Pursuing Answers to Questions of Faith & Life

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Sermon-8/5/07--The Race We Run-- Hebrews 12:1-2

What a great week of VBS! This year's material was great. This year's director, Angie Bailey did a wonderful job at organizing, training and directing the event. Thank you Angie!

Here are some pictures of my kids during their time at VBS--thanks Bill for taking so many good pictures.

This message comes from the theme verse for this year's VBS--Gameday Central. Since the kids were learning about this verse--I thought the parents should hear from it as well. We invited parents to come back on for a Sunday Morning celebration and pot luck after the service. Thankfully a good number of them did.

GAME DAY CENTRAL: Where Heroes Are Made

Run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1b-2a (HCSB®)

HEB 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great 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. 2 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.

We all have a Race to Run

From the moment of conception—Psalm 139 tells us, your days have been marked out. In eternity—God is able to see the beginning and the end of your life on earth. The starting Line and a Finish Line—When the starting gun fires, you come out screaming—ready to start running—and some, like my 2 year old, Moriah, running is about all you do.

Have you thought of your life as a race? That your whole life can be seen as the movements you make between the starting line and the finish line? Some of you may be burning the candle at both ends—treating your race more like a sprint—a mad dash to the finish. But that’s not the kind of race we’ve been given to run. You and I have been given a Marathon, not a sprint.

Most races have a defined course—everyone is either on a track or a defined path through the streets as in a marathon.

No one is allowed to deviate from the path, no one is able to cut corners—if you are running in the race, you must stay in the defined course.

Rarely do the runners get to choose the course. Rarely do the runners get to pick their lanes. The course is decided upon before the runners ever get set in the starting blocks.

The race of our life is set before us by God

Our race is set before us—it is marked out for us—and our opinion was not needed nor requested. Our Permission was not sought—Our Approval was not necessary.

God created you to run this race. He put thought, care, creativity in making you unique in this universe. There is no one like you, no one who will have your experience, no one who can take your place. God set a specialized, a personalized, a unique race before you.

Even though there are other runners all around you, even though you all have the same finish line—the course marked out for you is distinct—it may overlap with others for a time—children, family, friends, but the course is still yours.

How will you run your race? How will you finish your race?

This race is set before us—it is a gift from God—one with great opportunity. He didn’t have to give you a race to run—but He chose create you, to form you and craft you. This Gift, this race--You must choose how you will live it and who you will be living and running for. You will run for someone—you will serve someone in your race. Will you serve only yourself and your own interests? That will be a self-centered, prideful and often lonely race. Will you serve others—be a great humanitarian or a good father and mother—yet always wonder—am I good enough?

Or will you Run your Race for the One who gave it to you? Will you run your race to serve God? Joshua 24:15—calls on us to “choose for yourselves whom you will serve.”

Deut. 30:19—calls on us to “choose life, so that you and your children may live”

Choosing life means choosing relationship with God—choosign His love and forgiveness. If you choose to live for yourself—it will lead only lead to death. But if you want to be a true hero then choose the ways of God.

Serving only yourself leads to defeat—even though things may be going well for you, even though you may think you’re the best—you will still be running wildly in your race.

It is the running of the whole race, not just part of it that matters. This race that we are in has an ability to totally wear us out—through struggle, pain, difficulty, worries, bills, sickness, relationships, accidents, defeats, even victories and popularity, even having too much can be a curse.

The Race requires Endurance

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like running—it wears me out faster than anything.

Run with Endurance—he wouldn’t say it if it weren’t necessary.

Meaning it’s not going to be easy, it will tire you out, it will make you want to quit—Perseverance.

Heroes in the sports world at some point will talk about times when they had to push through a time of great fatigue and difficulty. In the middle of their event, their game, their race, they will be so worn down physically and mentally that they’ll wonder if they’ll be able to finish.

But despite the pain, the fatigue, the hardship, they keep on playing, they keep on fighting, they keep on running. Perseverance and Endurance—when your legs hurt so much they feel like rubber, when you can’t lift your arms—yet you keep going.

And then it happens.

Suddenly these heroes will talk about their bodies being renewed, their mind clearing, they suddenly have energy, the fatigue passes and they’re able to continue with a renewed vigor. They call this gaining their “second wind”.

