Running with Endurance the Race... And the Race is Christ (Hebrews Sermon 62 of 74)
April 15, 2012 | Andrew Davis
Running the Race, Perseverance
I. A Heroic Finish to the Marathon
This is an Olympic year, Summer Olympics coming up this summer, and you know that every Olympics ends with the marathon. Traditional event, it always ends with the marathon race 26.2 miles, rooted in history, rooted in a battle fought many centuries before Christ was born and a messenger that traveled over long distance to bring the news of victory. 1968 in the Summer games, the final event was the marathon then as well, and the event was won by Mamo Wolde from Ethiopia, but the final contestant was John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania. And he's a man who early in the race fell and injured his leg, and it was bleeding and it was a pretty significant injury, and he was bandaged up quickly and sent on his way but greatly disadvantaged by this injury. And he continued to run and continued to lose strength, but he just wouldn't give up. And so, long after a time when an Olympic athlete would have finished the marathon, there still were spectators in the stands waiting for this man to come, and he entered the stadium and the crowd rose and started cheering for this man. At this point he was barely running, more like limping jogging, just trying to get around the track. Of course, any hope of an Olympic medal long gone.
He just wanted to finish, and he did, and you can't imagine the crescendo of adulation, of praise that went on him just for finishing, but there were questions too at the cost and the pain that he went through over those miles. Hard enough, fully healthy and strong, hard enough. But why did you do it? And he gave a very significant answer, relevant for our study today. Said, "My nation did not send me 5,000 miles merely to start the race, they sent me 5,000 miles to finish it." Well, whatever was in his heart, compelling him to uphold the honor of his nation, to finish that race, should be multiplied infinitely in the heart of a Christian, to enable us to finish the race that's marked out in front of us, for the Lord did not appoint for us merely to start that race, but that we should finish it. And he said very, very plainly, "He who stands firm to the end will be saved." We must have endurance, we're told in Hebrews 10:36, "You have need of endurance." We must finish this race.
Endurance in what? Well, at the end of chapter 10, those who trust in the Lord will live, the righteous will live by faith. It's a run of faith, which has been unfolded beautifully for us in the faith chapter in Hebrews 11, that we would live that kind of a life and run with endurance the race of faith marked out. We must have endurance. Now, the great encouragement of the fullness of the counsel of the New Testament is that we will finish. It has been promised to us to finish, as Jesus said in John 6, "For I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but to do the will of him who sent me, and this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." But putting it all together, between the time that Jesus initially calls you in the embrace of faith to the time when you see him face to face, you must run a race with endurance, and it's going to be hard. And that's the purpose of our message today to look at that race. Let's understand the context.
II. The Command: “Let Us Run With Endurance...”
We've just finished Hebrews 11, we've looked at the hall of faith, we've looked at the examples of one individual, one man or woman of faith after another. And it said in the context of this whole book of Hebrews, which is written to Jewish people who had made an outward profession of faith in Christ, but who are being pressured by their Jewish family and friends and relatives and authorities, religious figures, to give up their confession of Christ and turn back to Old Covenant Judaism. And so the whole letter is written to enable these people to stand firm and not do that, to not turn their backs on Christ.
The Danger of Apostasy
And so there are these repeated warnings against apostasy in this book. In Hebrews 2:1, "We must pay more careful attention therefore, to what we have heard so that we do not drift away." That slow drift from Christ, the danger of that. Hebrews 3:12, we are to " See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God." In Hebrews 6 the issue of falling away is mentioned, and it says there it's impossible to renew again to repentance those who fall away. Don't drift away, don't turn away, don't fall away. This is the message, the danger, and the remedy has been throughout this to give us a sense of the greatness and the glory of Jesus Christ and of the new covenant. And so the author has been doing that, and now he gives us chapter 11, all of these examples of men and women of faith who ran with endurance, and now he is applying it.
