Sermon:  Completing the Race


Summary:  We can and should have a faith that perseveres in every challenge in life.  To aid us in having this kind of faith, we need to simplify our life by sanctifying every thing and every activity to God, or stripping them away as encumbrances if we can't sanctify them.  We also need to persevere in our struggle for Christ without letting up and stay focused on him as our example and goal. 


Know:  The focus, foundation and goal of our life needs to be Christ


Feel:  Devotion for Christ


Do:  Reflect together on how Jesus "perfects" or "completes" our faith.  Discuss how the race analogy instructs Christians to live the Christian life, and what it means to fix one's eyes on Jesus.


Text:  Heb 12:1-3


Scripture Reading:  Col 1:17-20



1.  I remember working on my Master's Thesis

            a.  Did all the course work, it was all that was left

            b.  Not being in academic environment, took a lot of discipline

            c.  On a visit to college library, walked through and looked at all the other

                 thesis' and dissertations, that was an encouragement

            d.  Kept pushing myself, and finally finished it

2.  Heb chap eleven are called a great cloud of witnesses

            a.  They lived and died in faith, stayed with it for the long haul

            b.  Noah, Abraham, Moses, Rahab, or the prophets

            c.  They all gained God's approval and looked forward to culmination of

                 God's plan

            d.  They played a role, and through them, God would complete his plan

3.  They are witnesses, examples of faith for us  (Heb 12:1-3)

            a.  Heb 12 begins with "therefore"

            b.  We have a hug cloud of witnesses and example who went before us

            c.  Their stories encourage, empower, and strengthen us

4.  Reminds us that we will be rewarded if we have a faith that perseveres

            a.  How do we persevere in our faith?

            b.  Text gives us three ways


I.  Simplify

            A.  What do we mean by "simplify?"

                        1.  There are things that unnecessarily complicate our life

                        2.  These are things that take our attention off the race

                        3.  These are things that cause us to invest ourselves elsewhere

                        4.  We need to get rid of these unnecessary things

            B.  Notice how the text tells us to simplify - Lay aside every encumbrance

                        1.  Definition:  something that encumbers; something burdensome,

                             useless, or superfluous (excessive & uncessary); burden;


                        2.  Synonyms:  Burden, hindrance, drawback, drag, clog,

                              impediment, load, obstacle, difficulty

                        3.  What does this make you think of?

                                    a. Pack for a trip with a ton of luggage

                                    b. Trying to do marathon and weigh 300 lbs

                                    c. Trying to do homework with younger sibling in room

                                    d. Try to talk to teenager with earphones

            C.  In this text, image is of a race

                        1.  Every notice what people do to for a race?  They strip down

                                    a. Like swimmers who shave and wear onion skin

                                    b. Runners wearing light clothing

                                    c. Bicyclers with only essentials and light bicycle

                        2.  Imagine

                                    a.  A runner sprinting with a stereo on his shoulder

                                    b.  A bicycler racing with TV strapped to handle bars

                                    c.  A swimmer wearing the latest fashions

                        3.  You get rid of all the non-essentials to run the race

            D.  What this talking about? Anything that reroutes your energy from God

                        1.  At one time I would make a list of things that come between you

                             and God

                                    a. Job, friends, money, sports, school, etc.

                                    b. Would say these come between you & God

                                    c.  Would say choice is to serve God or these

                                    d.  But it is not necessarily an either or thing

                        2.  Bible gives us a different perspective

                                    a.  We were created to work, so work is good

                                                - We are to strive for excellence in what we do

                                                - Eph 6:5 When we serve master, do so as to the Lord

                                                - Work is part of our service to God

                                    b.  1 Tim 6:10 Money not the root of evil, but love of money

                                                - Fruit of our labor translated into money

                                                - Money is a good thing

                                                - Evil is when we have the wrong attitude about it

                                    c.  It is our attitude that makes the difference

                                                - Toward our job, money, friends, sports, possessions

                                                - Is this for me, or for God?

