Ready for the Race

January 1, 2005 Hebrews 12:1-3

1.  Recognize the Reality of the Race

A.  Others have lived by faith – the great cloud of witnesses

- explain the ‘witnesses’ = martyrs – i.e. the ‘heroes’ of chp. 11

- These individuals are not looking down on us (i.e. all huddled around the edge of heaven observing us like a crowd watching a football game),

> but rather they have given testimony to us of the reality of the race, the necessity of living by faith, and how to finish the race and not quit

- Look at who is mentioned:

>  Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab,

- And, as if that isn’t enough to convince you of what the author is about to say – look at verse 32-38 . . .

Hebrews 11:32 And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, 33 who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions,

34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection;

36 and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated

38 (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

B.  You should have a heart of faith!

> Look at Hebrews 11:39-40

  • Hebrews 11:39 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

2.  Prepare Yourself for the Race

A.  Lay aside every ‘weight’

weight = anything/everything that hinders – not necessarily wrong – just not helping us to accomplish God’s goal of ‘running the race’

Examples: The long distance runner wearing Army boots – hinders the race!

“It’s by running that a Christian discovers what these are; so long as one stands still, a person does not feel that these things are burdensome or hampering one’s efforts.”

B.  Lay aside ‘the sin’

‘the sin’ = unbelief

- If there is one sin that hinders us from running the race to the glory of God, it’s unbelief

- Doubting and living in faith contradict each other

- This may be unbelief that the:

  • Trial . . . is more than I can bear (1 Cor. 10:13)
  • Temptation . . . God won’t help me overcome (1 Tim. 4:7)
  • Habit . . . I can’t change and grow (Gal. 5:16)

Point:  Unbelief keeps us from running the race – confess it, repent, and believe!

C.  Get involved:  Embrace the Journey

- following Christ has COST

Luke 14:25 Now large crowds were going along with Him; and He turned and said to them, 26 "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.


27 "Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple. 28 "For which one of you, when he wants to build a tower, does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it?


29 "Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who observe it begin to ridicule him, 30 saying, 'This man began to build and was not able to finish.'


31 "Or what king, when he sets out to meet another king in battle, will not first sit down and consider whether he is strong enough with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand? 32 "Or else, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.


33 "So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. 34 "Therefore, salt is good; but if even salt has become tasteless, with what will it be seasoned?


35 "It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear."


> Implies a competition . . . opposition

  • Satan – 1 Peter 5:8 – mention how he would love to destroy your marriage, children, effectiveness for the Lord, etc. – he hates believers – he is the enemy!
    [Note: Ephesians 6:10-18 – the armor of God helps us]
  • World – 1 John 2:15-17 – consider the advertisements on TV of the fall programs – even an HBO/Cable line for homosexual shows
  • Flesh – Romans 7:14-25 [quote and explain Paul’s struggle]

* Good news:  Each of these has been defeated through the Author and Perfecter of Faith!!

> Implies a crown . . . reward

  • 2 Corinthians 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

[Bema Seat – the place of judgment for what was accomplished in the race – 1stcentury – see below]


“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us” (be running) – the race of FAITH

Point: Our course may be different (trials, tests, challenges are different for each person), but THE RACE is the same!

- Paul said in 2 Timothy 4 – “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course . . .”

*Ask some questions:

1)  Are you in the race?

- Do you know Jesus as your Lord and Savior

  • Hebrews 5:9 – the source/author of eternal salvation

2)  Have you been in the race, but not very effective?

- what ‘weights’ and ‘sins’ have been hindering you?

3)  Have you gotten out of the race? Quit?

3.  Keep the Right Focus

‘fixing our eyes’ = look away from one thing and concentrate on another

- to gaze with wide open eyes at something remarkable

- only occasion used in the NT – suggests a vision that surprises, captures, masters one’s attention

- Manner of describing how we are to run!

Q:  Where are you looking this morning? Where did you look this past week?

Q:  Where have you ‘fixed’ your eyes? 

- The author says to fix your eyes on . . .

A.  The Author and Perfecter of our faith

  • Author = source (originator) and leader of our faith

- The primary meaning of ‘author’ is that of chief leader or chief example – He is the one to whom we should be looking – why?

cf. Hebrew 4:15

  • Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

- When Satan tempted Him in the wilderness – Matthew 4:1-10 – He kept the faith!

- Jesus not only KEPT the faith, He AUTHORED the faith

Note: This explains why some don’t run so well – looking wrong direction!

  • John 8:29 And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him."

- Even those in chapter 11 couldn’t say that!

