You must understand that the Christian life is one of walking by faith in Jesus Christ. We entered into this new life by turning away from faith in ourselves to put all of our faith in Jesus. These Jewish believers were being enticed to retreat back to a legalistic religious system where they would abandon this difficult faith journey. This short-sighted perspective would cause them to come up short of the promises that could only be appropriated by persevering in faith.
You must understand also that the Christian life is one of ministry. You have received a call to run a very specific race – a course laid out just for you that takes advantage of your unique spiritual giftedness. This life of discipleship to Jesus Christ – the one who said: “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men” – is filled with dangers and difficulties and the potential for discouragement. At some point – in fact numerous points — there will be the temptation to lay down and quit the race. Genuine faith is characterized by perseverance – by pressing on and continuing to fight the good fight. There is no place for retirement from Christian ministry. The finish line is the doorway of death that ushers us into the presence of the one who has gone before us – the author and perfecter of our faith. Are you growing weary in serving Jesus? Do you feel discouraged or are you tempted to lose heart and back off from your commitment to be everything that God has called you to be and do everything He wants you to do? Why not take the easy road and back away from Christian ministry?
You don’t want to be a flash-in-the-pan Christian. You don’t want to flame out like a Fourth of July firecracker. You want to be in the Christian race for the long haul. You want to reach the goal. How we finish the race is more important than how we start the race.
PERSEVERANCE IN FAITH AND MINISTRY REQUIRES MINIMIZING OBSTACLES AND MAINTAINING OUR FOCUS ON JESUS CHRIST —
TWO CRITICAL WAYS TO PERSEVERE IN OUR FAITH JOURNEY
Easy to become spiritually weary if we are not prepared for the difficulty and length of the race.
I. (:1) KEEP RUNNING YOUR RACE (FIGHTING THE FIGHT)
A. Encouragement for Running the Race: Faith Works
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us,”
Zemek: Triple compound word for the connective here; only other NT usage is 1 Thess. 4:8. A
particle introducing an inference especially with an exhortation to follow
Vincent: emphatic particle strongly affirming the facts on which the exhortation is based; look back at the recent context
Not witnesses in the sense of people watching how well we run the race; but those great heroes of the faith from Chapter 11 whose life of faith and perseverance bear witness to us that Faith Works! Those who by their actions have testified to the value and victory of faith. They have entered into their reward. Now it is our turn to run the race with perseverance.
MacArthur: They are examples, not onlookers. They have proved by their testimony, their witness, that the life of faith is the only way to live.
Think how many more witnesses we can point to today. We have over 2000 years of church history. Do you ever read any of the biographies of Christian leaders? How about people you have known personally – those who have been faithful to the end of their journey and still look you in the eye and testify that their faith in Jesus Christ means everything to them.
B. Encumbrances and Entanglements that Slow Us Down and Trip Us Up
1. Encumbrances that Slow Us Down – Amoral Hindrances – the Fat
“let us also lay aside every encumbrance,”
Marathon runners can’t afford to put on extra weight. Used of flab and blubber;
Bulk, impediment; that which serves to hinder or prevent someone from doing something;
There is not a rule against running a marathon in a heavy coat and boots … but . . .
“All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient” – all that does not help hinders
There are things which might not be evil in themselves but which definitely are enemies of God’s best for our life.
MacArthur: I believe the main encumbrance was Judaistic legalism, hanging on to the old religious ways. Most of those ways were not wrong in themselves. Some had been prescribed by God for the time of the Old Covenant. But none of them was of any value now, and in fact had become hindrances. They were sapping energy and attention from Christian living. The Temple and its ceremonies and pageantry were beautiful and appealing. And all the regulations, the does and don’ts of Judaism, were pleasing to the flesh. They made it easy to keep score on your religious life. But these were all weights, some of them very heavy weights.
How long did Noah have to patiently labor before the promised devastation of the flood arrived?
120 years = model of perseverance
What did Abraham have to lay aside in order to follow the call of God in his life? Left the comfort of Ur and embarked on a journey into the unfamiliar and the uncomfortable; was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of obedience – giving up his only son –
What did Moses have to lay aside in order to be an effective leader for God’s people? All of the comforts and good food and pleasures of life in the royal palace in Egypt
What did Christ have to lay aside in order to fulfill the will of the Father?
