Forward in Faith #33
<show Chariots of Fire clip stop after 5:04>
That was a clip from the 1981 Academy Award Winner for Best Picture Chariots of Fire about Eric Liddell. He was born to missionary parents in China in 1902. He grew up in private schools in England. He became a celebrated sportsman a celebrated International Rugby Player, and a Cricket player, but he is best known as one of the fastest men in the world in his time. He used his sports success to have opportunity to preach the gospel all over Scotland, targeting the men of Scotland with his Athletic Presentation of the Gospel. In 1923 he set a British Record in the 100 Yard Dash of 9.7 seconds which stood for 35 years. He also ran a 21.6 200 yards. He was selected to represent England in the 1924 Olympics. He found out, though, that he would have to run preliminary races for the 100 on Sunday. He felt he could not do that on the “Lord ’s Day”. So, he changed to compete in the 400 yard dash. He was handed a piece of Paper before he started the 400 yard that had a quote from 1 Samuel 2:30 “those who honor me, I will honor”… Eric Liddell broke the world, winning the gold in 47.6 seconds, to go along with his bronze medal in the 200.
He was some kind of runner, but some kind of man.
Well the writer of Hebrews had seen a few races in his days … he had seen the original version of the Olympic competitions I’m sure.
Let’s read Hebrews 12:1-2
What does Paul tell us about being good runners? Four things quickly …
1. Follow the Example of the Winners
Verse one says
In response to all we have seen from these faithful ones
Because we are surrounded by Witnesses… witnesses to what?
Witnesses to being a Winner in this race of faith we are running …
Every one of those listed in chapter 11 were winners. Yes they fell, yes they failed at times but ultimately they all won
So they witness to us.
We are encompassed about, surrounded on all sides
- By a CLOUD ---
The word translated cloud here is NOT the Greek word nephele – which is a detached, cloud with a visible shape.
No this is the word nephos – which is a large dense shapeless cloud that obscures the heavens. We are not surrounded by only these witnesses from chapter 11 though they are definitely part of the witnesses. We are surrounded by the faithful ones throughout every generation since Adam and Eve and continuing on until 2010. All those who have gone before us and found the strength to be WINNERS
Their numbers are so great they block out the skies and they call out to us …
“YOU CAN DO THIS”
So … with this great crowd that is in the stands around us and seated above all, all encompassing us …
- They are witnesses –
that is they are encouragers, they are testifiers … they line up in the Word of God give witness to the truth … They line up in the annuls of church history and give witness
They are telling you that you can do it.
When I used to travel in Evangelism, and even the rare time now when I travel away from home in ministry, I would find notes all through my briefcase, suitcase, etc from Lisa encouraging me for the task ahead and letting me know she loved me
These witnesses are encouraging us along so …
We have to get ready for the race … the coliseum is full … so our writer says
2. Free Yourself from the Hindrances
The action is described here as “THROW OFF”
Apotithemi - ap-ot-eeth-ay-mee = to take off, cast off, lay aside, put away
The athlete warms up but when it’s time to run or compete, unnecessary things are put away. The ball player may have a weight on his bat, but he doesn’t compete with that. The runner may have sweats but when it’s time to run he gets down to only the necessities.
Our writer talks of TWO things we need to throw off, out of the way. You don’t throw your sweats down in the lane where you will run, you get them COMPLETELY OUT of the way … Two things
A. Things That Hinder
Onkos- ong-kos = bulk; burden; a protuberance; swelling superfluous flesh
You got some cysts that need to be cut off?
That’s like those warm up items. They may have served a purpose but are not fit for the race.
Or they may simply be no good for the race
The NIV says “everything that hinders”
The KJV says “every weight”
So as Runners in the Race of being a Disciple of Christ we must get rid of the things that get in the way. One writer says “if it doesn’t help, it hinders” … even innocent things can be a weight.
Sometimes we don’t even realize some things are unnecessary until we start running. When we helped with the Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid, it was not uncommon for those racers to shed items of clothing, or empty food containers, or other things that they had needed or thought they needed at one point but eventually in the running found they were unnecessary weights and they discarded them. It’s amazing how in the midst of competing stuff we really thought we needed, we realize we don’t need them
In our walk with Christ there are things that perhaps you have hung on to, old relationships, old habits and patterns that in the midst of running you realize … I don’t love those things like I used to. They are slowing me down.