And he gives us this command, "Therefore," verse one, "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." This is the command, "Let us run the race and let us do it with perseverance right to the end." That's what the author wants us to do. So what is this race? The Greek word is 'agon' from which we get agony, a sense of something that takes intense effort and struggle. It's not easy, this race.
And the text calls it in the NIV, a race marked out for us. That's a little strong. Other translations will just give us the race set before us. There is a race course, however. We are not just to run any 26.2 miles here, friends. Imagine that, imagine if they brought the Olympic athletes or the Boston marathoners to the starting line and said, "We want you to run 26.2 miles, it's up to you where you go." I mean, how would you know who won, and how would the race be fair? No, there's a very, very plainly marked course. The Boston Marathon went right through my hometown, plainly marked course. And there are rules about this.
We ran cross country when I was in high school, and I'll never forget that experience and all that it meant to me. And whenever you would go on the road, to one of the neighboring towns, the thing that they would do is put you on a bus, and they would drive you around the course, and they would show you at the top of the hill you turn left, 100 yards you turn right, then you go down through these woods. They want you to know the course, because you're not allowed to innovate. You may be a great runner and a great innovator, but that's just not welcome there. You must run the race that's marked out. And I remember in my freshman year, the best runner in the league was from our cross-town rival. He was a beautiful runner to watch, he was tall and fluid and had not lost in two years, he was a senior by then and just incredible to watch, and at the conference race, he'd gone through the regular season undefeated, the conference race he was running 30-40 yards ahead of the second place runner, and he took a wrong turn. I'll never forget that. Got off the course. I don't know how he got confused, but he ran a good ways up and then realized his mistake, and the only way to remedy it is to U-turn and go right back where you came and then... You can't cut across. And he ended up coming in fourth, and I remember the anguish in his face at the mistake and the mental error and all that.
The Race is Marked Out Before Us
And I think that the point is clear here, there is a race marked out for us, we're not to innovate here. In one sense, we could say it's laid out for us in the law of God, in Psalm 119:32, "I will run in the path of your commands for you have set my heart free," it says. We are not innovate, as it says in Judges 17, "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." No, there's a very plain course marked out for us. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake. There are paths of righteousness Isaiah 35 says that there is a way of holiness, and wicked people don't go on it, but we stay on it. Jesus said in Matthew 7, "Enter through the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction. And many enter through it, but small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it." Why the broad versus the narrow? Because there's many ways to go to hell, but only one way to go to heaven. There are a lot of different ways you can destroy your soul, but this is a race course that's marked out for us, very plainly, and ultimately, dear friends, his name is Jesus, He is the way marked out for us.
Remember how he said in John 14, "You know the way to the place where I'm going." And Jesus never said anything amiss. They thought he was wrong. How often did Jesus' disciples think he was wrong? That was one of the many times they thought he was wrong. Lord, we don't know where you're going, so how can we know the way? You do know the way, I am the way. And because you know me, you know the way. "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." He is the race marked out before us. And in this way, all of these things harmonize. He is the law embodied. We run in the path of God's commands, because Jesus embodies them. He is the way, the course marked out for us, and we are to run this race. We are to run it, and there's many verses that speak of the Christian walk, this is not one of them. This speaks of the Christian run. And the difference between a walk and a run, they're both metaphors, I understand that, I'm not in any way minimizing the word walk. It's an important theological word, but here I'm just telling you it's going to take everything you have to finish this race. It takes extreme effort. That's the difference between running and walking, it's the energy level, it's the commitment, the willingness to feel pain, the willingness to suffer.
And we have to run this race, it's marked out for us. It's the way that was trod by these heroes of the faith, these men and women that went ahead of us, they ran that same race of holiness and perseverance and faith. We are to run too, and we are to run it with endurance, perseverance, and that's really the focus, that's the issue here, that the author is getting at.
