Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
The Discipline of God
(Cross Reference Proverbs 3:11,12)
For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: "My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives."If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness (NKJV)
(Sermon text emphasis: Hebrews 12: 1-2)
Introduction: Preparation to run the race called Life:
We have been given a great “life illustration” lesson from many of the sport athletes that compete in track and field in how they prepare themselves before they run in a race or compete in any field event.
Here’s what you will notice: Even though all athletes should and some athletes don’t properly train, those that do take their craft so serious that as a integral part of their daily training, they careful avoid encumbering themselves with any type of unnecessary training regiments, any foods, non-nutritional foods, foods that could make them feel sluggish or nauseated at race time, creating an extra burden on digestion an elimination or surround themselves socially with people, groupies and socialites that create unneeded distractions, because come race time, any one of these 3 scenarios ultimately could either cost them the race or cause them not finish the race.
Their seriousness even applies to what running attire they actually wear in the race. When they are running in an actual race…they’re careful as the type of garment and material constitution of the garment they run in on race day. They want to make sure that their on track attire is made of a “spandex type” material that hugs close to their body and glides through the wind creating near zero wind resistance and track shoes with cleats are made to stabilize their feet with each stride they take and won’t impede their ability to run or jump hurdles at maximum speed on the track in a race or aid them in getting the added thrust to throw a javelin, a shot put or discus.
In other words, they do all they know to do to give themselves the best competitive edge, to make sure in every way to remove whatever or whoever would be a burden, an impediment or a hindrance in running their best race or giving their all in the field events because they know the ultimate goal is to come away with the prize.
Well, when we apply all these same athletic principles to our Christian journey, it becomes crystal clear that in order to finish this race and endure it sometimes grueling cross country hardships to the end, we need do all we can to remove anything and everything, cut back on some things and completely cut out a lot of things even down to eliminating some irritating disruptive and distracting people who by their behaviors are doing all they can to hinder and obstruct your progress of spiritual growth on this Christian race course. I don’t care how good he or she looks or how smooth he or she walks or talks, whoop de doo about the kind of designer clothes he or she wears or even down to the most alluring seductive fragrance they might like to wear… you need to move the human hindrances out of the way because, there are some people that fit these categories, the devil put in your life…and though the “eye candy” looks good and smells good and dresses good, talk with a seductive swoon, they are there to hinder you…to block you…to seduce you…to derail you…to cause you to lose the race or not finish the race because when it comes to running the race called life, they are an impediment in your efforts to win the crown of life.
This Life Is a Race
Maybe you haven’t figured it out by now, but I come to tell you the life we live day by day is a race. The Bible says is a race of endurance. It is an endurance race because it doesn’t matter “fleet of foot” (how fast you are)….it’s not dependent on your” muscular definition”; meaning it doesn’t matter how strong you are.: It’s important that you have endurance, (staying power) and second that you “finish the course” power. (that is, do all you can to finish this race) Then it a race against time because though it’s not predicated upon how fast of foot you are, you still need to be taught to number your days so you can apply them all unto wisdom. You got to be determined. You have to have a made up mind. You can’t stand around wasting your time…You got to keep on running for Jesus, everyday of your life. That means you got to have heaven on your mind…
There are 2 Track Clubs: One “HOLY”… One “WICKED”
There are 2 track clubs with runners in this race. One track club represents everything that is evil, immoral and unmoral, perverse, abominable, vile and wicked. It’s running philosophy is not shaped by flesh and blood but is shaped by powers and principalities, rulers of darkness and wicked spirits. This track club is managed and owned by Satan. His staff of evil assistant coaches are fallen angels called demons. He runs his track club under the motto of “walking up and down …going to and fro…in the earth…seeking whom we may devour”.
Satan seeks to unseat the Almighty… be like the most high, to be worshipped in the earth as god. but when God heard the wicked words spoke in Satan’s heart….god’s response slammed the door on a satanic pipe dream because God declared in Isaiah 14:15 “Yet thou shall be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit”. And in Isaiah 14:19-20, God added this crushing blow to Satan’s plans: “But thou art cast out of thy grave like an abominable branch, and as the raiment of those that are slain, thrust through with a sword, that go down to the stones of the pit; as a carcase trodden under feet. Thou shall not be joined with them in burial, because thou hast destroyed thy land, and slain thy people: the seed of evildoers shall never be renowned”.
