"THE CHRISTIAN RACE."
I. PAUL IN HIS WRITINGS OFTEN LIKENED THE CHRISTIAN LIFE TO RUNNING A RACE.
A. To the Corinthians, Paul wrote, "They that run in a race run all, but only one receives the prize, so run that you might obtain."
B. To the Galatians he wrote, "You did run well, who did hinder you."
C. To the Philippians, he wrote of having not run in vain; and then he declared that he pressed toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."
D. At the end of his life he wrote to Timothy, "I have fought a good fight. I have finished my course, I have kept the faith."
E. To win the race it is necessary to have discipline, determination and endurance.
F. When Paul was on his way to an uncertain future in Jerusalem, knowing only that bonds and imprisonment awaited him, he said to the elders of Ephesus, "But none of these things move me, neither do I count my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy." That is the joy of victory.
II. WITH THE BACKDROP OF THE GREAT OLYMPIC RACES, THE WRITER SAYS, "SEEING THAT WE ARE COMPASSED ABOUT WITH SO GREAT A CLOUD OF WITNESSES."
A. The references of the great cloud of witnesses takes us back to chapter 11.
1. The thought here is not that they are watching us run the race, but they are examples to us of those who have run the race and won.
2. We see the glories of their triumphs.
3. We see the factors that brought them victory.
4. We see the obstacles that they overcame in order to win.
B. We must lay aside every weight, and the sin that so easily besets us.
1. What would you think if you were at a track meet and someone lined up with the field of runners wearing heavy hiking boots, and bulky fatigues?
a. He can never hope to win.
b. He must be crazy.
2. In the early Olympics the runners would strip down to the bare essentials.
3. Today they wear the lightest shoes possible, and the clothing is not only designed to be light, but to also have the least wind resistance.
4. The Bible has many lists that are weights that hinder our winning the race, some of them even disqualifying us from the race.
a. Writing to the Romans Paul said,
And that, knowing the time, that now [it is] high time to awake out of sleep: for now [is] our salvation nearer than when we believed.
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.
Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying.
But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to [fulfil] the lusts [thereof].
b. These are the things that will hinder your running the Christian race and will keep you from winning.
c. To the Corinthians Paul wrote,
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind,
Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
d. These are weights that disqualify you from the race, and keep you from even finishing the race.
e. To the Colossians, Paul wrote,
Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry:
For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience:
In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them.
But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. These are the sins that so easily beset us, that we must cast aside if we have any hope of winning the race.
III. WE ARE EXHORTED TO RUN WITH PATIENCE THAT RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US.
A. The Christian race is not like a hundred yard dash. It is more like a marathon.
1. There are those who start out with a great burst of speed; we think surely they are going to win the race, but they soon drop out of the race.
a. They are like the stony ground that Jesus spoke about, where the seed that was sown came up fast, but had no no depth of soil, so soon died.
b. It is a variation of the story of the tortoise and the hare.
2. We must run with patience.
a. Paul wrote to the Romans about the day when we will stand before the Judge's seat to be crowned and said,
To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life:
b. In chapter 6 of Hebrews we are exhorted,
That ye be not slothful, but followers of them who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
c. In chapter 10,
For ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.
d. Jesus commended the church in Ephesus because they had borne, and had patience, and for His sake had labored and had not fainted.
e. To the church of Philadelphia, Jesus promised, "Because you have kept the word of My patience, I will also keep you from the hour of temptation that is coming to try those who dwell upon the earth."
3. We must endure until we reach the goal.
a. Many have dropped out of the race. In the 10th chapter we read,
Now the just shall live by faith: but if [any man] draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.
b. Jesus said,
And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.
And Jesus said unto him, No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, [then] are ye my disciples indeed;
c. Paul wrote in his last letter to Timothy,
For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica;
d. Writing to the Colossians, he said,
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in [your] mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled
In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and [be] not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard,
IV. THE WAY TO VICTORY, "LOOKING UNTO JESUS THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH.
A. We must keep our eyes focused on the goal.
1. Jesus is our prime example of how God would have us to be and do.
a. Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross despising the shame.
b. The race is not easy at times, it is like a cross country race filled with many obstacles.
c. We sometimes get weary and tired. We might even think about dropping out of the race. This is the time to think about the reward of finishing well.
d. To one day stand before the judgment seat and hear our Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of the Lord." And know that the glory and joy of the kingdom of God is opened for us, world without end.
2. There is an interesting phenomena known as the second wind. It seems to come soon after you feel so tired that you are tempted to drop out. Once you get that second wind it seems like you can go forever. You have to push through the weariness and pain in order to get the second wind.
a. Paul spoke of his race and mentioned that he was often weary, but that he knew that the present suffering was not worthy to be compared with the glory that would one day be revealed.
b. Moses endured as seeing the invisible. If we could see beyond today, as God does see, Then all of our tears He would wipe away, our darkness would flee, Over the present griefs we would not fret, Each sorrow we would soon forget, For Oh such joy is waiting yet, for you and me.