Perseverance is Needed
You need to persevere. The implication is that there are going to be, there are going to be difficulties. It's going to be a hard race to run, and you must run with perseverance, you need endurance here. Many verses speak of this, that the word of God produces endurance in our hearts, and endurance must finish its work. We've got to have this endurance. That's why God brings us trials. Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance, and perseverance must finish its work, so that you'll be mature and complete, not lacking anything. We must have endurance here.
And think of the alternative. To drop out of the race because you are weary today, because you're tired of this race, you're weary, you've been assaulted, you've been attacked by the world, the flesh and the devil, and you're so weary in the Christian life. And you want to give up. But consider the alternative. Do you realize if you give up, you will be one of the stony ground hearers that the Lord warned about, that heard the word with joy and went with it for a while, but when things got tough, when persecution or difficulty came because of the word quickly fell away, had no root system. No, no, we, the true sons and daughters of the living God, we have a root system. Amen. And we must have endurance to finish this race, that's what the Lord is giving us here, the command.
III. The Obstacles: The Weights and Sins that Easily Entangle Us
Now what are the obstacles? Well, they're right in verse one. Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance. There are some things that hinder this running with us. If you look at it the, everything that hinders, any weight that weighs you down. Can you imagine going to the start of the Olympic Marathon or the Boston Marathon, and there was one particular contestant that had a belt of Scuba weights around his waist? You know what I'm talking about, those lead bricks, it's like, "What are you thinking?" There's no extra credit for running with that belt around your waist, you don't get more of a gold medal if you should win, you're not going to get a gold medal, as a matter of fact. You've got to loosen that belt and let it drop to the ground. Been doing some research on this. Nike has come up with a shoe for the Olympics, for the marathon, and it's 20% lighter than the shoe worn by the gold medal winner in 2008, that one weighed 200 grams, this one weighs 160 grams, that's 5.6 ounces. I mean, they're making them just about disappear. They said, "Look, that 20% difference over the 40,000 steps of the marathon, equals one ton." If you don't wanna lift the extra ton, then buy our shoe" that's how that works.
I wonder what the original marathoners wore and what those leather shoes were... They're probably more like dress shoes at this point. Just an incredible thing. Those kind of athletes, they know the need to lighten what they're carrying. Tour de France bike riders, they're always looking for lighter, stiffer cycles, they don't want to be carrying extra weight up the Alps and the Pyrenees. And that's the image that's given here, throw it off, everything that weighs you down. And it says, "And the sin that so easily entangles." the idea, again, you picture a marathon runner, and he's got a big fish net, like the kind used by fishermen trying to gather in lots of fish, and he carries it over his shoulder and occasionally casts it on the road ahead of himself. It makes no sense. What are you doing? And he trips up on it and falls, and his elbow is bleeding, and it's insanity, dear brothers and sisters, but that's what we do when we willfully sin. We are taking on a belt of weights, we are entangling our own feet and making it difficult to finish the race.
This is not talking about the duties of the Christian life, we're not talking about church attendance, throw that off. You know, private prayer, throw that off. Daily quiet times, "Oh, what a burden." The burden of witnessing, of having to share the gospel, it's not that. Neither am I talking about afflictions and difficulties that God brings into our lives that James tells us we should count it pure when it happens, because those are the things that do develop perseverance and endurance. No, we're talking about sin, we're talking about violating the law of God, we're talking about the issues of holiness, and we're told here to just throw them off, as though it were some easy thing to do. Well, in one sense it really is in the end. You are free. We just sang about it. Did you celebrate it? We're set free, we've been set free. And no temptation will ever come to you the rest of your life with a sovereign compulsion that you cannot resist. You're free the rest of your life to say, "No," effectively no, to every temptation that comes to you, throw it off.