Now the Satanic Track Club already know they can’t win, and God already declares in several places in the Bible that there is absolutely no way they will win. The demons are to be tormented eternally in the end. In Revelation 20:10, Satan is to be thrown alive in the Lake of fire of fire and brimstone to join the Antichrist and the False Prophet who’ll already be there to be tormented for all of eternity. so their real purpose for running is to do all they can to trip you up and keep you from the prize of eternal life at the end of this life by either coaxing you to run in his track club or cause you to stumble and fall and frustrate you enough that you quit running and quit God’s track team and bow out of the Christian race.
God’s Track Club: A Track Club of “Holiness”
Now this second track club, is the one I run for and should be the one I hope you are running for. This club has “Triune” ownership, organized by Jesus Christ. It’s built on the “ROCK” of FAITH and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. He is assisted by both an all powerful strength and training coach called the Holy Spirit. Our special training manual is the Holy Bible and we are privileged to be assisted by great group of special assistances trainers along the way called angels. Jesus runs HIS track club under this motto. “The enemy comes but to steal, kill and destroy…but “I came that they might have life and have that more abundantly”.
This race is a paradox… The race of Life is that one race everybody has to run and you must decide who will you run for and you do have to make a choice You can’t remain neutral because neutrality is the same as being Lukewarm and that will get you spewed out of the mouth of God.
The race of life is a marathon cross-country and an uphill journey full of hills and valleys and plateaus that started the day you were born. There are many trials and tribulations we face while we run in this race. There are burdens we have to carry and burdens and bondages…weights and sins we have to shed and throw off while we are running down the track of time.
The Book of Ecclesiastes in its 3rd chapter even tells us this race of life is an all seasonal race because there are “seasons” and “times” for everything under the sun in this life race. There are sick periods.. healthy periods and rest periods.. sweat periods …crying and grieving periods. But regardless of what time it might be or what season or period you might be in …we must run this life race all the way to the end… we must have endurance because it’s the kind of race that if you run it for Jesus and run it all the way to the end in HIM, and finish in HIM…you are declared the winner and there is a crown waiting on you. Now when you run… you have to have a certain attitude…a spiritual swagger….it’s the same attitude the Apostle Paul declared to Timothy at the end of running his race: Paul said: I’m ready to be offered up and the time of my departure is at hand: I fought a good fight….I finished my course …and I kept the faith as a result there is a crown of righteousness laid up for me which the Lord….the righteous judge shall give me in that day….
False Notions Concerning Running Life’s Race:
We have been given a whole lot of false notions about why we run this race and now we must dispel any false notions concerning how we run this life race.
This is not a race that we run against each other.
I’m not running against you. It’s not a race you run against me. We aren’t in competition with one other like the world is because we are all supposed to be members on the same track club. It’s a race where we are our brother’s keeper. We are in partnership and we are admonished to and have promised to help each other to finish the race.
Here’s the other thing: to a certain extent…it a dual purpose race because we have a double purpose in life.
In one sense, we are part of a relay team and we race as a part of God’ story and plan for all of mankind to effect His total purpose for this world. What do I mean? This is what I mean. As servants of the Most High God we are required as ministers, teachers, and steward of the Word of to pass the baton of Salvation and our testimony in Jesus Christ all over the world. We have a Christian responsibility from generation to generation to share the Christian Faith the next generation, to train up our children the way they should go in the Lord that when they become older, they won’t depart from the way. In our “Christian Code of Conduct “that code that governs the overall behavior of all members of God’s church, the Bible clearly tells us how we are to help and not hinder each other while we run in the race of life. Maybe you have heard of this Code of conduct: It goes by the name of the Church’s Covenant.
First, we have corporate communion with Christ and each other: the code says: “Having been led by the Spirit of God to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior and having been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, we do now in the presence of God, angels and this assembly most solemnly and joyfully enter into covenant with one another as one body in Christ”.
Second, we have pledged to walk together in unity, not divided, and the only way we can unify and walk together is with the aid of the Holy Spirit….