Matthew Henry describes some as
Inordinate affection and concern for the body … the present life … world … Inordinate care for the present life, or fondness for it, is a dead weight upon the soul, that pulls it down when it should ascend upwards and pulls back when it should press forward
You may have friendships or relationships that slow you down. You may have to great a concern for temporary things instead of the eternal. And we have to lay those things down.
But there’s another set of things to THROW aside
B. Sin That Entangles
Look at those two words
Hamartia - ham-ar-tee-ah = to be without a share in, to miss the mark, to err, wander from the path of uprightness; guilt
Euperistatos - yoo-per-is-tat-os = skillfully surrounding; cleverly placing itself around to exert tight control
When you look at the definition of those two words you see how we get tripped up.
We are not able to run the race … try as we might because we don’t have a share in the race, we don’t have the right to be in the plan of God. When we try to we come up short of the finish line.
Even as a believer put on race by the grace of God, when we operate under our own strength we come up short. Or we are often attacked by guilt of our past or our present. The word hamartia can also mean the complex or aggregate of sins committed – sometimes it is the net result of the sins in our life that we allow guilt of those aggregate sins to bring us down and ENTANGLE us … or the devil uses those things to skillfully and cleverly surround us and exert tight control over us.
Notice that our writer doesn’t talk about the sins that are hard or unexpected but he is talking about the EASY STUFF. He is talking about what EASILY gets us.
Matthew Henry says it’s the sin that has the greatest advantage against us by our circumstances, our constitution, our company.
Of course this could simply be the sin of unbelief but can I tell you the source of all other sin and the sin that so easily gets us?
Pride gets us every time.
Pro 16:18 – pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall
The night before Mike Tyson lost to Buster Douglas in Tokyo in the late 80’s they asked him if he was studying films of Douglas and Tyson responded “I don’t need to watch any film, I’m the greatest fighter in the world” HE LOST by knockout the next day.
1 Cor 10:12 says if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall
It is PRIDE that itself is sin and so easily takes us into every other sin and then we find we are surrounded over every side
“Pastor I don’t have a problem with pride” … really? well you do NOW!
Pride doesn’t always come in the form of something ugly. Sometimes it is in the form of self-sufficiency, or self-confidence, self-absorption, self-assertion, self-assurance, self-delusion, self-importance, self-indulgent, self involved, self-righteous, self-satisfied, self-seeking,
What is the common denominator? Self – that is PRIDE
And we end up with problems that are self-induced and self-destructive
If you think you can handle it, you don’t need anyone, you’ve got a better way, God just doesn’t understand you, it’s no big deal, you are dealing with pride. And you are in danger.
And lest you think that PRIDE, even if you know it’s your problem, isn’t as bad as some other sin …
Well pride got Satan kicked out of heaven and Adam and Eve kicked out of Eden, and all of mankind strapped with the bondage of SIN and penalty of death.
I was snorkeling in the Gulf off the Texas coast one time when we lived in Houston. I came upon a tiny little jellyfish. It was so cute just swimming in front of me. I watched him for a few minutes and then I glanced to my right and more jellyfish, to my left more jellyfish, and in front, more jellyfish. I was surrounded by jellyfish. Well I made a big swoosh of my arms backwards, pushing them away and extricating myself from the danger but I had stings all over my chest and back. It started with just one little jellyfish. If it had gotten out when he showed up, I wouldn’t have been entangled in so many of them.
But if you read it in the literal you find it all reads in the past tense and it’s a progression it reads this way like a check list
YLT – every weight having put off, and the closely besetting sin, through endurance may we run
Before you run you got to get rid of the weights the hindrances, and the entangling sin of PRIDE
And then …
3. Focus On The Finish Line
<RUNNER and JESUS Enter from the Back of room on opposite sides>
In many races, the starting line and the finish line are in the same place … so the Christian life starts and ends with Jesus!
- The would-be Christian runner must first come to the place of “meeting Jesus”.
