Jesus Is…!

Jesus Is . . .!
Hebrews 12:1-3
September 17, 2017

We remember endings. We remember endings of our favorite movies, as well as endings in the lives of friends, family and even people we’ve admired from politics, sports, actors, actresses, musicians and more.

We remember epic meltdowns in sports. Those icons who missed that last second shot . . . or those who made that last second shot. We remember the endings of lives of important people. We recall how someone died with grace – – and some didn’t.

If I said Jim Bakker of PTL fame . . . remember him? Your first thoughts will be of how his ministry ended. Yet, whether you liked him or not, thousands of people would tell you they were tremendously blessed and encouraged by his ministry. Yet, he’s remembered for how his ministry ended.

Do you remember Reggie Miller’s 8 points in 9 seconds against the New York Knicks? You may not remember much from his career, but if you’re a Pacers fan, you remember that.

You remember the Immaculate Reception by Franco Harris of the Pittsburgh Steelers against Oakland in 1972?

Think about biblical characters as well. How about a guy named Judas? Judas decided to follow Jesus. He went out two by two with the others, healing the sick and exorcising demons. Judas did a lot of good with the other disciples. Yet, he’s remembered for how his life ended.

Do you remember some of your favorite actors/actresses or musicians who had untimely deaths?

We remember the end of the story more than we do the beginning. The same is true about our lives. People are remembered for how they finish their lives, their relationships, their ministry. We know life gets tough, but we need to know, believe and trust that when life gets tough, God helps us run the race before us.

With that in mind, we are now in week 16 of our walk through the book of Hebrews. We are looking at who Jesus is. How does Jesus make a difference in our lives? Today, we’re looking at how our faith helps us run that race called life.

We’re only looking at 3 verses. So, let me read these 3 verses, then we’ll break them down a little and see how we can apply them. We’re looking at Hebrews 12:1-3 ~

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

3 Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. – Hebrews 12:1-3

As we live our lives, we quickly learn that life is not a sprint. It’s a long distance race, a marathon. That’s why Paul wrote the words of 2 Timothy 4:7. He was sitting in a Roman jail because of his faith. As he finishes his letter, he wrote these great words ~
7 I have fought the good fight and I have finished the race and I have kept the faith. – 2 Timothy 4:7

Paul believed he would receive the crown of righteousness because of his faith. And I’ve been privileged to say these words at many funerals for some of our saints as well.

Life is like a cross country race. If you’re in that race you have to follow the flags. Turn right, go straight, turn left, go up that hill, down that hill. You follow the course which has been laid out. That’s what Paul was saying about the race. He followed the course, the plan which God had set out before him.

You can’t decide, ‘I’m not feeling it today, I’m going to take a short cut. I hope nobody minds.’

You can’t look at a particular hill and say, ‘That hill just looks nasty. I’ll just skip it.’ You have to run the race marked out for you.

It’s the same in our lives, God has gone before you. He knows your ending from your beginning. He knows all the days of your life. He’s gone ahead of you and planted these flags ahead of you. And the writer tells us in verse 1 – –
1 let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

It’s interesting that the author of Hebrews chooses the metaphor of the long distance race to illustrate the Christian life. The Christian life is a matter of endurance, struggle and difficulty. Yes, there is victory!! We have our victories in this world . . . . and then there’s the great victory when we cross the finish line and enter heaven. But often times, between now and then, it can be a struggle.

That might be one of the reasons why we have an English word which is taken from the Greek word translated race. The word translated RACE literally means “a struggle, grueling conflict and has become our English word AGONY.

Literally, the author says, let us run with endurance the RACE / CONFLICT / STRUGGLE set before us.

If you’ve run a long distance, you know what agony is. Your entire body hurts, you feel like your lungs are going to burst, and your legs are rubber; it’s agony! It’s a struggle! So this AGONY is a picture of the Christian life, and we are all spiritual athletes on the racetrack, living for the Lord, running the race that has been set before us by God.

Sometimes while we’re in that race, we struggle and we need some encouragement. The writer tells us we’ve got some encouragers.

Look back at verse 1 ~
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,

Who is that cloud of witnesses? You say, “Oh! I know . . . It’s my grandmother. She was a great Christian, and she’s now in heaven, and she’s there in the grandstands watching and cheering for me.’ I know who it is! It’s my father. He was the rock of our family. He’s with Jesus now and my dad’s encouraging me!’

Now, these folks may be cheering and encouraging you, BUT that’s not what this passage means. Notice the first word of this verse! THEREFORE.

Whenever we see that word, my Bible study folks know what that means. It means we look back because the author is coming to a conclusion.

Remember that list of names in Hebrews 11? This cloud of witnesses is comprised of the great men and women of faith in the Old Testament! And what’s encouraging about this list of faithful people – – is that virtually all of them are also described in Scripture as weak and sinful. They weren’t perfect. Great men and women of faith who have gone before us testify that the life worth living for Christ – – is the life of faith.

These great people of faith are in the stands. Picture Moses, Amos, Rahab, Jeremiah, Jacob, Abraham, Sarah and 1000’s more in the stands saying, “KEEP ON GOING! YOU CAN DO IT, WE DID IT. SO CAN YOU!!” Think about it –

Jacob was a liar, a man you wouldn’t want to do business with. He cheated his father and brother. Jacob is in the stands saying, “I know how you feel. Keep on going! I did too.”