Third, we all made the same promise to give support and to make sure the institution church moves in the direction Jesus intended it to move. “We pledged we’ll strive together for the advancement of the church in knowledge… holiness… and comfort …. to promote its prosperity and spirituality and to sustain its worship…. ordinances… disciplines and doctrines… We pledged to contribute cheerfully and regularly to the support of the ministry….the expenses of the church….the relief of the poor…and to spread the gospel to all nations”…
Fourth, We made a promise to maintain Christian integrity in our walk and in our conduct in the church and in the community. This is what we said. “We further engage to walk circumspectfully in the world…To be just in our dealings….faithful in our engagements….and exemplary in or deportment…To avoid all tattling, backbiting, and excessive anger..We promise to abstain from the sale of and the use of intoxicating drinks as beverages, sexual immorality of any kind and have a zeal to advance the kingdom of our Savior”…
Fifth, we made the promise to take care of one another:
“We promised to watch over one another in brotherly love….to remember each other in prayer….to aid each other in sickness and distress…to cultivate Christian sympathy in our courtesy and in the way we speak…We vow to be slow to take offense…but always be ready to reconcile our differences with one another and always be mindful of the rules our savior gave us and abide by them without delay….and then when we have to relocate to another place….we promise to join continue to run the race on that church’s track team for Jesus to continue to carry out the spirit of the covenant and the principles of God’s Holy Word”..
And every time we are reminded of what we promised the Lord as part of His Evangelistic Track Club, it causes us to do some soul searching and before we could go on, we had to confess un-confessed sins and tell the Lord: “Sorrowful and with meekness of heart, we confess our pass sins, and we pray for grace and strength to keep these our “holy” vows…In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ and for His sake we pray…AMEM”…
Now in order to really understand the importance of running the race of life in Christ Jesus …by faith and in discipline by the Holy Ghost you must also know that the devil and all of his demons are doing all they can to knock you out of the race.
Our adversary uses many tricks and much distortion fueled by lies and deceit to make you think the Lord is not really on our side. The devil sets up traps and ambushes and is always lurking, waiting to strike us down when we least expect an attack.
We need to know that God has given us several fool proof weapons to conquer to powers of darkness’s influence in our lives… Weapons that help us endure whatever trials and afflictions that come our way…Weapons to conquer whatever habits that taints our testimony and to give us that added spiritual kick from the Holy Spirit to run and not be weary to walk and not faint and to be renewed when the storms of life are raging: The first remedy is having a consistent and powerful prayer life
Pray and Pray without ceasing:
Prayer is the communication link from heaven to you.
God’s line is never busy whenever you need Him all you got to do is get down on your knees and cry out to the Lord Someone said it this way: Father I stretch my hands to thee…No other help I know….If thou withdraw thy self from…..where shall I go? Somebody else said : Operator, long distance, give me Jesus on the line… call Him up….Call Him up… and tell Him what you want call Him up….Call Him up… and tell Him what you want ! . Another song writer said the reason you call HIM is because Prayer will fix it for you for God knows just what to do. And whenever you pray and let God have HIS way…Prayer will fix it for you.
When you pray, you got to know how to pray. Here’s how you pray….And when you pray, pray to the God the Father in Jesus name. When you pray…. Pray without ceasing and always be instantaneous to pray.
Your praying should be like your breathing. Just as sure as you are breathing…you ought to be praying. Why you may ask? Consider the following….. If you hold your breath long enough because you decided to stop breathing… in a very short time… you will become woozy and eventually you will pass out…. The same is true with your prayer life in the same sense: It’s been said little prayer…little power……more prayer… more power….much prayer….you have much power….consistent prayer….. consistent power….but where there is No prayer……there is no power.
Here’s the point:
If you stop praying, sooner or later you will become spiritually weak and begin to pass out under the tremendous weight of the trials and tribulations you face day by day and eventually you become too weak to fight the good fight of faith in Christ Jesus and do exactly what the devil wants you to do…give in to him and give up on God.
When you pray without ceasing and anchor your faith in the blessed assurance that God is always present, even when it doesn’t feel like he's not there... You’re resting in the assurance that the LORD does both hears and will answer your prayer request.