This is how holiness is taught again and again, put off the old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires, be made new in the attitude of your minds and put on the new self. It's again and again this kind of thing. We are the ones who are able to obey those commands. By the power of the Spirit, we are able to put to death the misdeeds of the body, and as a matter of fact, that is the primary ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of the individual Christian. Because Romans 8, "If you live according to the flesh, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." And so the Spirit is in you, and he is leading you to put to death these wicked things, these lusts that wage war against your soul, whatever it might be. It might be some lawful pleasure, something that God has given you ordinarily as a gift, but it's gotten bigger, it's swollen in your life, and it now threatens to be an idol. Maybe in some cases it is an idol, and it's hindering you, throw it off, you have the power to do this and run with endurance. You may wonder what are you talking about? Ask the Spirit right now, what should I throw off in my life?
Whatever is popping up in your mind right now, that's it, if you're a child of God. Kill it, it's hindering you. If your right hand cause you to sin, cut it off, throw it away. Whatever it is, kill it, by the power of the Spirit, and you will run lighter, dear brothers and sisters, you will run lighter and freer and with greater endurance. This is the command, these are the obstacles that the Lord is highlighting in your heart, free yourself. You are set free, run free.
IV. The Encouragement and Direction: The Great Cloud of Witnesses”
What are the encouragement? Well, we crossed over it quickly, I haven't mentioned it yet, but we are surrounded, it says, by a great cloud of witnesses, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run with endurance." These witnesses I think, can be none other than these brothers and sisters in Christ that we've just celebrated their faith, some of them named, some of them unnamed, some of them seeing great success because of their faith, others going through great suffering because of their faith, but all of them finishing the race and giving us role models to follow. As we get in Hebrews 13, "Remember your leaders who spoke the word of God to you, consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith."
And so there is this cloud of witnesses, the departed saints, the spirits of righteous men made perfect. It's an interesting thing, you may say, "Can they really see us?" Yes, they can. "Well, that's a bit creepy," you may say. "I thought I was alone, I thought I had some private time." You have none. The fact is everything we do is open and laid bare before the eyes of heaven. There are angels, there are demons, there are departed spirits, and they do see. The Book of Revelation, "The saints that are in Heaven are aware of what's going on earth." They can see it, they know, but don't let that trouble you, because you're not going to be standing before them on judgment day, anyway. The only one that matters when it comes to that is God, and nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight, everything's uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we will give an account. He is holy, and there's nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known. So yes, they see us, but they're not here as judges, they're not here as harsh convictors, they're here as encouragers. They're pointing the way.
The word cloud is a bit interesting. Are they some kind of nebulous drifting thing that's kind of weird in that way? I like instead the idea of them being like a pillar of cloud that leads the way. Do you see what I'm saying? Like the cloud of the Lord in the Old Testament pointing the way, they're basically saying, "Follow me as I follow Christ." That's how they're a cloud of witnesses pointing the way. Because we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us run this race with endurance. So we need role models, we need examples, but we need more than that, dear brothers and sisters, we need power to run this race. And if all you have are examples and role models, it's not enough. Even if the example is Jesus, I would say infinitely if the example is Jesus. We need power, and Jesus does more than merely give us an example, isn't that marvelous?
Do you remember a few years ago when Michael Jordan was at the height of his powers, and Gatorade had a "Be Like Mike" thing. Do you realize how ridiculous that is? The guy had a what? A 42-inch vertical leap. Just astounding basketball skills. Was he mocking us? Was he standing in front of us saying, "Be like me, do the things that I do." Seriously, I analyzed this, I was thinking about this on my way to church one day, I was thinking, what percentage of the population can dunk on a regulation hoop? Think about that with me. What do you think? Real small, alright. You can take, I'm not meaning to be offensive, but you can pretty much take all the 60-year-olds and just move them right on over, okay. I'm not trying to be offensive, but if there is a 60-year-old out there that can dunk, he is one in a several million and whatever. And you just start doing the statistical analysis, just goes down to zero, zero, zero, zero.
