Picture of People Running a Race

Running the Spiritual Race

Hebrews 12:1-3

The author, of Hebrews, starts off in chapter 12 by bringing to our attention that we are surrounded by a great crowd of witnesses, and that we should throw off everything that holds us back from running a good race.

When I think of being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, I think of being in a GIANT STADIUM.

Have you ever gone to a sporting event or any event where there was a great crowd? In my experience it was very moving. The reaction of hundreds even thousands of people is very powerful.

It’s one thing to be in the crowd watching the event, but can you imagine how more powerful it would be if you were the one that everyone was watching? How would you feel knowing there is a group of people, rooting for you, and cheering you on to victory? Their eyes are on every move you make, with hopes and expectations that you have prepared yourself for the event and are ready to give it your all and do what it takes to WIN!

No true athlete comes to the game to compete without knowing what they are getting into and therefore preparing to meet the challenge. They have spent countless hours preparing for the event. They are focused on everything, diet, physical workout, proper sleep, and psychological preparation. They have a goal before them and have already envisioned winning the PRIZE.

  • The writer of Hebrews is challenging his readers to understand that we are in a spiritual competition, one that leads to an end result.
  • He goes on to give directions about how to approach this race in hopes that we make it across the finish line to SUCCESS!

He starts off by telling us to throw off everything that hinders our progress!

1 – Nothing is Too Small

  • We are running a spiritual race.
  • No sin can be considered too small to ignore.
    • In fact, it’s usually the “small sins” that are the ones that trip us up the most.

I recently watched a movie call “The Aviator” with Leonardo DiCaprio. The movie was about Howard Hughes and his career as an aviation innovator.

  • In the Movie, Hughes was trying to build an airplane that could fly faster than any other plane of the time.
  • He was so persistent in building the best planes he wouldn’t let anything hold him back.
    • money, time, effort, nothing was too important to stop his progress.

On one occasion they designed a plane to break a speed record. The plane was ready to test, but because Howard Hughes noticed the rivets on the body were not counter sunk into the body of the plane, and therefore would have caused drag, he wouldn’t let it go because of its ability to HINDER the plane’s performance!

Lets take a look in the bible of two examples of men that made decisions that lead them spiritually in two different directions.

2 Samuel 11:1-5

Now I don’t think that David was contemplating having an affair with Bathsheba, but because he wasn’t paying attention to the smaller areas of his life it took him down the road to Sin.

David’s first mistake wasn’t lust; he was being lazy, maybe even complacent. Look how the story goes….

And we all know the story doesn’t end there, Bathsheba gets pregnant, he then murders Bathsheba’s husband and the child dies.

All because of one decision Dave was tangled in a web of sin that destroyed people’s lives. How easy is it to not pay close attention to the little things that we come face to face with every day?

Now let’s take a look at a different man’s life that did just the opposite

Daniel and the Lion’s Den.

Daniel 6:1-28

  • Verses 1-5 King Darius appoints Daniel as one of three administrators over his kingdom, and because Daniel distinguished himself above all the other administrators, Darius decided to appoint him over the entire kingdom which made his colleagues very upset.
    • They were so upset they looked for ways to discredit Daniel and could find none.
    • In verses 6-9, as a last resort, they convinced the king to issue an edict that no one in the kingdom could worship anyone (God or Man) besides the king.
      • If they did they would be thrown into the lion’s den.

Read in Verse 10

Despite the royal decree issued by King Darius, Daniel didn’t hesitate but went straight home and worshiped God in full view of everyone just as he was accustomed.

  • How easy would it have been for Daniel to just close the drapes or just go to a different room and pray?
  • One little alteration was all it would have taken to prevent Daniel from being thrown into a lion’s den.
    • How easy it would have been to justify not praying in front of the window.
      • The sun is too bright.
      • I’m tired of this location and would like to pick a different part of the house to pray.
        • Maybe this is just God’s way of telling me it’s time to change things up, so I don’t get in a rut.
    • How many of us would have helped him justify his actions? I can hear the words coming out of my own mouth…
      • You’re not committing a Sin
        • Your still praying
        • You got a family to worry about – a wife and kids to feed
        • Surely God would understand.

I don’t think Daniel believed God would understand him shrinking back – Look at the impact that his faithfulness had on all those around him.

Daniel 6:26-28

Because Daniel didn’t consider compromising his worship toward God as “Too Small” to worry about, the entire kingdom had to FEAR and Show REVERENCE toward his God.

  • What impact could we have if we never allowed the fear of persecution to affect the way we live and worship God?
  • How easy is it for us to justify and cut corners in our relationship with God?

Let’s not kid ourselves – what we may consider small sins, aren’t so small and have a huge impact on how we run our spiritual race.

2 – It’s Takes a Group Effort

  • We must help one another persevere.
  • The race that we are running isn’t an independent race.
    • It’s more of a team effort, a relay race if you may.

In a relay race, the way we run the race can make or break the team’s ability to win. The idea isn’t to run the race all by ourselves but to work as a spiritual team.

I believe that we need to work together to help one another across the spiritual finish line.

If you’re in the kingdom of God long enough, you are going to need help, to run the race, or you won’t make it.

  • Scripture teaches us how we can persevere together through the race:
    • Romans 15:1 – We are obligated to the weak!
    • Galatians 6:2 – How encouraging is it to have help from others when you’re weighed down.
    • Philippians 2:4When you’re running a race it’s tiring and easy to get inward focused.
    • Exodus 17:12We are obligated to help church leaders

3 – Fix Your Eyes on “The Finish Line”

(Emphasis on this point was to prepare everyone’s hearts to take communion)

When you’re running a race it’s always a good idea to looking for the finish line.

When I have run races in the past, my main focus was crossing the finish line. I was never concentrating on where I was or how I was feeling – that would only make me want to stop. I always envisioned crossing the finish line and winning the race.

As Christians, the finish line is before us, and our Lord is waiting for us to cross it, screaming out to us not to give up. We can have great confidence running the race because Jesus has already ran it before us. He didn’t allow anything to distract him, no sacrifice was too great. Because of His example, we can draw strength from Him, not grow weary, and cross that finish line.

  • Reflect on how our Lord ran the race before us.
    • How He treated nothing too small
    • How He persevered
    • How He lived his life 100% for us
    • How He stands at the finish line cheering us on
    • How much he wants us to be with him in heaven

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