Its one thing to start a race, full of energy and visions of victory, but its quite another to actually cross the finish line. Along the way we encounter obstacles we didnt know were there, and our energy level drops to the point that we just want to pull to the side and rest. So its how we cope with these inner challenges that usually determines whether well finish or be disqualified. Every contestant is forced to adjust to unexpected difficulties, and its the ones who make those adjustments successfully that win. Those who allow themselves to become overwhelmed, not only lose the race but may not finish at all.
The author of Hebrews likens a believers life to a long distance race and he wants us to finish strong, so he gives us a short list of what he considers to be the most important keys to endurance. And when we lay them out before us we discover theyre not really new concepts. Most of us already knew we should be doing these things. But the brilliance of this passage is in its simplicity. He has cut away tons of good religious advice to give us, in a few words, the secrets of how to stay strong until you die. And his words bring us real encouragement because he tells us that crossing the finish line doesnt depend on the strength of my willpower, but on choices I make while Im running.
A. Lay Aside
1. (v 1) Every weight: stop clinging to worldly things.
a. What is your heart pursuing? money, power, fame, pleasure, personal peace & safety
b. To endure, you must focus your passion on pursuing Gods agenda and not your own
on drawing close to Him as your greatest treasure.
c. Of course, we all must attend to the practical needs of life (somebodys got to make dinner, mow the lawn, go to work
). Hes talking about our passion, our goals, our priorities.
d. Matthew 6:33
seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you
e. Matthew 13:22 the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth
2. (v 1) The sin which is standing well around you: stop grumbling at God because of the hardships you are suffering.
a. Stop asking: Why did You let this happen to me? (Heb 3:7-19)
b. Stop arguing: I dont deserve this!
Job (Job 7:11-21; 40:6-8; 42:1-6)
David (Psa 73:13, 14, 16, 17, 28; Psa 131)
c. Keep a positive attitude toward God: dont judge Him and grow bitter.
B. Looking Away to
(v 2) Look away from the things youve been looking at to Jesus who is the author and finisher of faith.
1. He is our highest model of a person who has run the race of faith from start to finish.
a. He has shown us how to finish successfully: by repeatedly choosing the cross (the suffering which is required by Gods will).
b. Jordan River (Mt 3:13-17)
c. Peters temptation of Christ (Mt 16:21-25)
d. Mt. of Transfiguration (Mt 17:1-5, 9, 12, 22; Lk 9:51)
e. Garden of Gethsemene (Lk 22:41-44)
f. Before Pilate (Mt 27:11-14, He did not answer him with regard to even a single charge)
g. Staying alive on the cross (Jn 19:30)
h. The heart of worship: my love for Him constrains me to surrender again and again (Ro 12:1,
I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship)
2. Hes our constant source of strength enabling us to finish.
a. He is alive and always present with us by the Holy Spirit, therefore we can constantly turn to Him to find strength.
b. John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches, he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit for apart from Me you can do nothing.
c. In moments of His presence He pastors us: councils, corrects, encourages, heals, delivers, warns, restores hope, love and faith.
d. He authored our faith by inviting us to Himself and empowering us to obey, and He perfects/completes our faith by refreshing and sustaining us for the rest of our lives.
C. Consider Him
1. Hes our standard whose sufferings put ours into perspective
a. His example silences our grumbling: If God allowed His own Son to suffer such hostility (lit: things said against Him)
adversity is obviously no indication we are out of Gods will or protection.
b. Compared to Jesus what we suffer is nothing. Looking at Him keeps our pain in perspective.
2. (v 3)
so you will not grow weary in your souls and faint (literal)
a. Remember: In verses 5-11 the author explains that when adversity comes the Holy Spirit will step in and work inside you to refine you to become more like Christ (Ro 8:28, 29). Because of Him adversity will make you stronger not weaker.
1. The keys to crossing the finish line are in the choices we make during the race, not in the initial strength of our willpower.
2. Certain decisions must be made repeatedly along the way (once is not enough):
a. Focus on Jesus
b. Focus on eternity
c. Keep your present pain in perspective (despise it). Compare it to what Jesus suffered and remember God is using it to refine and strengthen you.
d. Keep Gods joy set before you: your obedience is preparing a love-gift to offer your Father (Heb 2:10). Bringing Him joy is what brings you joy.
e. Jesus Himself is the key to our success. He is our example, source and standard.
f. The truth is: it takes deep determination and constant divine empowerment for the rest of your life to finish this race.
1. What do you do when you feel weak spiritually?
2. Have you ever been shocked and confused by a trial that came into your life? How did you avoid becoming bitter at God?