Run the race

Hebrews 12:1-2 “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. Let 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 throne of God.”

I. Introduction
A. You and I are surrounded by all the faith heroes that have gone before us. They have set an example for us to follow. We learn to walk by faith, be devoted to God’s things, to be brave in war, humble and loving the things of God.

1. The faith heroes in Hebrews chapter 11 (Abel, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph and all these heroes – it says about them – that the world was not worthy of them.
2. The faith heroes in the Early church (Peter, John, Paul and others).
3. Men and women of God like (Hudson Taylor, William Carey, Amy Carmichael, and other people that have gone before us).

These people are surrounding us and we can learn so much from their lives. And in this study we will look at some of these people that have gone before us.

II. Examples for Us to Follow
A. Abraham (the Father of Faith.)

Hebrews 11:8 “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”

Through Abraham we learn to be faithful to the word God has given and not give up.

Abraham was 75 years old when God called him to leave his country and his father’s house. The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Gen 12:1-3).

Abraham is the first ‘missionary’ and didn’t hesitate when God told him to leave everything and go to an unknown country. He was 75 years when God called him; without any son that could continue his family name. He followed God’s voice and God blessed him materially; he became very rich but he still didn’t have any son, and everything was in opposition to that word that had come to Abraham: Abraham’s body was old, Sarah’s womb was dead, and Sarah didn’t believe God when He told him that “next year you will have a son”, but instead she laughed when she heard Him say that.

But what did Abraham do? Romans 4:18-21 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

I imagine that when it was tough and everything looked impossible, Abraham went out of the tent on a clear night to look at the stars in heaven: when he started to count the stars, he thanked God and gave glory to Him and hope and faith came back to him again.

Sometimes we can be surrounded by such circumstances and troubles that we can’t see through it. Maybe we are sick and we don’t see any way out. Maybe our company is out of money and we don’t know what to do to save it.

Maybe the word that God gave us about our ministry seems so far away. We don’t see any fruit of our ministry. But don’t give up! Be faithful to the word that God has given you! Give glory to Him and thank Him for His faithfulness. God has said that He will never leave us nor forsake us. Numbers 23:19 says, God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a son of man, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?

We know that Abraham was faithful to the promise God had given to give him a son. Abraham believed when it looked impossible and he saw the promise fulfilled. And through Him all the nations of earth are blessed through Jesus Christ.

B. Moses Hebrews 11:24-27

Moses had been called by God to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt into the land of Promise, and through a miracle he was being raised in Pharaohs’ palace.

By Moses’ example we learn to love God and be devoted to Him and not to the pleasures of the world.

By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible (Heb 11:24-27).

Moses could have chosen to stay in the palace and live in the pleasures of sin during the rest of his life. He had everything you could wish in the world; women, money, fame, education, BUT he chose to follow God’s call upon his life and together with the people of Israel be mistreated.

Paul said in, 2Tim 3:1-5 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

We shall ask ourselves this question frequently: “What do I love most in this life?”
“What gets my devotion and my time?”

How could Moses come through all this? What did he fix his eyes upon to be able to persevere?

Hebrews 11:26-27 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.

He was looking ahead of his reward. If we fulfill our calling and ministry here on earth, there is a reward waiting for us in heaven. Because he saw Jesus, he could persevere. If we live devoted to Jesus we WILL meet disgrace and mistreat, but if we are lifting our head and look on Jesus we will persevere.

C. Paul

Paul was a man that was breathing murderous threats against the church. But one day his life dramatically changed. He was on his way to Damascus to catch the believers and take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. But on his way, he met Jesus, who said, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4)

When Paul met Jesus, he asked 2 questions: “Who are you, Lord?” And “What shall I do, Lord?” He receives the call of taking the gospel to the Gentiles. From that moment his life has received a new goal. Immediately he starts to preach Jesus for the Gentiles and the Jews.

His life was not easy: He was thrown in prison, flogged; he was beaten with rods 3 times, once he was stoned, three times he was shipwrecked. He was in dangers of rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from his own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles, and besides everything else, daily he faced the concern for all the churches (2Cor 11:16-29).

By Paul’s example we learn that ‘the love of Christ compels us to go and preach the gospel to all nations.

In the end of his life and ministry, Paul sends for the elders in Ephesus. He tells them that he has done everything that God has called him to do, and that he is not guilty of anyone’s blood.

And he is saying something, which I think is one of the strongest verse in the Bible,
However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).

Our lives has no worth in itself, if we live only to please our selves. But when we live for others, we will be satisfied. We know that Paul was beheaded in Rome but before he died, he wrote the 2 Timothy where he says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now, there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing (2Tim 4:7-8).

D. William Carey, Hudson Taylor

William Carey was raised in England. He was soaked with a longing to take the gospel to the Gentiles. Once his pastor told him, “Sit down, young man, when it pleases God to save the Gentiles, He will do it without my help or yours.”

When no one else went, he took everything he had and went himself. He went to India. And he met a lot of difficulties; he lost 2 wives; once, when he had translated the Bible into some of the Indian languages and all this books lay in a wooden house waiting to be printed. But then a fire broke out and destroyed everything. What did he do? Did he quit? NO! He started all over again. The Mission Organization he once started stood against him. But he didn’t become bitter and give up; he went on, loving India and changing India.

He said, “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things from God.”

From Him we learn to never give up – whatever will raise up against you. If you stay faithful, you will win the victory.

Hudson Taylor was also born in England and he is known as the “founder of the Chinese Inland Mission.
By this one man and his faith in God, China was changed. “I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help him. I ended up by asking God to do his work through me.”

III. Conclusion

Hebrews 11:39-40 “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”

Think about a relay race – You and I are in this race. A relay race usually consists of 4 people. The 4×100 meter race is the most interesting I think, because it is the fastest. The first lap started with Abraham and the others. They left over the stick to Paul, Peter and the other apostles. In their turn; left over the stick to William Carey and Hudson Taylor (the great missionaries of the modern time). But now, the stick is in our hands for us to run the last lap.

We have a great cloud of witnesses that surrounds us and are shouting and waving us to finish the last lap. I believe that we are on the finish lap. Soon, we are meeting Jesus in the sky, because soon all the nations of the earth have heard the gospel of Jesus.

Because of this, we shall “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us (Heb 12:1b).

We shall throw off everything that hinders: worries for finances, worries that not everyone in our family is saved yet.

But we must also throw off the sin which entangles us. This means that we need to get rid of all those things that hinder us to fulfill the race and calling God has upon our lives.

“Let 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 throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Heb 12:2-3).

If we fix our eyes upon Jesus during our walk here on earth, we will not grow weary and lose heart. We will be able to say like Paul at the end of our lives, “I have finished the race. I have kept the faith” (2Tim 4:7).