3 of the quintessential piece of the Christian armor is the sword of the Spirit – The Word of God….the Shield of Faith that has the ability to quench all the fiery dots of the wicked…..and Persistent Prayer…
People of God, you got everything in the “Armor of God “you need to defeat the wiles of the Devil. You are secured in salvation by the Helmet of Salvation. You are covered in God’s righteousness by the breastplate…..your loins are strapped in by the Lord by the having on the belt of truth….Your offensive and defensive weapons are the Sword of the Spirit, the Shield of Faith and Prayer. And your path is governed by having your feet shodded by the preparation of the Gospel of Peace.
This means in every step you take in this race called life, all you got to do is keep leaning on the Lord. You can be assured through prayer that the Lord’s love and presence is always there…Be assured that every part of the armor will work in your favor and for your good and according to Romans 8:38, you are persuaded that nothing…..absolutely nothing shall be able to separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus.
Here’s what you do: Hebrews 12:1-2 says. In the “A” part of the first verse it says: “Let us lay aside every weight”.
Repent: Get rid of “Excessive Weight” and “Set back Sinning”
You have to get rid of all excessive baggage you carry that don’t benefit you in the long run. There are a whole lot of things you just think you have; those things for “ social” security and elevated “social” status..These are the the things that cause you to sin, to fall short, to fall by the wayside, to abandon your faith and be at odds with God .1 John 1:9 told us to repent of any known sin in our lives that strain our relationship with God. And right about here, I can hear some naïve person trying to be smart ask the question Preacher, what known sins would that be? You know what sin that would be…The sin you are engaged in currently engaged in but don’t want to let go. Well, let me put it this way. It varies from person to person because all of us aren’t guilty of doing the same thing, yet Romans 3:23 declares all of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God.
Now, let me get specific: the bible talks about a sin that is unto death and sins that are not unto death, yet the wages of all sin is death. So the best answer to give you is…. No matter how little or bad you may think a sin might be or how big and bad a sin may be…..just know that all sin put a strain on our relationship with God.
There are many situations the devil creates and attacks us with that brings a heaviness (weight) a burden that’s design to derail you from your destiny in Christ Jesus: wicked things…immoral and unmoral things that taxes your life in every way: sinful behaviors that taxes your finances….taxes your marital relationship….taxes your friendships , even taxing your health…taxes your relationship with God, especially when you pray for God to deliver you out of an excruciating situation and He has you to wait and wait and wait and wait and even now you are still waiting…. Even while you are waiting… you have to find that way to lay aside whatever emotional and spiritual weight the enemy drops on your life. How do I do it you ask?
Now we must not forget the only reason they are devilish people is because, they still display demonic behaviors and attitudes that are sinful and destructive. You have accepted Jesus gift of salvation and they haven't yet.. so your motivation for life is Jesus Christ. Their motivation for life are the cares of this world. Before our deliverance in Jesus Christ, we did some of the same things too. In fact the truth is we are still a work in progress and the Lord is constantly cleaning us up, changing our attitude and redirecting our walk so we can get up out of the pit of life and press toward the palace of life in Christ Jesus. We ain’t there yet…but we are pressing on the upward way…new height we gain each and every day…still praying as we are homeward bound asking God to plant our feet on higher ground…
Every day we all still fight character flaws and sinful behaviors. That why for the cause of Christ and the race we run, we must do what Paul did die daily to the sins of the flesh and walk everyday guided by the Holy Spirit…and stop judging one another. God is the only righteous judge there is. We all came from the dust of the ground and God had to breathe in each one of us the breath of life for all of us to become a living soul. So why do some people get off acting like judges when every once in a while all of our dust will kick up…..God has to work in us and on us to keep the dust of our life down by wetting the dust in our lives with the cleansing water of the Living WORD of God!
