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Run The Race of Faith


"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

Good Morning my beloved,
Welcome to worship this Lord's Day!
We're so glad that our brothers and sisters from around the world are here with us today.
We know that many of  you are experiencing struggle and persecution, continue to pray for you, every day. May the hearts of those who persecute you be forever changed by your faith. 
Contrary to what is often being taught today, the Christian life is a lifelong, grueling race that often entails some treacherous hills to climb and some messy marshes of trial in which to trod through. And, to make it to the finish line, you must possess self-discipline, to get into good spiritual condition, you will need to maintain your motivation, and sustained effort. Let's face it, no one enters a race with the hope of dropping out after the first mile. Therefore, finishing well is everything. This race, is unlike any other, for we are not competing with other believers, we are, in fact, all on the same team. We’re competing against the enemy, the adversary of our souls, who one opposes God and His kingdom, the one wants nothing more, than for us to drop out of this vital race. Satan himself.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father,

Father, how thankful we are for Your Word. Help us Lord, that we would search our own hearts, may we find the discipline, dedication and faith that You are worthy of. Help us to realize that we are not competing against one another, grant us the endurance that enables unwavering faith to be so strong that even in difficult challenges, that we would finish strong, because You deserve the only best from us. Remind us O Lord, just how important it is to be gazing into Your glory at all times. May we run this great race of faith consistent with those who have run before us.
In Christ's precious name
Today's Message: Run The Race of Faith
In our ongoing study of this marvelous book of  Hebrews, we have seen this immense attempt, on behalf of the writer of Hebrews, to show that salvation comes by faith and faith alone, and that those who belong to God walk by faith. It is then, both the faith of the sinner that initiates salvation, and the faith of the saint, that marks his ongoing process of sanctification.
Open your Bibles with me to the twelfth chapter of Hebrews. We just finished up the eleventh chapter and talked about the courage of faith. Today, we will be looking at the first three verses. We’re not really going to find all kinds of profound theological teaching here, but rather some very helpful practical elements.
I invite you to follow along with me as I read to set the text in our minds, while we prepare our hearts for what the Spirit is saying to us. Hebrews 12:1-3

"Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
As we discussed early, the Christian life is a race, a race in which God set the course. As with any race,
we can’t make up our own course. If we stray from the course, we’ll be disqualified. We may not like all the hills, valleys and trenches during the course, we might even find ourselves grumbling and complaining, however, I believe that it’s important to keep in mind at all times that God sets the course. Just as He did for Jesus, when He went to the cross.This is what Jesus meant when He talked about counting the cost of following Him.
As we have noted many times before, the word "therefore," ties in with what has been said before. So, verse 1 is really concluding statement. Notice in verse 1, this is a call to run a race. Jesus is the model of faith and it is the "faith race." Discipleship is all about becoming like Jesus.
There is little doubt that the "cloud of witnesses surrounding us" are those heroes of faith, who have just been described in the earlier part of chapter eleven. Those who have through faith have faced all kinds of difficulty and challenges. The language here, refers to a relay race, in which the witnesses are those who have already finished their leg of the race and have now passed the baton on to us. We must be committed to doing our part.
I'd like to make note, this gives the impression that the saints who are now in heaven, constitute some kind of massive team of spectators, who are watching us run the race on earth. As best as I can tell, that is not taught in Scripture.  In fact, I believe that would actually defy the essence of heaven, which is to be separated from all the sin and strife that goes on here on earth. So often, when someone loses someone they love, we hear them say something like, "I know that so and so, is watching over me." While that certainly may sound comforting in a difficult time of grieving, again, there is nothing in the Bible to indicate that they have a preoccupation with things that are occurring here.
Scriptures uses a number of metaphors to describe aspects of the Christian life. There's the military metaphor, as we are to put on the full armor of God. In II Timothy chapter 2, Paul says "Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus." And, in Ephesians chapter 6, he uses a wresting metaphor, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."
Then, in I Corinthians chapter 9,  he uses a boxing metaphor, "Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;"
Also in Scripture, we are also described as farmers, who plant the crop and enjoy the harvest. We are described, in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, as a bride, and He being the Bridegroom. We are also described in a Father and child relationship.We are described as athletes competing in a race, doing whatever is necessary to win the prize. I believe that the obvious implication here, is to run to win, to accomplish the goal that is set before us.
We understand in the ancient times in which the Bibles was written, the Greek world had an interest in athletics and in games. The Apostle Paul could not comprehend running a race aimlessly, with no purpose, no goal, no victory, no triumph, no reward in view. In Philippians chapter 2, he said "Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain."
If we are not careful, we can find ourselves becoming preoccupied with things of lesser importance can crowd out those things that should be priority in our life. Any relationship, any activity, any possession, any pursuit, any thing, that holds you back in your pursuit to become more like Jesus should not a priority!
As we look at Hebrews chapter 12, the writer of Hebrews encourages all His readers to run this race. The Christian life is a race.Notice that He says "let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us." I believe that the authors point is, you cannot run the Christian race if you keep tripping over your sins. In biblical times, and in many parts of the Middle East and Asia even today, people wore long robes. If you think about it, you can’t really run with a long robe entangling your legs. You must either pull it up and tuck it in your belt or cast it totally aside.
Sin always begins in the mind, and so we must judge all sin at the thought level. Pride, lust, envy, greed, anger, grumbling, selfishness. All of these things originate in our thought life. If you cut it off there, it goes no farther. However, if you entertain these things, they manifest themselves into sinful words and actions. There are certain things that need to be eliminated if you’re going to run a faith race effectively.
James chapter 1 verses 14-15, tells us "But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death."
The only way you will ever live life to the fullest is if you set this as your number one priority in life, to become more and more like Jesus. Paul says his commitment was to progress toward Christ-likeness now, to live his life in such a way as to become more and more like Jesus today!
In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. We must seek purity, casting off the sin that so easily entangles us. That's not to say we will never sin. However, it’s one thing to fail, confess our sin, recommitting ourselves to pursu­ing Christ-likeness, and moving forward. It’s another thing, to cling to a sinful action, attitude with no desire to turn away from it. In other words, the Christian Life demands great effort. It's a race of faith.
The entrance to the race is the new birth: salvation by faith in the perfect and complete work of Christ. And apart from faith in Christ, you’re not even in the race; you’re sitting on the sidelines. In Galatians chapter 5 verse 7, Paul says "You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?"

