Sermon:  Racing as a Team


Summary:  In order to finish this race successfully, we need to realize we are a team and support each other through encouragement to holiness by staying on the right path, through avoiding poisonous impurities that cripple the soul and defiles others, and by nourishing the soul in order to strengthen it and encourage others.


Know:  Your faithfulness or unfaithfulness affects not only yourself, but others.


Feel:  Motivated


Do:  Discuss the sources of emotional or spiritual exhaustion that can cause one to falter in faithfulness to the Lord.  Identify ways these can become "bitter roots" that defile not only the soul, but many others.  Conversely, identify ways faithfulness can nourish and encourages growth and strength.  Rate yourself from 1 to 10 whether you have the effect of a bitter root, or the effect of nourishment.


Text:  Heb 12:12-17


Scripture Reading:  Mt 15:18-20



1.  Have you ever looked at the ingredients in the products you use?

            a.  Chemicals you can't pronounced, some you never heard of

            b.  Some things we eat are not all that wholesome

                        - Margarine - Never spoils, never grows mold, not attract bugs

                        - Factory ice cream never fully melts - Full of some sort of gum

                        - Lots of food we eat is not really food

            c.  Other things can be harmful - In Air Force, Mark Barnes realized this

                        - Went around reading composition of chemicals we used in shop

                        - Also could be loud in the shop

                        - Came in one day, he had ear gear, mask, goggles

                        - Protect from everything - Wanted not to have cancer, be healthy

            d.  We need to observe precautions on things that are toxic

                        - Even if it is a low level toxicity, will affect you over time

                        - Can cause serious irreversible issues if you don't

2.  Same thing is true in our spiritual and emotional life

            a.  The things that nourish intellectual, emotional, spiritual health are good

            b.  There are also influences, practices, behaviors, attitudes that are toxic

            c.  Mt 15:11, Jesus said what comes out of mouth is what defiles you

            d.  We talking about what comes from you. 

                        - Are my words nourishing, or are they toxic?

                        - Do my actions destroy, or do they build up?

                        - Do I promote peace or do I promote destruction?

3.  Text:  Heb 12:12-17

            a.  Larger context:  Purpose of Hebrews to strengthen worn out Christians

                        - They had struggled in their faith against persecution

                        - Text refocuses on Christ as better and superior to all else

                                    = He is God, man, merciful faithful high priest, forerunner

                                    = Died once for all, removed sin, mediator of new covenant

                                    = Stay faithful to him

                        - Faith chapter shows those who gained God's approval by faith

            b.  Immediate context - Hardship is Lord's discipline to run race & win

                        - Lord disciplines those whom he loves

                        - Don't regard his discipline lightly or blow it off

                        - Don't be faith or discouraged, dejected because of it

            c.  Leads us into our text

4.  (Heb 12:12-17) - Tells us how to finish the race successfully

            a.  In addition to the Lord's discipline/training, we need to pursue holiness

            b.  Need to define holiness.  What is it?

                        - Other words:  Sanctification, set apart, dedicated

                        - "Dedicated" fits for idea of being a contestant in a race

                        - You not like everyone else, status is a runner, live life different

            c.  Text say we are a dedicated team not just individuals

                        - See to it that no one falls short of grace - consider others too

                        - "You" pronouns are plural in the text - address to all of us

                        - As a team, we offer mutual support, encouragement, correction

                        - We help each other to be holy - dedicated

            d.  How do we support each other as a team?  Three encouragements

                        - Encouragement to stay on the right path

                        - Encouragement to avoid impurities/poison

                        - Encouragement to nurture your soul


I.  Encouragement to stay on the right path

            A.  We need to encourage each other not to leave the course

                        1.  There has been a course laid out

                        2.  If we take a different route, we will be disqualified

            B.  Text says to make straight paths

                        1.  Idea of straight paths comes from the Old Testament

                                    a.  (Prov 3:5-6)

                                                - Trust in the Lord with all your heart - no reservations

                                                - In all your ways acknowledge (lit: "know") him

                                                            = Not on Sunday know him

                                                            = Not when with brethren know him

                                                            = But in all your ways, all you do, know him

                                                - He will make straight paths for your feet

                                                            = You will be able to make progress

                                                            = Life will not be nothing but goat path

                                    b.  (Prov 4:25-27) - Stay on the straight and narrow way

                                                - Lit:  "Make level the paths of your feet"

