Run For Your Life
4 Sep 2004, Pr George Porter
(George is Thornleigh's Church Pastor)
Title: Run For Your Life
Scripture Reading: Hebrews 12: 1-2
Theme: The Race of Life - The Human Race.
The original Olympic Games held in Olympia, Greece, lasted from 776 BC to AD 394. The then Christian Emperor stopped them in 394 due to gross corruption. Contrary to popular opinion the Games were used to prepare men for war against enemies. Hence the pentatholon which included running, javelin and discuss throwing, wrestling and long jump and chariot races. The revival of the modern Olympics was led by the French educationist, Baron Pierre de Coubertin. The purpose was to prepare men for war as they were not as fit as Germans and Czechs.
The original Olympics were in all probability associated with victory celebrations and were heavily influenced by religious events. Entrants mostly competed in the nude. Had to be law-abiding citizens, pure Greeks by birth and paraded in the stadium so public could veto non-eligible entrants. (August 2004 Readers Digest has an informative article on the "Myths of the Olympics.") It is worth reading.
Originally there were no medals awarded. A laurel of olive leaves was the glory.
Pastor Paul who no doubt was well acquainted with the ancient games and used them as an illustration of the Christian life. He used key words and phrases associated with the games. Let us take a look at what he has to say in the Word of God in the book of Hebrews, which I believe he wrote to his Jewish Christian countrymen.
THE CHRISTIAN OLYMPIADS.
Hebrews 12:1-2 KJV "Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, (or slows and hinders us), and let us run with patience 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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God." Pastor Paul here no doubt is referring to the Olympics. A time when all competitors were exposed to the gaze of the crowds in the stadium grandstands. Who are the witnesses referred to here? No doubt for us today it is the people in our life time who are watching how we live the Christian life. Some commentators believe the "witnesses" refers to the faithful worthies mentioned in Chapter 11. Long past living, they are hardly witnesses of those in Paul's day or ours, of how we run! They are a witness however to the fact, that they did compete in life and were believers in the "promise" of victory with Christ. In verse 2 the immediate context is running in the view of heavenly beings in the throne room of the universe in heaven. I believe that our running is witnessed by the God family including the holy angels and even all the inhabitants of other worlds in the universe out there. Yes, and we are being observed and tempted while we "run", by our adversary the devil and his evil angels. Past and present the inhabitants of the unfallen universe observe the running of humanity on this sin struck globe.
Because of the untold numbers who are keenly interested in our performance of Christian living in Christ, Paul stresses our need to "lay aside sin", because it hinders our progress in running. The purpose of laying aside sin is to "run". Run with endurance and perseverance so as to arrive at our destination. To achieve the goal. What is the race? I wish to suggest that it is the human race for eternal salvation and eternal life. The first word in Chapter 12 is "Therefore". That means what has been written before impacts on the content of verses 1-2 and the remainder of the book. The immediate past context is I believe, found in chapters 10-11. Prior to that in Chapter 1 we are told, that God's Son is the divine replica of the Father and better than angels. See 1:3 ,8 ; "the express image" ie identical with the Father. Christ was God. Shared the throne and authority as ruler of the universe. Verses 2, 10 ; Creator of the world and the universe. Verses 5-6 He became human and was born as a man. The unique Son who did no evil and never sinned in His humanity. Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour came to be Messiah. He came to conquer sin and death. He came to "run" the race, the human race. To run without sinning and win eternal life. To get victory over sin and death. He ran, faultlessly. He won gold, and returned to heaven and His throne - the goal. Now He is our coach and guarantees our success through Him.
THE RACE OF LIFE BY FAITH
Hebrews 10 and 11 give us an insight into the race. In Hebrews 10:36 Paul says, For you have need of patience (persistence/ endurance), so that, after you have you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise". Doing the will of God is the race. The gold medal - the promise - is eternal life when Christ returns to gather us home. See verse 37. Verse 38 says, "Now the just shall live by faith." The just are the righteous obedient Christians. The believers who actively follow Jesus by faith. The race is Christian living by faith in Christ who conquers for and in us. It is the race of life by faith. It is the run of faith to the "saving of the soul." The soul is the total you. Body mind, flesh and breath making a living soul. The total personality.
Life is a race to heaven. It is the human race for eternal life. The saving of our souls- us. All believing in Jesus Christ are winners. There are no losers or silver or bronze medals in the Soul race. It is all Gold- eternal life. In the faith run all win in Christ. It is the earth to heaven faith /soul run. Many pull out and give up sad to say.
In chapter 11 take a look at those who have "run" before us. In verse two they are called "elders". Verse 1 says, "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for," What is hoped for? Winning the soul race for eternal life! We hope for Gold.