The Puritan preacher, Richard Baxter, wrote, "It is a most lamentable thing to see how most people spend their time and their energy for trifles, while God is cast aside. He who is all seems to them as nothing, and that which is nothing seems to them as good as all. It is lamentable indeed, knowing that God has set mankind in such a race where heaven or hell is their certain end, that they should sit down and loiter, or run after the childish toys of the world, forgetting the prize they should run for. Were it but possible for one of us to see this business as the all-seeing God does, and see what most men and women in the world are interested in and what they are doing every day, it would be the saddest sight imaginable. Oh, how we should marvel at their madness and lament their self-delusion!

If God had never told them what they were sent into the world to do, or what was before them in another world, then there would have been some excuse. But it is His sealed word, and they profess to believe it."
Notice the words "Let us." Keep in mind, this book was is written primarily to believers. Here, He is talking in general to the Jewish believers who have at least outwardly identified with Jesus Christ, who constitute a church, and he’s encouraging them who have not yet entered the race to get in the race, and those who are in the race to run with all their might. There is the element that we all need that exhortation to stay in the race and to run it with all our might and all our strength. However, there is also the element of the encouragement bound up in the sort of general nature of "let us," to those who were intellectually convinced but had not come all the way to Christ. 
The race starts for you from the moment that you become a believer. However, once you become a believer, you must be continually urged not to fall back, but to run with all your might. As a footnote, I'd like to point out that the word "race," is a very important word. The word used in the original language is "agōna," it refers to a struggle or battle. It conveys the idea this race will demand every ounce of energy, and it will demand discipline and training if you’re really going to run to win.
In Amos 6:1, Amos said, "Woe to them that are at ease" This is a grueling, lifelong race, it is an agonizing and relentless and it must be run with endurance. There will be obstacles; there will be struggles. We will become weary and tired, distracted, but we remain running, giving it every effort, if we are to finish well.
We have had a lot of witnesses to the validity of a faith life. However, in verse 2, there’s one example that rises above all the rest, "fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  The course has been set. The dead weight and obstructions stripped away. The race has begun and is underway. We have the encouragement of others who’ve run before us, men who lived by faith triumphantly. Men who were victorious, who through their courageous faith conquered against impossible odds. Beyond all that, there is one example to whom we look, Jesus. Take your eyes off your current struggles, life your eyes to heaven and keep your eyes fixed on Christ.

In running a race, where you fix your eyes is absolutely critical. You cannot run a race looking at your feet. And, one thing that I have learned, is you never look at the hurdle in front you. Because as soon as you do, it's all over! You have to focus your gaze above the hurdle. That's the point He's making here, fix your eyes above your troubles and run as hard as your can with all your strength and all your might.

Paul said in Philippians 3:14, "I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." Jesus Himself is our motivation to keep running. The name "Jesus" deliberately focuses on His humanity. As a man, He showed us exactly how to live by faith in God in this world. He trusted God at the beginning of His ministry when Satan tempted Him. John 5:19 tells us that He relied on God to such a degree that He could claim, "the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing." In John 8:38, He claimed to speak the very words that He heard from the Father. In Luke 23:46, He trusted the Father in the Garden and He went to the cross entrusting His soul to the Father. His final words included, "Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit." From start to finish, Jesus showed us how to run the race by faith. 
In fact, Jesus is the reason that we have faith. He is "author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  The greatest joy for Jesus was that of glorifying the Father by completing the work that the Father gave Him to do.
Then, in verse 3, "For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." His joy in the race was that He could see through the suffering, through the agony, through the shame to the reign on the right-hand of the Father. We share in the same joy, because one day, we too will sit on the right-hand of the Father, enthroned with Jesus as joint heirs with Him. We may endure struggles in this life, but no one has ever endured a greater trial than the cross. Yet, even in our struggle there is joy, because the victory is already guaranteed. 
As Paul says in I Corinthians 9:24-25, "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable."
In Closing..
Jesus balanced the joy set before Him against the cross, so we must consider the fact that the more committed we are to Jesus, the more those who oppose Him will oppose us, no matter how nice we try to be. However, we must calculate that the joy of knowing and obeying Jesus is greater than all of the rejection, anger, ridicule, or anything that we might be called to bear for His sake. 
We must all examine ourselves, perhaps we need to refocus on Jesus and the joy of receiving the crown of righteousness that He has promised to all who finish the race.
However, you cannot win if you don’t enter. If you’ve never put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, may I encourage you to do so today. 
I pray we'll see each other at the finish line..
May it be so..
And now may the Lord bless you and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;

The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.

Now and forever, in Jesus' name
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The Brian Monzon Ministries



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