                                                - And your ways/roads will be established

                                                - Do not swerve to the right or left

                                                - Stay on the right path,  and your road will be


                                    c.  Think about the imagery of making a smooth path

                                                - The more you go down a path, the smoother it gets

                                                - Your way/road will be established if stay on path

                                    d.  Make straight paths means to stay on the right path

                        2.  Passage says to strengthen weak arms/hands and feeble knees

                                    a.  These are arms and knees that are exhausted

                                                - Ever been so worn out, hands feel like 100 pounds

                                                - Feels like arms and legs just drooping

                                                - Passage is talking about a drooping spirit

                                                - Talking about heart ready to quit, take different path

                                    b.  "You" is plural, talking about strengthen one another

                                    c.  How?  Alludes to (Isa 35) - Deal with dry weary spirit

                                                - Reminder that God is coming to save you

                                                - Reminder that you will be filled with joy & vitality

                                                - Reminder that there will be a highway home

                                                - Race will not last forever, will make it to destination

            C.  ILL:  I remember the road to my grandmother's house in Korea

                        1.  Village, Tap Nae Ri, beautiful place

                                    a.  Greeted by group - children, aunts, uncles, farm animals

                                    b.  Evenings in grandfather's courtyard, dinner, songs,

                                         stories by light of lanterns

                                    c.  Well just down from the house - cold water

                                    d.  It was like a paradise to us

                        2.  Tap Nae Ri was way out in the boonies north east of Seoul

                                    a.  Taxi not drive to village, no paved roads to it

                                    b.  Dropped off at end of pavement, miles to village

                                    c.  Would get tired, might start to whine, complain

                                    d.  Could go back to main road get bus - But wrong road

                        3.  Parents strengthen us along the way

                                    a.  Reminded us of Halmoony's house at end of road

                                    b.  Talk about the cool well, loved ones waiting, rest

                                    c.  Would sing songs along the way to life our spirits

                                    d.  Before you knew it, we were there & filled with joy

            D.  This is what we do on our Christian journey

                        1.  When our spirits droop, remind each other of promises of God

                                    a.  There is the water of life given without cost at end of road

                                    b.  Loved ones await at the end of the road

                                    c.  Home, joy, and rest await at the end of the road

                                    d.  So we stay on the road and keep going

                        2.  Notice the result of staying on the road - Lame will be healed

                                    a.  Solution is not to choose a different path - No healing

                                    b.  Solution is not to stop and give up - No healing in this

                                    c.  Only way is to make straight paths by staying on path

                        3.  Remember, the road ends at home

                                    a.  Only way to get home is to stay on the road

                                    b.  End will be filled with joy and renewal

                        4.  We need to encourage and remind each other of this


II.  Encouragement to avoid impurities (v.15)

            A.  In other words, pursue holiness or sanctification

                        1.  Doesn't fall in your lap, need to pursue it

                        2.  Part of pursuing holiness involves avoiding impurities

            B.  Text speaks of avoiding/preventing a bitter root

                        1.  What is a bitter root?

                                    a.  Bitter in Grk & Heb has wider range of meaning than Eng

                                                - Eng - Harsh, disagreeable, sour - Bitter anger

                                                - Grk & Heb - Can also mean poisonous or toxic

                                                            = Rev 8:11 - Star named wormwood poisoned

                                                               waters, making them bitter and killed people

                                                            = Prov 5:3-5 - Adulteress is as bitter as

                                                               wormwood, steps go down to death

                                                            = (Acts 8:23) - Simon in gall of bitterness and

                                                               bondage iniquity. Why? (v.21) Heart not right

                                                - Bitterness is what poisons, cripples, kills your soul

                                    b.  Text calls it a "root" of bitterness

                                                - Bitter root is something that grows

                                                - Bitter root poisons self

                                                - Bitter root can even poison others

                        2.  Text uses Esau as an example

                                    a.  What was his poison?  Let's consider story of Esau

                                                - Esau was a twin and the firstborn

                                                            = Had the "right of the firstborn" - the birthright

                                                            = When father/patriarch dies, he becomes

                                                               head of the family

                                                            = Patriarchal lineage goes through firstborn

                                                            = Firstborn gets double inheritance

                                                - Esau sold his birthright for a bowl of stew

                                                - Esau no longer had the blessing of firstborn

                                    b.  What does this say about Esau's bitter root?