V. The Power: “Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of Faith”
And if you're just going to stand there and tell me, "Be like me," that's not enough, but that's not what Jesus does here. He intends to give you of his power, the same power that enabled him to resist every temptation that came his way, and so he is commanding you to fix your eyes on him, like Peter walking on water, "Fix your eyes on me, and I will get you through." So look at verse two, "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…" etcetera. So we are to fix our eyes on Jesus, it's a very interesting Greek word, it literally is, look away to Jesus, look away to Jesus. I find that interesting, look away from what? Whatever you were looking at before. Whatever it was, look away from it and start looking at Jesus again, look away from yourself in your own strength, look away from the world and all of its allurements and temptations, look away from every created thing, look to Jesus.
And how do you do this? How could you do it except by faith, we just got done with the faith chapter, and Jesus is invisible to us. You've never seen him, and though you have not seen him, you love him. It says in 1st Peter, we have never seen him. Jesus says in John 20, "Blessed are they who have not seen and yet have believed."
The Necessity of the Word of God
So how do we do it? We do it by the ministry of the word of God, by this word, by the ministry of the word of God, we look away to Jesus. It says in Galatians 3:1, "You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes, Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified." Friends, that wasn't the Jesus film back in the first century, okay, that was preaching. By the preaching of the Gospel, Jesus was put before their eyes, the eyes of their faith, and they saw him, the crucified one, they saw him, the resurrected one, they could see him. Okay, so like we sang earlier, turn your eyes upon Jesus, you almost have to close your eyes to do it. Look away from the world and focus on him and turn your eyes on him, Jesus. I don't know why, but I'm just glad it's Jesus and not Christ there. There's something very intimate and personal. Christ would be fine, but the intimacy of Jesus, of his humanity, of the fact that he has been tempted in every way, just as I am, yet he was without sin. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.
Jesus the Author and Perfecter of The Faith
And look what it says about him, he is the "author and the perfecter of our faith." You have a faith. You believe in Jesus, you believe that he is the Christ, the Son of the living God. Jesus gave you that faith, isn't that marvelous? Like the man born blind when he put mud on his eyes and told him to wash and he could see, he gave you the faith to see him, he's the author of your faith, he wrote it in your soul, and he is not only the author of it, but he is the perfecter of it. He who began this good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. He will sustain your faith every step of the way. I can't talk about this text enough, it's just so vital when it comes to this. We already know that Jesus sustains all things by the word of his power, in Hebrews 1. He sustains also your faith the same way by the word of his power. And you remember the night he was arrested, he said to Simon Peter, "Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail, and when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers."
It is so important you understand those words, apart from Jesus your faith will fail, you understand that? Jesus must continue to sustain your faith or it will fail, he must protect it, he must nourish it, he must keep it going until you don't need it anymore. And he will, he's at the right hand of God and is interceding for you, he is praying for you that your faith won't fail. He is filtering out your temptations, he is not allowing anything to come to you which is going to sweep you away. So that none of all of that the Father has given him will be lost. He is focusing his priestly ministry on this one thing, your faith, that it won't fail. He is therefore not only the author, but he is also the perfecter of your faith. So here's the twin message of today's sermon: You must endure, you must persevere, and it's going to be hard, but you will, because Jesus is at the right hand of God and is praying for your faith that it won't fail. And put those two together, you have biblical sanctification. You have what God's called you to do. Jesus gives you the power you need to run this race.
And look what it says about Jesus, "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." So much weighty theology in these phrases. Probably in my life, the most significant non-inspired book is John Piper's Desiring God. In that book, which has been revolutionary for tens of maybe hundreds of thousands of Christians. It's a book of Christian motivation, and it zeroes in on why we do what we do. He coined a phrase which I never really loved, but I see the value to it, Christian hedonism. The idea is that we should live for pleasure, we should live for joy, but it should be the pleasure of God himself, and therefore everything that we do, we should do for pleasure, the pleasure of God. It's not intuitively obvious that that's so, especially when it comes to suffering. When you're going through suffering, you're like, "How do I find joy in this?" This is your text, dear friends. This one right here, Hebrews 12:2.
