The Depiction of Faith in the Hall of Fame of Faith Series #23
Dear Visionary Leader:
The world of our Lord Jesus, and of Paul, was a world just like our world and our ages that makes much of athletics. In the Bible there are a lot of comments about competition and athletic endeavors.
In New Testament times, there were three great games. These were the Olympian games. These Olympian games took place in Athens. Additionally, there were the Pythian Games at Delphi. Finally, there were the Isthmian Games took place in Corinth. These three games were scheduled staggered so that the wealthy could go to all of them.
They had boxing, wrestling, javelin, discus, and chariot races. The chariot races faded away and now we have car racing at Indianapolis Speedway, and so forth. Also, they had the foot races. The writer of Hebrews is talking about a foot race.
In Hebrews 12:1-2, we read, “Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience (literally with endurance) the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. Who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
In the New Testament era, to be an athlete was an incredible opportunity and privilege. As a matter of fact, these athletes who competed in these games were the most popular people in the country. Cicero complained that many times an athlete would receive more accolades and praise than a general who was returning home from the war.
These athletes competed in great amphitheaters and stadiums, bigger than our stadiums. Some of the early stadiums would be six times the size of one of our football fields.
At the end of the field where they would participate, would be an altar. There would be a blood sacrifice on that altar to some pagan god. They would come and bathe their hands in the blood of that animal, lift them to the heavens, and swear by the god that they serve that they would play by the rules, that their lives were pure, there was nothing against them that would keep them from running fairly. Then the time for the race would begin. These athletes would line up. Every muscle stretched, every nerve is ready, and the race would begin.
All of us are in the race. I wish to give you seven secrets to winning this race.
Message Continues In Visionary Coaching
The Contest Before Us
God has a race for YOU! Now this is not talking about somebody else. Say to yourself, GOD HAS A RACE FOR ME! The idea is that all of us, every one of us is in the stadium. The stadium is packed and jammed with people, and on that day, the Emperor would come. The Emperor would have his velvet box, his room where he would sit and look down at the games. Just as the Emperor was looking down at these runners so long ago, our Lord from heaven is watching us as we run this race. The crowds were there; thousands, and thousands, and thousands of people, tier upon, tier, filled the stadium.
In the spiritual realm, we are runners and there is a goal for each of us. I want to make it clear that we are not running against one another. As far as one another is concerned, we are not in competition, we are not in a race with one another, we are in a pilgrimage with one another.
What are we racing about? Well, we are racing against sin, against self, and against life itself, to win the prize. The goal is not heaven. We’re not running to try to get into heaven. Salvation is not a reward at the end of the race. Salvation is what puts you in the race. Salvation is not a reward for the righteous. It is a gift for the guilty. We come to our Lord and trust him. You have to be born again to qualify to get into this race. In Romans 9:16 we read, “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” Thank God for that. God had mercy upon me, and God has mercy upon you to put us in the race.
The word for “race,” is the Greek word “agon”. It’s where we get the word “agony.” The writer is talking here about a marathon. He’s not talking about a stroll. He is talking about a race that is grueling and agonizing. God has a race for you. There is a contest.
The Crowds Around Us
The second step to winning the race, is the crowd. There are those in the grandstand to cheer you on. In chapter 11 we have studied about all of the heroes of the faith; a gallery of the great. There they are, all of the saints in heaven. They are what is called “a great cloud of witnesses.” They are watching us. They are looking down upon us. Does that bother you that those up in heaven are watching you? Well the Lord is watching you. They’re made one with Him.
They are aware of us, just as those runners were running, so long ago. There were countless eager eyes watching them; these heroes of the past. I wonder if there was a multitude watching them; what a great multitude are watching us! The crowds are cheering us on in the race. They are inspiring us to run at our best.
The Conditioning Within Us
Look, if you will, again in verse 1. “Wherefore seeing we are so compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin, which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”
If you are running a race, you cannot afford to let anything slow you down. There has to be discipline if you are going to run to win. He mentions two things. First, there are the weights that slow you down. Then, there is the sin that trips you up. Now either one of them are bad. As to the weights that slow you down, “Let us lay aside every weight…” Onkos is the Greek word. These are things that are not necessarily bad in themselves. Nothing wrong with an overcoat, but if you’re going to run a hundred yard dash, don’t wear one. What does a runner do when he runs? He strips down to the bare necessities. I mean sometimes almost to the point of indecency. And we are to “lay aside every weight”. Here is the point: good things are bad things if good things keep you from best things.