                        3.  With this in mind, two ways to lay aside an encumbrance:

                                    a. Sanctify it if possible - Bring it in line with God's purpose

                                                - Col 3:17 - Do all in the name of the Lord

                                                - Set apart what you do as service to God

                                                - Pray to God that you do well in serving him f

                                                            = For his glory, not your own

                                                            = To please him, not yourself

                                                - This simplifies life, because it all has same purpose

                                    b.  If for some reason you can't sanctify it, get rid of it

                                                - If it can't be brought in line with God's purposes

                                                - If it detracts you in your devotion to God

                                                - If you become self=absorbed and not God absorbed

                                                - Whether activity, friends, possessions, etc.

                        4.  What happens if you don't lay aside an encumbrance?

                                    a.  It can become sin that entangles you

                                    b.  Like a runner carry so many things, they overwhelm him

                                                - Doesn't give any up, focus on carrying the things

                                                - Forgets all about the race

                                    c.  If not deal with encumbrance, may fall out of the race

                                    d.  Consider what may be an encumbrance

                                                - How can it be or is it sanctified?

                                                - If it can't, do I need to consider getting rid of it?


II.  Struggle

            A.  Chapter eleven all the way to Jesus in 12 shows those who struggled

            B.  We need to run the race set before us with endurance

                        1.  Grk:  Run the race.  "Race" is agwn

                                    a.  English word, "agony" comes from this

                                    b.  It means, "struggle, fight, contest, conflict"

                                    c.  Other verses that use this word

                                                - (Phil 1:27-30)

                                                            = v.30 Christians were experiencing the agon

                                                            = v.28 Notice, the agon/struggle is a sign of

                                                                   salvation for faithful Christians

                                                            = The agonizing contest is not a bad thing

                                                - 1 Tim 6:12 - Fight the good fight (agon) of faith

                                                - (2 Tim 4:7-8) - I have fought the good fight

                                    d.  The "race" is a good struggle, fight, contest

                                                - It called good, it is a sign of salvation

                                                - When you "finish the course" you gain the crown

                        2.  We need to run the agon with endurance and perseverance

                                    a.  Means you push yourself when you get tired

                                                -  You will get tired, worn out, and want to quit

                                                -  It is not a sprint, but a marathon

                                    b.  Means you strip down all encumbrances

            C.  ILL:  Tanzanian Olympic runner was running in Olympics

                        1.  Not come in yet, getting dark, most people had already left

                        2.  Finally, he came in at last place

                                    a.  Was limping from bandaged knee

                                    b.  Blood running down his leg, barely moving

                        3.  Was asked why he kept running

                                    a.  After his injury, there was no way he was going to win

                                    b.  Whey didn't he just stop?

                        4.  Answer"  My country did not send me 7000 miles to start they

                             race, they sent me 7000 miles to finish the race

            D.  Jesus did not come all the way from Heaven so we could start race

                        1.  He came all way from Heaven so we could cross the finish line

                        2.  That means we do not give up, we keep going no matter what

                        3.  What is tiring you out in this race?

                                    a.  Are you still running or have you slowed down?  Tired?