If you do not endure and persevere in this life—so many times you will miss out on the victory that is coming your way. This life does wear down and weaken—we need a power that is beyond us to help us get through.

We need that power because Life is rough—whether someone has everything or not—life requires endurance.

Whether in Plenty or in Need, if you have Nothing or if you have Everything—this life can wear you out. If you’ve got nothing, then just finding the basics, worrying about where you’ll be living tomorrow, where, if you’ll be able to eat, if your family will be gone—is enough to make you want to give up.

But it’s not always better, even if you’ve got everything. How many movie stars or sports figures are so fatigued and bored and sick of the attention and fame, even the money—that their life spirals out of control?

Neither Defeat nor Victory can guarantee that you finish your race well. Either one may profoundly effect the direction of your life—but neither are sure things.

I remember back in 1990 how invincible Mike Tyson was considered in the boxing world. He had a title defense against a relatively unknown opponent—Buster Douglas. Considering how Tyson had destroyed all other contenders, it was expected that he would Douglas as well. But Tyson didn’t take the match as seriously and in the 10th round—was knocked out for the first time. Buster Douglas saw the opportunity and took it. Now, here’s the tragic part—both of their lives have been terribly off course ever since.

The Defeat sent Tyson spiraling out of control—many of you already know the twists and turns Mike Tyson’s life has endured. I hope and pray that God has turned him around.

But Victory was no better for Douglas.

The Victory sent Douglas spiraling out of control--(per wikipedia) Douglas would have only one title defense. Later that year (1990) an overweight and underprepared Douglas was knocked out in the 3rd round by Evander Holyfield and decided to retire from boxing following his defeat. He did little for the next several years, living off his wealth (he received a reported $24.6 million for the Holyfield fight) and gaining weight to nearly 400 pounds. Not long after, Douglas nearly died during a diabetic coma.

I hope and pray God has turned him around as well.

Neither men have the strength or endurance to finish the race in their own power and strength. Our race requires endurance—more strength and stamina than you or I can muster on our own. We need a greater motivation.

Jesus is our Motivation

We must fix our eyes on Jesus. Fix our eyes means that we must Focus on Him and not let our attention be taken off. He is the One to look to for our Motivation—

He is the One that gives us strength to finish—

He is the one who makes it possible to finish and finish well—He is the One who is standing at the Finish Line cheering you and me on—encouraging us to finish—to run well.

When we fix our eyes on Jesus, it’s like a Christopher Columbus sailing his ships by the fixed point of the North Star or Magnetic North on the Compass. Without a fixed point to look to, they would have just wandered aimlessly in the ocean.

Jesus is our Motivation, He is our Fixed Point that we can look to.

Why can we look to Him? Because He ran His own difficult race. He ran a race requiring endurance,

Hebrews 12:2b-- 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.

By completing His race victorious in His Resurrection, He has become

Jesus is the Source and the Perfecter of Our Faith

Jesus is the One who made faith possible. He endured the Race that was set before Him—and it was not an easy or comfortable race—He had to endure and persevere the Cross. He scorned the shame such a horrible death brought—because of the Joy set before Him—that Joy was the result, the benefit, the accomplishment—

The Joy was and continues to be Our Faith—our Salvation—the Re-Establishment of relationship broken by our sin. He is the One who has the Power, the Strength and Endurance—and He is willing to give it to you and me.

He is the Source and Perfecter—Our Faith was His idea—He was and is the Author of it—our faith begins in the mind of God.

But since you and I can not be perfect, because we cannot manufacture perfection—He does—He Perfects, He Completes, He Finishes our faith and makes it exactly what it needs to be on our behalf.

From what I understand in a Relay, the 2 most important positions are the Opening Leg of the race and the Anchor Leg. The Starter and the Finisher. Jesus is the One who Ran the Opening Leg—He is the One who has made Faith Possible. And He also Runs the Anchor Leg—insuring that the race is finished well, finished right, finished strong—Finished in Victory.

Without Jesus to run the Opening and anchor leg of our race—victory would be impossible. He is our Greatest Hero—He is the One to look to for what a Hero really is.

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