                                                - His bitter root was shortsightedness - Sold out future

                                                - His bitter root was impulsiveness - No self control

                                                - See why text says he was godless & immoral?

                                                - Did not value his responsibility as firstborn

                                    c.  Once he sold out, could not get it back, Jacob is 1st born

                        3.  Keep in mind, doesn't just affect Esau, both those around him

                                    a.  List his birthright, this will affect his sons after him

                                    b.  He now wants to kill his own brother

                                    c.  The family breaks up

                                    d.  Esau lives for a long time as a bitter, godless man

                        4.  Text tells us to see to it that no bitter root springs up

            C.  ILL:  Reminds me of yard work

                        1.  Some have thick green lawns

                                    a.  Do they happen naturally?

                                    b.  No, it takes a lot of work to make a green lawn

                        2.  Once you have a fruitful green lawn, are you finished?  No.

                                    a.  It takes maintenance to keep it a healthy green lawn

                                    b.  Need water, sun, and maintenance

                                    c.  Most important is to keep the weeds out

                        3.  Weeds will kill a lawn quickly.  How do you deal with them?

                                    a.  Run a mower over them and cut them down?

                                    b.  What happens if run down those fuzzy dandelions? 

                                    c.  Need to keel them at the root

                                                - Those bitter roots will keep growing if you don't

                                                - Those bitter roots will kill your yard

                        4.  What if you only have one weed, one dandelion?  No worries?

                                    a.  One will spread and take over

                                    b.  One will spread and it will kill your grass

                                    c.  Text says MANY can be defiled by one bitter root

                                    d.  Need to take care of it immediately

            D.  How take care of bitter root?  Recognize the forms it takes

                        1.  Bitter attitude - Affects your kids, spouse, friends, brethren, etc.

                                    a.  Realize when you complain, backbite, speak against, it is

                                         not just you it is affecting

                                    b.  ILL:  I remember Patricia, had three kids growing up

                                                - Always spoke negative of the church, of brethren

                                                - She would drop out, then come back

                                                - Her kids are grown, no longer faithful

                                                - She is distressed about her kids, but they don't see

                                                  anything good in church or Christianity.  Why?

                                    c.  ILL:  Remember another couple, Tom and Teresea

                                                - Always complaining about brethren

                                                - Were seeing a counselor

                                                - Counselor kept telling them to quit church, religion is

                                                  not a good thing for them

                                                - Poisoned this counselor.  Will he become Christian?

                        2.  Absence is also a bitter poison

                                    a.  Letter from persecuted believers of Vienna and Lyons to

                                         churches of Asia and Phrygia in 177 A.D.

                                                - Described the distress by those who waffled in their

                                                  commitment to Christ

- "But some appeared who were unprepared and untrained.  They were still weak and unable to bear the tension of a great contest.  Of these, about ten in number lapsed, causing great grief and immeasurable sorrow amongst us and damping the passion of others who had not yet been arrested. ... We did not fear because of the tortures inflicted, but because we looked to the end and were in dread at the possibility that anyone should fall away."

                                                -  None of us probably will be gone due to

                                                   persecution, so this may not seem like issue today

                                    b.  ILL:  Enjoy Heartland Area Worship

                                                - 600-700 brethren from area together worshipping

                                                - What is only 20 came, or 50?