                                    b.  Maybe someone giving you grief because of your faith

                                    c.  Maybe be easier to just be a person, not a Christian

                                    d.  Maybe tired of leading and pulling and dealing with stuff

                        4.  Maybe tired because feel like no one notices


III.  Focus

            A.  We are not running in circles, we have a goal to focus on

            B.  Text says to "fix our eyes on Jesus," and "consider Him"

                        1.  Author and perfecter of faith - perfects/completes our faith

                                    a.  11:40 - Apart from us, those in chap 11 incomplete

                                    b.  Actually, without Christ, we would all be incomplete

                                    c.  Bible calls Jesus the "cornerstone" 1 Pet 2:7

                                                - Grk - "kefalh gwnia" - Head of the corner

                                                - Phrase also refers to the capstone/keystone

                                                - It is necessary to have capstone to complete an arch

                                                - Will not hold without it, it is necessary

                                    d.  Without Christ, our faith means nothing

                                                - We cannot win the race without him

                                                - We cannot find our way to God without him

                                                - We are still in bondage to sin without him

                        2.  For the joy set before him endured the cross

                                    a.  Consider how Jesus was willing to endure

                                    b.  He could have stopped at any time, but did not

                                    c.  He wasn't focused on the cross, but the joy to come

                                    d.  When we endure, we look beyond the struggle

                                                - The struggle is temporary

                                                - The reward is eternal

                                                - We keep the reward in mind

                        3.  Despised the shame

                                    a.  Jesus was not ashamed of the cross

                                                - Cross was an instrument of torture and humiliation

                                                            = Public execution

                                                            = Stripped of nearly all clothing among Jews

                                                            = Bodies often left for days after died

                                                            = Those on cross guilty of crimes against state

                                                - Jesus despised not the cross, but the shame

                                                - He took hold of it, walked resolutely to crucifixion

                                    b.  Early Christians were not ashamed of the cross either

                                                - They preached Christ and him crucified

                                                - Could have just said Christ died and not say how

                                                - Cross was not a symbol of shame

                                                - Jesus defeated cross, and it became symbol of hope

                        4.  Is now at God's right hand

                                    a.  If follow in Christ footsteps we also go to be with God

                                    b.  Need to stay focused on him

            C.  ILL:  It's like so many other things in life

                        1.  I am and adult A.D.D. survivor

                                    a.  May have been why I was always running into things

                                    b.  I had the lumpiest head on the block

                                    c.  Always watching everything, and therefore nothing

                        2.  For adult ADD survivors, we have GPSs

                                    a.  It will tell you... in 1 mile, turn left - but have to listen

                                    b.  One time I shut it off, it was distracting in my conversation

                                    c.  Got lost, so I turned it back on

                                    d.  It said, "You dummy, you turned me off so now you have

                                         to find your own way back home" 

                        3.  No, it said, "re-calculating, in .5 miles, turn left, then turn right"

                        4.  In other words, make a U turn and go back

            D.  We must focus on Jesus or we will get lost and fall out the race

                        1.  Lot more at stake then a bump on head or lost in strange town

                                    a.  We are talking about an eternity of torment

                                    b.  We are talking about being lost eternally

                        2.  Need to focus on Jesus and follow his footsteps

                                    a.  Remember, Heb 6:2 said he is the forerunner

                                    b.  We need to focus on him and do as he did

                        3.  Like the song we sing - " Jesus in the morning, at the noon time"

                                    a.  Wake up with, walk with, and end the day with Jesus

                                    b.  He is the center and focus of our life

                                    c.  He is our life

                        4.  When anything makes you tired, stumble, focus on Jesus

                                    a.  He will strengthen you

                                    b.  If you start to sink on the waters, he will left you up

                                    c.  If you fall, he will pick you up

                                    d.  If you get discouraged, he will strengthen you.



1.  Have you started the race?  (inv)

2.  If you have, then simplify, struggle, and focus

3.  v.3 - Focus on him so you will not lose heart

4.  Say - "I love you Jesus, I know you will see me through, I trust you wholeheartedly"


Sermon:  Completing the Race


Summary:  We can and should have a faith that perseveres in every challenge in life.  To aid us in having this kind of faith, we need to simplify our life by sanctifying every thing and every activity to God, or stripping them away as encumbrances if we can't sanctify them.  We also need to persevere in our struggle for Christ without letting up and stay focused on him as our example and goal. 



Open:  (choose one)

- What long-term project have you had trouble finishing?

- What about the Christian life do you struggle with being consistent or devoted in?



Explore:  (Heb 12:1-3)


1.  Discuss the things that the "great cloud of witnesses" reminds us of.


2.  Identify each exhortation in these three verses


3.  Using a race analogy, the passage encourages the readers to lay aside every encumbrance.    In a race, what encumbers people?  What kind of encumbrances were the readers dealing with?


4.  Discuss what the readers needed to do in order to "run the race" well.


5.  How does Jesus "complete" or "perfect" faith?





6.  Which of these exhortations have you been most in need of and why?


7.  What are some ways you can "fix your eyes" on Jesus or "consider Him?"  What benefit would this have for you?


8.  If racing is not an analogy that speaks to you, what analogy might you use to express the message of this passage?  How might you use it to not only encourage yourself, but someone else who is worn out?