What have you been unwilling to lay aside that weighs you down and makes you a weaker player in the Christian life?
- Might be some previous relationships that are not helping you draw close to Jesus
- Might be some possessions that you value too much
- Might be some pleasures that consume too much of your time
2. Entanglements that Trip us Up – Immoral Hindrances – the Fetters
“and the sin which so easily entangles us,”
Long robes down around your ankles that would trip you up.
Primarily the sin of Unbelief, of trusting in the flesh instead of having all of our dependence focused on Jesus Christ
Each of us is wired in such a way that there tends to be a particular sin, a particular area of struggle and temptation, that proves especially difficult to overcome.
But for all of us, the key is living a life of faith and walking by the power of the Holy Spirit.
What are we experiencing of victory in the Christian life – a victory that God gives us by His grace through faith in Jesus Christ
C. Endurance that is the Key to Victory
“and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”
1. Speaks to Active Participation
We have not been called to sit on the sidelines. We have not been called to take it easy and just meander through life. We have been called to run a marathon race. Can’t be passive; can’t be a spectator cheering on some super gifted Christian leaders
2. Speaks to Agonizing Participation
The race is described as an “agony” – not something easy; no bed or roses; struggle, fight; What is your expectation regarding the difficulties you will face?
1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you
were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.
2 Timothy 4:7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith;
Amos 6:1 – Woe to those who are ease in Zion, and to those who feel secure in the mountain of Samaria
3. Speaks to Athletic Participation
Requires discipline, training, self control
MacArthur: The competition of the Christian life, of course, is different from that of an athletic race in two important ways. First, we are not to compete against other Christians, trying to outdo each other in righteousness, recognition, or accomplishments. Ours is not a race of works but a race of faith. Yet we do not compete with each other even in faith. . . Second, our strength is not in ourselves, but in the Holy Spirit, otherwise we could never endure.
4. Speaks to Authentic Participation
The race is personal – God’s will for our life and ministry; must define who you really are; you can’t be hypocritical about this; others should be able to observe the race you are running and commend you for your endurance; your focus on the goal; your value system and priorities; you can’t be a phony
TWO CRITICAL WAYS TO PERSEVERE IN OUR FAITH JOURNEY
II. (:2-3) KEEP FOCUSING ON JESUS
A. (:2) Focus Your Vision on Jesus – Where are you looking for help?
“fixing our eyes on Jesus,
look at the example of Moses 11:27 “He endured as seeing one who is unseen”
Why is Jesus our All Sufficient Resource:
1. Jesus Fuels Our Faith
“the author and perfecter of faith,”
Kent: As the Leader and Completer of the faith, Christ has blazed the trail for us and has completed the course.
2. Jesus Anticipates Our Joy
“who for the joy set before Him”
3. Jesus Surpasses Our Perseverence
“endured the cross, despising the shame,”
4. Jesus Secures Our Victory
“and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Psalm 16:8-9 “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely.”
B. (:3) Focus Your Mind on Jesus – What are you thinking about?
1. A Model Worth Emulating – Don’t Get Distracted
“For consider Him”
Satan wants to get our focus off of Jesus:
- Look at your own weaknesses in the flesh – Paul says I will glory in my weakness
- Look at the impossibility and difficulty of your situation – What proved to be too difficult for Jesus?
Analyze, weigh in the balance – this is a command
Consider attentively; think about carefully
2. A Fight Won Convincingly – Don’t Get Overwhelmed — Our Fight is Easier
“who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself,”
Satan attacks us in a variety of ways – especially through people who have the capability
to hurt us – emotionally and physically
We do not have it as bad as Jesus had it
3. A Danger Ever Lurking – Don’t Quit the Fight
Satan constantly tries to discourage us
a. Discouragement – Growing Weary Physically
“so that you may not grow weary”
b. Discouragement – Losing Heart Emotionally
“and lose heart.”
Remember Peter stepping out of the boat to walk on the water and come to Jesus …
Started out well … but then lost his focus on Jesus; started looking around at the impossibility of the task and quickly started to sink
KEEP RUNNING YOUR RACE
KEEP FOCUSING ON JESUS