Moses killed a man and ran. He didn’t want to serve God. He complained that nobody would believe him. He said he couldn’t speak well, he had excuses, but Moses is in those stands. Moses is saying, “I know what it feels like when you want to give up. But keep on truckin’. I’m for you.”

And Rahab the prostitute is saying ~ “You think you’re a sinner. You should have been in my place. I was a really bad person. But God saved me and redeemed me. If I was as bad as I was, and you feel bad, God can and will save you, don’t give up.”

We can keep on going about the sins of our saints. Suffice it to say, they’re not perfect. And those are the witnesses who are pulling for you, cheering you on, encouraging you to succeed.

Each race is unique to who we are. Yet we tend to compare ourself with others. When my race seems tough, it’s easy to look at someone else and say, “if I had his race to run, no problem. I could handle that. If I had his paycheck, I could easily run the race set out for me. If I had a spouse who understood, I could run with endurance. If I had her health, imagine what I could do for the kingdom.

We can rationalize to the point where we say, “It’s okay for me to quit. I don’t have to run with endurance because my course is so much harder than others. But God says, “I want you to run this race. This is the course I’ve mapped out for you. This is what I’m going to hold you accountable for. Don’t think about others. You just look at me. And together, we will run your race.

If you’re going to finish, you’ve got to keep running until you reach the finish line.

The sky had become dark. The events of the day were over. People were leaving to go home. It was October 20, 1968, at the Mexico City Olympics Stadium.

The last of the Olympic marathon runners were being assisted away. Earlier in the evening, Mamo Waldi of Ethiopia finished first in the marathon. He won the race by over 3 minutes.

As the last few thousand spectators began preparing to leave, they heard police sirens and whistles through the gate entering the stadium.

The attention turned to that gate. A sole figure, wearing the colors of Tanzania, came walking, hobbling, limping into the stadium. His name was John Stephen Akhwari. He was the last man to finish the marathon in 1968. His time was over 1 hour behind the winner, whom by the way, Akhwari had beaten in a previous race. He was the African Champion.

Now, Akhwari’s leg was bandaged and bloody. Early in the race he fell and dislocated his knee and injured his head and shoulder. He could barely run, he walked most of the race. Now, it was all he could do to limp his way around the track. Those who were left in the crowd stood and applauded as he completed that last lap.

After he finished the race, he was asked, “You are badly injured. Why didn’t you quit? Why didn’t you give up?

Akhwari, quietly said, “My country did not send me nine thousand miles to start this race. My country sent me to finish. He added, “my parents “if you start doing something, finish it. Otherwise, never start it.”

So it is with God. God didn’t just send you to start this race. He didn’t just send you to begin a noble task or a noble relationship. God sent you to start and to finish.

When you start the race you feel great. You have strength and energy, passion and excitement. As the race moves on, you become tired, your mind wanders, people seem to pass you and look effortless. You feel pain, your muscles hurt, your legs feel like mush. And you feel totally different than when you started.

Oftentimes, when we’re feeling that pain, we think to ourselves, ‘this hurts, it must not be God’s will.’

Do you see the fallacy here? Pain doesn’t mean it’s no longer God’s will. Sometimes the race God calls us to run is filled with pain. But if God has called you to run this race, then He wants you to finish this race. He promises He will be there with you, and so will those witnesses.

We may get knocked down a time or too. We may not succeed as we hoped for. But even after you’ve been knocked down, you get up . . . and you continue the race, you continue running again. Win or lose, you don’t stay down.

Some of you have been knocked down. Maybe it’s life, maybe it’s satan. Maybe you’ve made some wrong decisions, foolish, and sinful . . . . and maybe others have done you wrong.

When we’re knocked down, we may feel embarrassed or ashamed. We may feel depressed. At times like that we want to hide away, we want to get home and get in bed and stay there. And the worst thing you could do is stay down.

God’s word to you is, “Get up and run! Get up and Walk! Get up and crawl! Forget those who have hurt you. Forget what lies behind and run for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. You still have a race ahead of you.

Philippians 1:6 doesn’t say, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day you fail and flop on the track. It says,

6 “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ. – Philippians 1:6

Jesus looked at Peter and told him, You’re going to deny me. But later Jesus told him, When you get back up after you’ve fallen, continue running the race. Strengthen your brothers. Follow God’s calling and purpose for you. Don’t stay down.

There’s more to come. The race, life . . . it’s grueling. But God promises He will not abandon us. He will not ever, NEVER, set us on the wrong course. He has the perfect plan, even when it doesn’t seem perfect.

I am skipping the middle part of verse 1 for this week so I can tie it together in verse 2 for next week. So, next week, we will look at part of verse 1, then verses 2-3.

For now, hold onto to the One who has called you into a relationship with Him. He will not fail you, He will not forsake you. Jesus Is . . . your Lord and Savior. He is the Alpha and Omega – the Beginning and the End! He’s there for the start of the race and He will certainly be there to see you through to the end of the race.

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