VI. The Goal: The Joy Set Before Him
Jesus shows how it's done. He doesn't enjoy the cross, that's not the joy set before him. He enjoys what the cross accomplishes, he enjoys the final end of his labors. He knows that what he must go through is necessary to get the joy he's shooting for. It's the joy that's set before him. And what is it? We sang about it earlier, we read about it, we were thinking about it. That there is a multitude greater than anyone could count from every tribe and language and people and nation, and they're standing there in white robes surrounding the throne, and they're holding palm branches in their hands, and they're saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and to the Lamb." that's the joy, and he's got that in his mind. That all of God's people chosen before the creation of the world will most certainly be there and see his glory. Oh, what joy.
Does everything for pleasure, God Almighty, God does everything for pleasure. He's a pleasure filled being. Don't be deceived, Satan's not a god of pleasure, he's a miserable being, and he wants to deprive you of pleasure by tricking you. No, but God in his presence is the fullness of joy, eternal pleasures, pleasures forever more at his right hand, so God does everything he does for pleasure, even this. He delights in giving you the kingdom, "Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." He really enjoys giving you the kingdom. He's the one that told us, "God loves a cheerful giver." Amen. He loves a cheerful giver, friends, God is a cheerful giver. And he gives us a kingdom, but he also knows there's a price tag, an infinite price tag to that gift, and he did that with pleasure too. It was the Lord's pleasure to crush his son and cause him to suffer, Isaiah 53:10, a mystery beyond our ability to comprehend. How do we understand that? Was it Jesus' pleasure to go to the cross? This text says, ultimately yes. But he endured the cross for the joy set before him.
And so there's an endurance aspect, and there is a constant joy aspect in the Christian life. How could you do anything but endure the cross? Hands and feet nailed to wood, gravity pulling you straight down toward the earth, to breathe you have to push up on your nailed feet to gulp air and sink back down, and you do this grotesque dance of death until you can't do it anymore and you die. There's nothing there to enjoy. We don't enjoy the cross, you endure the cross. And that's just the physical side, how much more being under the wrath of God as our substitute, endured it. And look at the next phrase, despising its shame. Shame, it's one of the most powerful motivators in the human heart. We yearn to not be ashamed, we are embarrassed easily, we're afraid of what the people will think. There is a matter of shame, and it's a weighty thing for us. It motivates a lot of what we do, and a lot of what we don't do, could we not say that it's because of fear of shame that we don't evangelize as we should? It's not so we don't know enough theology, we don't care about people and all that, we're afraid of shame.
Jesus was shamed, but not ashamed, you see. They tried to shame him, they did things to him, they spat on him. They struck him in front of the High Priest. The High Priest rejected him and condemned him, that's shameful ordinarily. He went over to Pilate, Pilate though he desired to set him free still gave Jesus over to be shamed. They wove together a crown of thorns, and they put them on his head, and they bashed them down into his brow, and they beat him with a rod, and they blindfolded him, and they struck him and said, "Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?" I think one of the most shaming things that can ever happen is to be spat upon, to have someone come up and spit in your face. They covered him with a purple robe mocking him, "Hail King of the Jews," they said, and then Pilate condemned him to die, and he's carrying his own cross up the streets of Jerusalem, bearing the disgrace of the people as they filled with rage that he had betrayed their hopes and their confidence, poured out derision on him and rejected him. He was led outside the city gates, like a piece of refuse, and he was stripped, and he was crucified out there. That's the shame.
Jesus despised it. What does that mean? It doesn't mean he hated it. It's the way we frequently use the word, but that's not what it means. He thought little of it. It's a small price to pay to save you, he thinks. I'll do it, small, it's as nothing to me, it's a light weight thing. If I can only save that multitude from every tribe and language and people and nation, so that they will not be ashamed on judgment day, I will bear that shame. And to me it's nothing. Think of it as a light thing, light and momentary. So the world rejected Christ, the world scorned him and mocked him and all that, but God didn't. And through that perfect act of obedience, God raised him up and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow in heaven and earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. God exalted him, and he is exalted, shame is over.
