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Hebrews 12:1-12:3
Key Verse: 12:1

Life is a Marathon, not a Sprint! Do you agree? Today’s Bible passage talks about running the race, especially a marathon. What do you know about the marathon? It has the course of 42.195 Km. It is the final program and the climax of the Olympics. It does not only test the physical strength of man but also tests his inner strength – endurance.

Look at verse 1. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.“

Bible depicts our life as running the race. Especially, we are marathoners running the race of faith. When we run the race of faith, we must remember that we are not alone. Instead, we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. It is important to know the kind of people we are surrounded by. If we are surrounded by negative people, we will be negative in the matter of time. When we are surrounded by unbelieving people, we will become unbelieving as well. But verse 1 says that we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. They are heroes and heroines of faith listed in the previous chapter of the Hebrews, such as Abraham, Moses, Deborah, David and Jesus Christ. They are our witnesses because they ran their own race well and became examples for our life of faith. That is why we are inspired and encouraged whenever we meet these people in the Bible. We are inspired by Abraham’s faith in God’s promise even in the time when it was humanly impossible to believe. We are encouraged by Moses who refused to be the prince of Egypt and chose to suffer with God’s people. We are strengthened by the faith of David who challenged Goliath by faith in God Almighty. Whenever I learn about the faith of Caleb, I am so much inspired and encouraged to continue my life of faith in any situation of my life. We are so blessed to be surrounded by such a great heroes of faith. Not only that, we are also blessed to be surrounded by God’s people who love God and serve him wholeheartedly. Look at people around you.

Then how can we run our race of faith well like them? Look at verse 1 again.

First, we must throw of everything that hinders. It is a common sense that a runner must make his body as light and as simple as possible in order to run fast and effectively. Likewise, God wants us to throw off everything that hinders in our life of faith. Here, everything consists of both good and bad. Sometimes, we must throw off even good things I if it hinders our running. But what hinders our race of faith most is sin. Sin entangles us and makes our running ineffective and difficult. Sin holds us back. Sin makes people give up on the way. But we cannot break the entangling power of sin with our own strength. We need God’s mercy. We need to kneel down and ask God’s grace to break this entangling power of sin. The truth and grace of Jesus has power to set us free and remove the heavy burden of sin from our back so that we can run without hindrance.

Second, we must know that God has the race marked out for us. Each one has his or her own race set by God. For example, Apostle Paul knew that God has set a race before him according to his will. God chose him as his instrument for the Gentiles. After completing his race of faith, Paul said in 2 Timothy 4:7. “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Likewise, we have the race marked for us. Nobody can run in my place. When we know this call from God, we can persevere no matter how difficult our race may be. Perseverance is the most important quality of a marathoner. In a sprint, the fastest runner wins. But what matters in the marathon race is not a speed, but perseverance. If we give up on the way, all our effort for running will be in vain. We must cross the finish line no matter what. There may be challenges, obstacles and temptations on our way. But those things cannot be the excuses for giving up. We must finish it no matter what. We must finish it right! Period.

There is an inspiring story of a Swiss marathoner in 1984 LA Olympics, called Gabriela Andersen-Schiess. She entered the stadium suffering from heat exhaustion. Her torso twisted, her right arm straight and her left arm limp, her right knee strangely stiff. She waved away medical personnel who rushed to help her knowing that, if they touched her, she would be disqualified. For nearly 6 minutes she stumbled around the track in the race’s final 400 meters, occasionally stopping and holding her head. Finally she collapsed over the finish line in 37th place into the arms of waiting medics.

Last and most of all, we must fix our eyes on Jesus. Look at verse 2 and 3.” 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throune of God.” There is no perfect man in the world no matter how great they are. Even the great heroes of faith are all imperfect human beings prone to sin. So we should not fix our eyes on men. Instead, we must fix our eyes on Jesus in our race of faith because Jesus is the author and perfect of our faith. Jesus is the author of our faith because he is the source, and foundation of faith. In the new translation of NIV, Jesus is the pioneer of our faith. Not only that, Jesus is the perfecter of our faith. Jesus who started the work of faith in our life will complete it as the perfecter of our faith. Jesus is the beginning and the end of our faith. Jesus is the perfect model of our faith.

How did Jesus become the perfect model of our race of faith? Look at verse 2 again. “who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Even to Jesus enduring the cross was not easy. He had to endure excruciating pain and shame. People who passed by insulted at him, saying, “Save yourself. Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God.” But Jesus was not discouraged looking at the pain and shame on the cross. He looked at the joy set before him beyond the suffering and shame of the cross. He saw the victory and glory beyond the finish line of his own race. Looking forward the joy set before him, Jesus finished his race on the cross. He finished God’s work of salvation through his obedience to death on the cross. He cried out on the cross, “It is finished!” God raised him from the dead and gave him victory and glory. Jesus sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

In marathon race, there is a moment when all human strength is gone, including endurance. It is called ‘Dead Point.” In our race of faith there is the moment we cannot endure any more. We are tempted to complain and give up. But this is the time we must look at Jesus and fix our eyes of him. This is the time to look at Jesus who for the joy set before him endured the cross and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Look at verse 3. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” When we consider him, God changes our view of sufferings. God helps us to see the victory and glory beyond the present sufferings. God gives us great joy and strength with which we can overcome the discouragement and run our race to the end and cross the finish line. We will not grow weary and lose heart, but soar on wings like eagles, higher and higher.

I thank God for blessing each of us through the international SBC. May God bless each one’s reflection on the conference today. May God bless each of us to run the good race of faith fixing our eyes on Jesus and win the victory by God’s grace.

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