Drawn by the Father, wooed by his Spirit, enticed to the great gracious gift of being a “runner”, the runner comes to Christ. There before Christ, the runner desiring to enter to race, finds that the entrance fee is too high a price to pay. The entrance is two-fold. The entrance fee is death, without shed blood there is no remission of sin. And then also in order to be a runner, a disciple, there must be NEW LIFE, we must be born again. We cannot pay the entrance fee, and we cannot give ourselves New Life. The only answer, for the would be runner, is Jesus Christ. He himself is the sacrifice. He has paid death’s ransom. And to any who come to him and receive his offer of gracious justification, they receive new life. If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation, the old has passed and all things have been made new.
Jesus takes off OUR righteousness and we are clothed with Jesus Christ.
And you begin the race from the starting line, the One who makes us runners / disciples because
A. He is the author –
that is, He is the starting point
But the word AUTHOR
– archegos - ar-khay-gos = chief leader, prince, one that takes the lead and affords an example; a predecessor in an matter, pioneer.
You know last year when AJ ran the KC Marathon, they had something really cool. They had runners that ran with groups trying to run a certain time. AJ was running with the 4:30 Hour lead runner. That was his goal. The guy had a little sign and he ran at that pace because he knew how, he had done it before, and so you just had to stay with him. AJ did well, and he ran 4:16.
Jesus is not only our starting line but he is our lead runner, we can keep our eyes on him WHILE we run …
So he gives us the Holy Spirit as our guide and the Holy Spirit points us to Jesus Christ while we run.
So, now forgiven of our sins, justified in God’s eyes by the righteousness of Jesus Christ, we are RUNNERS, i.e. we are Disciples of Jesus Christ. So, we have fixed our eyes on Jesus to start the race, and too continue the race we follow HIS example.
But as any runner knows, it is important to know where the finish line is. You can’t just run anywhere, you have to run to the finish line.
So, where do we set our eyes? Do we set our eyes on famous Christians? Do we set our eyes on a denominational standard? Do we set our eyes on Church Covenants? Those are all good and helpful things at times.
Folks I want to please people, I always have.
I want to please my parents
I want to please my friends
I want to please my wife
I want to please my boys
I want to please my fellow competitors
But any runner who looks at the crowd for very long will slow down or worse yet lose track.
But I need to fix my eyes on the finish line and run
<TOM PREPARING TO RUN> ---
But we are not looking for something new. We are not looking for something different. We are running on a circular track. Because no matter how long we run we find something very interesting, our starting line, Jesus Christ, is ALSO OUR finish line… v2 … “Let us Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith …”
But in this run, ultimately I run for an audience of one
I have ONE GOAL, that is to become like Christ
I know I will achieve it, not because I am ABLE but because Christ is FAITHFUL!
Oh I should probably say that again, it is not because I am ABLE but because Christ is FAITHFUL.
“Faithful is he who calls you who will also bring it to pass”
“now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
We will be like him because we will finally see him face to face
Because he isn’t just the start … but also
B. He is the Perfecter the Finisher
Teleiotes - tel-i-o-tace = to carry through completely to finish to make perfect or complete
The way we move down the road in sanctification, becoming like Christ, is we SEE him, we FIX our eyes on Jesus.
And HE will BRING us to perfection and completion
If you watch my Christian life, you might become like me, chances are you will exceed me but I can’t take you very far. If you can’t see Jesus yet, you can copy me to start, but only as I am imitating Christ. If you fix your eyes on Billy Graham, you might be further down the road. If you copy Beth Moore, or whomever you have your eyes on, then that’s what you will achieve. But we are told to FIX OUR EYES on Jesus.
I am not the author of this faith and I am not the finish line
Billy Graham isn’t the finish line
Beth Moore isn’t the finishline
Nor any of the Faithful from Chapter 11
Not Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Deborah, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, or any of the Old Testament Heroes, they are wonderful examples that you can achieve it, but they are NOT the finish line.
Jesus is the Author and the Finisher of our faith
And we are told to RUN
<Tom Run the Track for me>
C. FIX our eyes …
Aphorao - af-or-ah-o = to turn the eyes away from other things and look with undivided attention; to determine, to see, to fix one’s eyes.
We have to look away from all those witnesses, away from our family and friends, away from the prescriptions and preconceived ideas and turn our eyes and our mind toward JESUS.
Abandon all else and fix our eyes on Jesus!