There are a lot of things that are not necessarily wrong, but they are wrong for you if they slow you down.
In 1 Corinthians 6:12 we read, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient.” Now what does that mean, what does he mean, expedient? When you think of expedient, you think of an expedition. An expedition is something that is going somewhere. And what he’s saying is, if this thing doesn’t help me to go to the place I am supposed to go to, for me it’s wrong. There are certain things that I have laid aside in my own particular life. Not because they are bad in itself, just simply because they are excess baggage. You see, I don’t have time to read good books because I haven’t read the best ones. Now a good book may be a recreational book because God wants you to have recreation. But so many times we are just simply wasting time. We lay aside every weight that is the, the good things that may be bad things if they keep us from the best things.
Would you think about some things in your life right now? What is there in your life, what is there that if you eliminated it, you can run the race better? Why don’t you write it down on a scrap of paper and put it in your pocket, and then tomorrow when you are having your devotions, pray over it? What are you spending time on? What are you spending money on? What are you spending thought on? What are you spending energy on? Are there some things in your life, if lay them aside you move faster down the track?
Good things become bad things when they keep you from best things. Life would be simpler if it was a choice between good and bad. It is not, it is a choice between good and best. “Let us lay aside every weight…” That is strip down to the bare necessities if we are going to run.
There are the sins that must be laid aside. He said, “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.” Now the Greek word means “entangle.” It means to trip you up. We have to deal with sin as sin will deal with us.
Your pet sin is no friend. You need to treat sin as it will treat you. Be ruthless with your sin. Have NO MERCY on that sin. NONE! Sin will have no mercy on you. It will entangle you and you will fail to win the prize.
The Course Before Us
The course is set; you must never turn aside. Notice it says, “wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience, the race that is set before us.”
God has set before each of us a course marked out for us. My race is not your race; we run the course that is set before us. The Apostle Paul, when he came to the end of his life, said: “I fought a good fight. I have finished my course.” There is a course. There is a race, and you must never turn aside. Thank God Paul didn’t quit. His course was a strange course. It took him through a Philippian jail, and there was a revival at midnight. His track too him to a Roman jail and he brought a slave to Christ. He found himself in Caesar’s prison and he set a little colony of Heaven right there in Caesar’s prison. Don’t you complain about the race that is set before you. He knows where you are. He allowed you to be there, or He put you there. If you get off course, you are going to be disqualified.
The Completion Ahead of Us
Read carefully, “Seeing we are also compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us [now watch this] and let us run with patience.” You know what the word patience means? That’s not the ability to thread a needle. That’s not the ability to build a model airplane. What it literally means is endurance. It means to bear up under pressure. When I was in high school and college, I used to run a lot. I know what it is to run until your lungs are aflame! Your muscles ache. It hurts! That is the word that Paul is using here is the agon! The agony! If you are looking for a cheap way, easy way, a lazy way to serve Jesus Christ, forget it.
Many people think they’ve done God a wild favor when they come to church on Sunday morning and listen to a sermon. They really do. I mean, they call this “the service.” This is not the service. The service is out there; this is a filling station. This thing of serving the Lord Jesus costs. You must pray over it. You must study over it. You must weep over it. God does business with those who mean business. You will never, ever win a race unless you mean business.
I believe that while we may leave some sermons unfinished, we may leave some songs unsung, we may leave some houses unbuilt, some flowers unplanted, and some needlework undone, we are immortal, until our work on earth is done. We run with endurance! Don’t quit! Don’t quit! Don’t quit! I don’t care how far ahead you are, if you quit, you’ll lose the race. Run with endurance, the race that is set before you!
The Coach To Us
In Hebrews 11:2 he states: “Looking unto Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of our faith.” Why do you look unto Jesus? He is the Author of our faith. The word, “author” actually means “example.” He is the example. Faith comes by beholding Jesus Christ. If you are having difficulty with your faith, it is because you haven’t really seen Jesus. It is not primarily great faith we need; it is faith in a great God. We have a great Savior. Put your eyes upon Jesus. He is the Author of our faith, and he is the finisher of our faith.