                                                - Expected several hundred, that would discourage

                                    c.  Closer to home - Sunday morning, expect all to be here

                                                - Counted 101 members & children if all were here

                                                            = Not count shut inns or spouses not members

                                                - Your very presence is an encouragement

                                                - Empty pews are like empty place at dinner table

                                                - Empty pew is like poison that saps encouragement

                                    d.  The more you are present in lives of brethren, the better

                                                - Heb 10:14 - Consider how stimulate one another

                                                - Heb 10:25 - Not habit of forsaking assembling 

                                                - When you are not here, that is like a bitter root,

                                                  stealing away joy, encouragement, strength

                        3.  Worldliness

                                    a.  James 4:4 - Friendship with world is hostility towards God

                                                - Passage calls this adultery

                                                - Adultery is bitter poison that will kill

                                    b.  Worldly mindedness inevitable result of bitterness and


                                    c.  Happens gradually over time

                                                - Bitterness leads to emotional disconnect

                                                - Emotional disconnect leads to absence

                                                - Absence leads to worldly mindedness

                                    d.  Over time, you wind up being a friend of the world

                                                - May seem like relief from struggle of Christianity

                                                - But, text says you become an enemy of God

                                                - Like Esau, you sell out your birthright for momentary

                                                  relief or satisfaction

                                                - Can week, wail, gnash teeth, but can't get it back in

                                                   the end

                        4.  See to it no root of bitterness springs up - look out for each other


III.  Do what nourishes your soul

            A.  Not enough to just avoid what is toxic, need nourishment for the race

            B.  Text implies this when it says to strengthen one another.  How?

                        1.  (2 Pet 1:3-4) - He granted us all we need for life & godliness

                                    a.  You have escaped the corruption (poison) in the world

                                    b.  It doesn't stop with saying you escaped the corruption

                        2.  "Apply" these things to nourish your soul (v.5-7)

                        3.  Nourishment leads to growth, fruitfulness (v.8-9)

                        4.  Notice the results (v.10-11)

                                    a. You will not stumble

                                                - Your feeble knees will be strengthened

                                                - You will make straight paths for your feet

                                    b.  Entrance into eternal kingdom will be supplied

                                                - You will be staying on the right road

                                                - You will inherit the kingdom

                                                - You will make it to your destination at end of road

            C.  Nourish your soul and nourish your brethren, encourage them



1.  We need to encourage one another with this message

            a.  Remember this passage is speaking to us as a team

            b.  We need to strengthen each other with this message

2.  Remember

            a.  Stay on the right path - Don't veer off the path

                        - Jesus is the forerunner, the trailblazer to the destination

                        - Jesus is the finisher of our faith

                        - For the joy set before him, he endure the race and won

                        - Remember this when we are worn out, injured

            b.  Avoid the bitter root, that which is toxic to our soul

                        - Avoid bitter attitude, absence, and worldliness

                        - Instead, encourage, build up, pursue holiness

3.  Do what nourishes our soul

            a.  Grow in Christian character, knowledge, godliness, love

            b.  Nourish your brethren, other members of the running team

4.  Consider the final picture we have in the Bible of God's people

            a.  Will ultimately be a time of no tears, mourning, pain, sickness, death

            b.  It will be a time of plenty, nothing will be lacking for anyone

            c.  Everything evil, abominable, ugly, thrown into the lake of fire

            d.  River of the water of life, the tree of life, no longer any curse

5.  This is at the end of the road of life.  Which road are you on?  (inv)


Small Group Notes:  Racing as a Team


Summary:  In order to finish this race successfully, we need to realize we are a team and support each other through encouragement to holiness by staying on the right path, through avoiding poisonous impurities that cripple the soul and defiles others, and by nourishing the soul in order to strengthen it and encourage others.



Open:  (choose one)

- In church, work, school, or family, what has been most encouraging to you?

- In church, work, school, or family, what has been most encouraging to you?



Explore:  (Heb 12:12-17)


1.  The overarching thought in this passage is to "see to it that no one falls short of the grace of God."  From this passage, what can you tell might have been some ways the readers were in danger of falling short?


2.  Looking at Proverbs 4:25-27 as the background for this passage, what does the phrase, "make straight paths for your feet" mean?


3.  What are some possible ways the brethren might have been able to "strengthen" those with a feeble or drooping spirit? 


4.  Discuss the image of the "bitter root."  or "toxic root."  What is it?  What causes it?  What effects might it have? 


5.  Discuss the bitter root that defiled Esau and his family. 





6.  What wears you out emotionally and spiritually?  What are some ways this/these might become a bitter root in your life?  What can you do about it?


7.  What are some ways you can nourish your soul?  What can you do to nourish others?


8.  Rate your toxicity/nourishment level (1 - 4).  Are you more toxic or nourishing in your attitude, behavior, and actions?  Feel free to share your reason.