He cannot be mocked, and he cannot be shamed, and he's at the right hand of God. And he's going to clearly call us in chapter 13 to come outside the city gates where he is, but he's saying the race you're going to run, you're going to get... They're going to try to shame you. They're going to try to heap derision on you, they're going to try to persecute you, they're going to try to beat on you, they're going to try to strip you of your self-esteem, they're going to try to reject you, despise it, friends. Think of it as a little. It's a small thing. If only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, think of it that way because that's how Jesus thought of it, and that's the power that he's giving to you.
VII. Consider Him, Lest You Become Discouraged (vs. 4)
"Consider him," verse 3, "who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." That's it, that's the enemy of the race that we are to run here. Weariness of heart, growing weary and losing heart. That's the opposite of endurance.
Is that you today? Did you come in here that way? Have you grown weary in the Christian race? Are you tired of fighting the world, the flesh, and the devil? Do you yearn for heaven, but you're not there yet, and you wonder why? You might be elderly, you might be young. This weariness can come on anyone. Could come on somebody who has been a Christian for a month, somebody who has been a Christian for 50 years. Satan is selling it on every street corner: Grow weary, lose heart. It's what he's trying to do with every temptation to get you to grow weary and lose heart.
The remedy, consider him. Consider Jesus. Fix your eyes upon Jesus, draw from Jesus like a branch from the vine, the nourishing strength you need to keep running this race. I prayed this morning for two categories of people. I prayed in your hearing already. Been thinking about these two categories, those that would enter here, the beginning of this service lost, dead in their transgressions and sins, unsaved, maybe invited by a church member here today. I resolved before God a number of years ago that someone in that condition that heard me preach would not leave not knowing how to be saved.
I have proclaimed to you the basic facts of the gospel. Let me apply them to you. If you turn the eyes of your heart now by simple faith on Jesus, and you see in your mind, Jesus crucified his blood shed, and you recognize, he has shed that blood for you and for your sins, you deserved wrath and judgment, but Jesus is your substitute, and he died for you, and in your heart, you call on him and yearn for him to save you, and you believe that God raised him from the dead on the third day, you will be saved. It's that simple. And so turn your eyes upon Jesus as verse 2 says, and trust in him. The one who went to the cross.
And if you are a believer, and you're growing weary, getting... You're getting slack perhaps in your daily quiet time, allowing sin to encroach and start to have its way with you, developing new habits of sin perhaps, and they're sucking strength from you, you're growing weary because of them, they're parasites on your soul. Follow what the text says. Know that you have a race to run, you must run it with endurance, turn your eyes upon Jesus and trust in him, by faith in him throw aside these weights that you have voluntarily put around your waist, this net that you've thrown in front of your own feet, throw it aside, and run today. Run with endurance this race marked out for you, put your hope entirely in him, and do not be afraid of suffering in the Christian life. Let's embrace it. God's laid before us two infinite journeys. I'm talking here about the internal journey of holiness. There is an external journey of worldwide gospel advance, of evangelism and missions. I tell you that you can make progress in neither journey without suffering. So you have to go to Hebrews 12:2 again and again and say, "I'm enduring this for a joy. I'm enduring this for the joy set before me. I'm enduring this so I can lead someone to Christ. I'm enduring this so I can grow in godliness. I'm enduring these things so that I can be the man, the woman that God wants me to be."
So focus on Christ. If you need some time set aside to pray, to meditate, to draw close again to Jesus, do it. Don't drift away from him. Don't turn away from him, certainly don't fall away from him, but allow this message today in the ministry of the Spirit, through focusing on Jesus to draw you back into a vibrant run with this living savior. Close with me in prayer.