I read about a man several years ago who had been blind most of his life. He was accustomed to blindness. Then he received the gift of sight through a new surgical procedure. After struggling to adjust with his new gift of sight he finally realized and proclaimed, “I had to die to being blind in order to live a sighted life”
well folks we have been given sight and in order to live the life of Christ we have to die to being lost, we have to die to the ideas of all others and live to be who we were reborn to be, a disciple of, a child of, an imitator of Jesus Christ
Fix Your Eyes on Jesus!
"Why can’t I just go from start to finish line?"
Can’t I just go straight from salvation to Heaven?
Well, that’s probably not going to happen
"Why can’t I just WAIT here at the finish line UNTIL Jesus comes, or I die and go to Heaven?"
Why do I have to RUN?
For the same reason Jesus did, For the Joy of It!
A. Run for the Joy of it?
But there is something interesting about Running … in and of itself it isn’t JOYFUL … it is HARD, it is PAINFUL, it is difficult, it is something that must often be endured
The word here translated “FOR the joy” – the word doesn’t mean “in order to” … as in he went to the cross to GET the joy
But it is the word ANTI – which might be better translated “instead of” or in exchange for –
in other words: Jesus ALREADY had JOY before him. He was in Heaven, equal with God with angels in submission to him full of glory … and INSTEAD of that, he exchanged that for the shame, struggle, of the cross … for another joy, sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Like the runner that endures the difficulty of the race to achieve a goal that couldn’t have been achieved without the running, so was Christ and so can we be if we imitate him
Jesus ran despite the difficulty
Despite the opposition
Despite the distance of the journey
He ran for the Joy set before him
B. Two Joys
1) The Joy of finishing the task of providing salvation for his own.
2) The Joy of Pleasing the Father
For us the task is becoming a disciple of Christ
Run for it
The task is Pleasing the Father
Live for His joy
Live for His pleasure
Live for His glory
Instead of ease, instead of comfort, instead of joy we already THINK we have
I choose another Joy
Joy that comes with the struggle of faith
Joy that comes with pleasing God
Joy that comes from becoming like Christ
The Scottish Runner and Missionary Eric Liddell, when asked why he ran, he answered “When I run I feel the Lord’s Pleasure”
And so we run for the JOY set before us, sharing the suffering, being conformed to his death, in the power of the resurrection … in his presence we will be glorified and we will be seated with Christ in Heaven on High with the Father at his throne.
Running is about pleasing the Father
Pleasing the Father is WORSHIP
And that is what we say we are about here at New Life … seeing people transformed into LOVERS of God or Worshippers.
In 1925, one year after the Olympic glory, Eric Liddell returned to his birthplace, Tianjin China. He served the Lord there from 1925-1943. He taught school, he preached the gospel, he raced occasionally and taught athletics. He helped his brother, a doctor, with a clinic. Then in 1941 all Brits were warned to leave because of the Japanese attacks during World War II. But he stayed. Eventually he was interred in a Japanese prison camp in China, but his race was not over. He was a camp leader. He organized medicine, food, supplies making sure people were cared for equally. He took care of the elderly, he taught in the prison camp Bible school. In his last letter from the camp to his wife, he thought he was having a nervous breakdown from the overwork, but it turned out he had a brain tumor and he died February 21 1945, just 43 years old. In 2008 the Chinese government released some information for the first time, Eric Liddell had an opportunity to leave that prison camp on a deal for prisoner exchange, but he gave up his spot to a woman who was pregnant. When he died, Eric’s last words were these “It’s complete surrender”.
Eric Liddell was a fast runner but what made him a winner was that every step was an act of worship. Whether he was running, preaching the gospel, serving as a missionary in North China or held in a Japanese Prisoner Camp, he was worshipping God, he was feeling God’s pleasure. His eyes were fixed on Jesus, he received Christ by faith, he followed Christ so when the race changed, the terrain steepened, Christ set the pace and Eric just kept running, and he crossed the finish line, head back, hands up and fell into the arms of his Savior who said “well done, you have brought me joy, enter in to your rest.”
Are you running his race or your own? If you are running your own, what’s the finish line?
If you come to Christ and you run his race, HE is the finish line and He will pace you and lead you all along the way