The word “finisher” means the “perfector,” it means the “completer.” It means He’s the one who gives you the strength for the race. Remember that salvation is a gift at the beginning of the race. He gives us strength to run the race. I am convinced that the reason that many start the race and never finish is they’ve never received the gift at the beginning. They have never met the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Author. HE is the Finisher. If you know Him, you are going to finish.
Notice what’s our relationship to this coach? “Looking unto Jesus….” It doesn’t say, “looking at Jesus.” “Looking unto Jesus.” What’s the difference? Well suppose you are in financial difficulty. You are unable to pay your mortgage and it looks like you may lose your home. However, a friend says, “look to me.” Now he doesn’t mean, “look at me.” “Look to me means depend upon me. I will see you through. I will take care of you.”
That’s what he is saying, “look unto Jesus.” It is faith in Jesus, not facts about Jesus. It is looking unto Jesus, not looking at Jesus that saves. This Greek word that says “looking unto Jesus”, is a word that means looking away from everything else, and looking at something else. It is not looking at Jesus and other things. You look away from everything else, and you put your eyes upon Jesus.
Don’t put your eyes upon Satan, he will terrify you, or entice you. Don’t put your eyes upon the sins of those for whom Jesus died. Get your eyes off of hypocrites and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. Don’t put your eyes upon yourself. So many people are guilty of morbid introspection. They just open themselves up and pulling the innards out, and stuffing them back in again. That gets you nowhere! Take your eyes off of yourself. Take your eyes off of your sin. Confess your sins. Put them in the grave of God’s forgetfulness and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. And quit saying “what a fool I was.” Start saying, “what a fool I am for what a fool I was.” Get your eyes off of all of that, and put your eyes upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
I’ll tell you what the devil will do. The devil is so diabolical and deceptive. He will get you to look at anything other than Jesus. You know what he will get you to do? He’ll even get you to look at your look. That’s right. He’ll say, you will be examining your faith. You say, “well, my faith, I wonder if my faith is strong enough.” Forget about your faith. Look to Jesus. Don’t put faith in faith, put faith in Jesus. Look to the Lord Jesus. The devil used to say to me, “well your faith is not good enough.” I learned how to deal with him. I’d say, “That’s right, but isn’t Jesus wonderful?” Just look away from everything else and look to the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Coach. The Lord Jesus is the Author of our faith. The Lord Jesus is the Finisher of our faith.
The Crown For Us
These runners so long ago would win a crown. Thank God for the crown. Look in verse 2, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross.” There was a crown for the Lord Jesus. Do you what his crown was? You. You are the prize that He ran for.
We have a crown. You know in the New Testament era, when an athlete would run in the Olympic games, if he won, his name would be proclaimed throughout the whole country. His family, his kinfolks would be announced and honored. There would be a parade. They would scatter his pathway with flowers. He would be presented with costly gifts. If he was from Athens, his expenses would be paid for the rest of life, if he won the race. Poets, with national reputations would write poems about him. Sculptors, at government expense, would do statues of this runner who won.
Every runner runs to win a prize. I am running to win a prize. I hope you are. The Bible says, “We are to run that we might win.” Paul talked about his prize. In 1 Thessalonians 2:19 we read, “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown, or rejoicing? Are not even ye at the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming?”
When you go to heaven, are you taking anybody with you? I challenge you to answer seriously, soberly, somberly, do you have a crown? A soul-winner’s crown? There is a reward when we meet the Lord. He says, “Behold I come quickly. And my reward is with me to give to every man according to his works.” Are you in the race? Have you laid aside every weight? Have you put aside every sin? Sin that would trip you up?
Perhaps you have strayed from the course. Maybe you have dropped out of the race. I want to motivate you to make a brand-new resolve that you’re getting in the race. If you’ve fallen on the track, get up. If you’ve strayed from the track, come back.
Until The Last Person Has Heard,
Dr. James. O. Davis
Global Church Network
Cochair / Global Networking