“Whatever the prospect of hardship or suffering, He trusted His Father.  His Father’s will was what He lived by and died by.  It was all Jesus ever considered.  The faith of all the heroes of chapter 11 together could not match the faith of the Son of God. They were wonderful witnesses and examples of faith:  Jesus is more wonderful still!” – MacArthur, Hebrews, p. 378

  • Perfecter = completer, brings to the goal

- He carries it through to completion . . . to the point of John 19:30 “It is finished”

- Jesus’ work on the cross was finished not only in that it was completed but also in that it was perfected

- If a composer dies while writing a song, his work on that piece is over but it is not finished

- On the cross, Jesus’ work was both over and finished – it accomplished EXACTLY what it was meant to accomplish

- From His birth to his death, His life was totally committed to the Father – THAT is a walk of faith like no other!

Application:  Some play games spiritually because they don’t recognize Who Jesus is OR they do recognize Him, but simply reject Him

KJV =  Author and Finisher of our faith (our is not in the original MS -- . . . of faith – i.e. although the definite article in not included in the text, the author has been referring to the faith throughout the book!)

B.  What did Jesus do? (WDJD vs. WWJD – the answer is found in the Word!)

- explain the interpretation of “for the joy” = instead of the joy (anti – not gar or because)

cf. Luke 11:11 – instead of a fish

- this verse is referring to the glory that Jesus shared with the Father before the world began – ‘instead of’ that joy of the relationship with the Father, He endured . . .

* 3 qualifications:

1.  Endured the cross

‘endured’ = to remain behind when other have departed

- Explain Hebrew 1:3 – ‘by Himself’

  • Nation rejected Him – John 1:11
  • Disciples forsook Him – all of them, not just Peter
    • God the Father – had to turn His back on His Son – Jesus, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

2.  Despised the shame

despising’ = to brave, to be unafraid (positive), or to think down, to treat contemptible

  • 1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one look down on (same word) your youthfulness . . .

shame’ = disgrace

  • Galatians 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE"- -

Q: How do you respond to the pressure of being a Christian?

  • John 15:20 Remember the word that I said to you, 'A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you . . .

3.  Set down at the right hand of the throne of God

‘set down’ (perfect tense):  The idea being that after His work of providing a salvation was finished, He sat down and remains seated

- He doesn’t need to get up and do anything else to provide our salvation – His work is complete – a past action with ongoing results!

Note:  OT temple lacked one item – chair – explain about the priest was to never be seated in the Temple – his work was not finished – there were sacrifices to be made, restitution to be sought, etc – he never ‘sat down’ – but not the case with Jesus!!

4.  Be In It for the Long Haul (Finish Strong – Don’t Quit)

A.  Jesus didn’t quit

  • Hebrews 12:3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself . . .

- same word the writer used earlier (review definition)

- The reason we the exhortation to ‘fix our eyes on Jesus’ is because of this:  He endured – He didn’t quit

- For that reason, we ought to consider (i.e. by way of comparison) His life, His commitment, His obedience

KEY:  When considering Him, we see how much more He had to endure than we do!

Ill:  Problem with comparing ourselves with other people – wrong standard! 

> Leads to pride – self-righteousness!



B.  You shouldn’t quit

The prize Christians are to run for is not heaven.  If we are truly Christians, if we belong to God by faith in Jesus Christ, heaven is already ours.  We run for the same prize that Jesus ran for, and we achieve it in the same way He did.  We run for the joy of exaltation God promises will be ours if we glorify Him on earth as His Son did. We glorify God by allowing His attributes to shine through us and by obeying His will everything we do.” – MacArthur, Hebrews, p. 380

  • When we get weary in the race and our faith is weak
  • When we think God has forsaken us or given us more than we can handle
  • When it seems like the circumstances will never change (and we want to change them):

>  Part of the purpose for fixing our eyes on Jesus is the same as that for considering the great cloud of witnesses – our encouragement!

C.  Implications:

1.  Prepare your heart for the Adventure

2.  Embrace the Adventure – those who need to exercise faith in the finished work of Christ – Roman 10:9-10; John 3:16, etc.

3.  Strive to be effective – what do you need to lay aside that is hindering you from running the race set before you?

4.  Remember WHY you are in the race – He is our model, and He didn’t quit

[Explain 1 Corinthians 10:31 – do all to the glory of God – ‘glory’ from a Hebrew word which means ‘opinion’ – therefore, we ought to give the right opinion of God in whatever we do.]

5.  Don’t quit – quotes Hebrew 12:3