I can’t judge you and you can’t judge me because these flaws and behaviors we fight that try to taint our Christian identity aren’t the same thing in everybody.. In some of us it may be pride; in some of us, vanity; in some of us worldliness; in some of us compulsive lying in someone else it’s Kleptomania. It’s a bad case of “stick fingers” because you can’t keep your hands off other people’s property and let’s not forget some of us are thugnacious and “bully-fied” …this speaks to that man or woman even that child in every school or in our community and in the church that’s so demonically influenced they exemplify a violent and almost ungovernable temper….and always want to fight somebody else or bully some else to prove how much of a bigger person they want you to believe they are…
The gambit runs deep: corrupt imagination in one; in another person a heavy, leaden, insensible heart; in someone else a cultish behavior that causes you to form improper and unholy attachment to other people and other things. Whatever your sin may be, or wherever we might be on the ledger and in this life race we are exhorted to lay that weight aside. We are to let go of anything …everything and everybody which prevent our making the highest possible attainment in the divine life. A whole lot of us would be farther along on the journey and make so much more progress if we simply shed ourselves of the excessive weights of life.
The “B” part of that same verse talks about “the” besetting sin: "And the sin which doth so easily beset us
As long as we are here on earth and we are around unsaved people we have to fight off sin that are always near us… always around us always… hanging on us and interweaved into our daily lives because of our interaction with everybody else. You don’t have to go looking for trouble. If you are a child of God and trying to live right….trouble comes looking for you! Sometimes it the drama that comes from other people hanging around you. Other times….it’s the kind of sins that causes you to become afflicted…..puts your life in grave danger so it is safe to say that besetting sins are those things full of trouble, sin which puts you and I in harms way. Many scholars of yesteryear believed it to mean "the” sin which especially winds around us, and hinders our course. The truth is sin is that great hindrance to running the race.
Finally: “Run The Race of Life With Patience and Looking To Jesus for All of Our Need: He’s the “Author” and “Finisher” of Our faith”
There are four things we can do in patiently waiting on Jesus to come to our rescue
1. Praise HIM (Jesus) because He is the source of all our strength and security. HIS forgiveness frees us from any accusation Satan makes to God concerning us. When you pray, ask God for a sharpened discernment and wisdom, as you invite the Holy Spirit to take full control over all circumstances you are faced with and be your guide.
2. Realize your position in Jesus Christ.
According to Ephesians 2:6, we are “spiritually seated" in the heavenly places with Jesus Christ. This means in a sense, we are looking down on the principalities, powers in the heavenly places; dark rulers and all wicked spirits. This should give you the confidence to be “strong in the Lord” and in the power of his might. (Ephesians 6:10) Remember when we resist the Devil, we are resisting in a strength beyond our natural strength and according to Hebrews 1:14, there are mighty angels, assigned to minister to you and assist you in conquering the wiles of the Devil.
3. Rely on the “omnipotent power “in Jesus Name.
According to Philippians 2:9-11,demons tremble in fear at the calling on the name of Jesus. He has been given a name that is above all names that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Rely on the power of Jesus’ atoning blood. (Colossians 1:13-20; Revelation 12:11) The blood of Jesus covers each believing convert and is an awesome weapon against Satan. Then believe and expect the Holy Spirit of Truth will manifest himself as God’s illuminator that searches out darkness and expose each lies spoken by Satan. When you were saved, the Holy Spirit took residence within your soul. It is the Holy Spirit that will guide you to all truth concerning Jesus Christ and how to navigate the race we run in life for Christ.
4. Close the Door that caused the Opposition.
Moral compromise, deception, and an exploitation of a person’s vulnerability have been found to be the primary “doors” Satan and people use to influence others to fall from grace through sin. It’s imperative that once you have been overtaken in a fault, you quickly repent and be reconciled to God. 1 John 3:9 says: If you confess your sins, God is just and able to forgive you of your sins and cleanse you from all unrighteousness". After repentance, you must denounce every action that led to that sin and ask God to seal that door shut by cleansing you from that act of unrighteousness. Simply put, take back what the devil stole from you.
“Finally look unto Jesus He’s the "author" and "finisher" of our faith”
Look to the finished work of redemption Jesus did when He was crucified and hung on the cross at Golgotha. it was there He bore all of our sin and along with it forgiveness and a door of reconciliation towards Jehovah God the Father. Believe in HIM and trust HIM to redeem and restore you. How do you run the race called life? Ask the Savior to help you. Ask HIM to comfort, strengthen, and keep you. HE is willing to aid you and HE will carry you through!
Dr. William Edward Boddie