you’re in the race.
I wonder if some of you started out strong spiritually but now you feel tired and worn out. It’s time to get back on track. Consider Christ. Set your eyes on Him. Put your hope in the Lord. Focus on the finish. When your attention wanders from His face, draw it back quickly before other things capture your full devotion.
Glance at the grandstands and remember the witnesses who are cheering you on but gaze at the only one who can help you reach the goal. Jesus Christ is our Captain, our Completer, our Crucified and our Conqueror.
If you’re winded and weary, maybe it’s because you’ve taken your eyes off Him…but He will never take His eyes off you.
When we see the Saviour as He is, we’ll serve the Savior as He deserves.