Now this word "substance" in Greek of the NT, (hupostasis), was not really understood in KJV days of 1611 AD. Since then scholars unearthed a metal box lost in the fire of a Palestinian hotel back in Bible times. On opening it they discovers the word, "Hupostasis". It means, " title deeds". They had found the title deeds to land. It was a legal document giving ownership to the person named on the document. Wow! So faith is our "title deeds " to eternal life. It is our legal right in Christ to eternal life and gold at the end of the race of life for the saving of the soul.
Chapter 11:2 the "elders" mentioned throughout the chapter 11, obtained a good report , by faith in Christ when they were running the human race on earth. Another translation says, they were approved by God or rather won God's approval. Wow. Notice who they were and what they did before they were forgiven their sins. Murders, harlots, liars, sinful humans like us. By faith they believed in our creator verse 3. They ran with their coach, God. Who picked them up and set them going again - forgiven. There was Abel and Enoch. Enoch who by faith "walked" with God. Who by faith did "run" the human race with God by His side. God walked him to heaven because his living the Gospel pleased God. See verse 5. Elijah was taken to heaven in a chariot taxi. Both won gold.
However the majority of the "elders" (see their names in Chapter 11) died before they received "the promise" of the gold of eternal life. However, they have it by faith in Christ. They all pleased God. They won His approval. They were obedient to His words and requirements. They lived His life by faith and it was accounted unto them for righteousness in Christ. That is the purpose of the soul race. The human race is all about how we live for God with all His children. He forgives our foibles and our falls when we say sorry and ask forgiveness. He stands us up on our feet and sets us running again. Oh what love.
ABOUT PREVIOUS RUNNERS.
In chapter 11:13 it says of all the dead elders, " These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers on earth." All died on the run. All died on the run to heaven. They all won gold by faith in second coming of Christ. None received the laurels of victory. All wait for eternal life, other than Enoch and Elijah and those resurrected with Christ in 31 AD. Verse 39 repeats, no one received the promise- YET! BUT all have the "title deeds". All have the right to the tree of life which gives eternal life in the new kingdom. The running obedient believers make it. See Revelation 22:14
TO WHERE ARE CHRISTIANS RUNNING ?
Chapter 12:2 makes it very clear. They are running to Jesus who is on the throne in heaven. ( See 9:24) Believers who may sin and fall while running. We are running to heaven. Christian believers are running to a Better country (11:16 ) . They are in a Better race than the Olympics. They have a Better coach, their High Priest Jesus Christ in heaven on the throne. They get better laurels - eternal life through forgiveness. The theme of Hebrews. They have faith in the promise of a Better resurrection 11:35.
In Chapter 12:12 -28 NLB, we read clearly the type of life that consists or makes up the race for eternal life. Verses 7-11 explain that it takes God's discipline to keep us upright and running. Verse 12 declares our frailty, our carnal weakness and lameness. Our shaky morality and our tendency to stumble and fall. In verse 14 the call to "live a clean and holy life." To, "Try to run the race and live in peace with everyone." To "look after each other" as we run, and without the , "bitter root of unbelief", verse 15. Without immorality, verse 16. Running for eternal life while we, "obey God", verse 25. It is the race of obedience by faith.
In verse 28 we see that our "title deeds" give us the right to a "kingdom that cannot be destroyed" and because of that goal in the race, "let us be thankful and please God by worshipping him with holy fear and awe." Now that is running. That is what running is all about. It is living the Gospel not just knowing about it. It is the entire life experience. RUN FOR YOUR VERY ETERNAL LIFE.
In chapter 13 KJV (see NIV also) Paul goes on to describe the conduct and character of the runners in the race by faith in the human race for eternal life.
We must continually love each other with Christ's love. We must show hospitality to strangers- who are God's children too, verses 1-2. Remember the prisoners and the unfortunate and beware of adultery, verses 3- 4. Our lifestyle is to be without covetousness but with contentment with what we have, verse 5. Jesus our coach has promised never to leave or forsake us in the race. We are to beware of distractions on the race, verse 9. Runners with Christ, obey and submit to the authorities over them who have their souls at heart, verse 17. Verse 20-21 make it clear that the race is only won by the God of peace, our Lord Jesus Christ, our "shepherd" (coach) ,
who will "make us perfect (complete) in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight…". We the competitors compete. He the coach will "complete" us. Notice what He does. Christ puts the "L" in compete to make us complete. "L" is life. Eternal life quality and quantity when He comes to claim the winners. "L" is also His love for us. His love won the race with Gold and His love will complete us with the gold of eternal life. That is his commitment to our life's race.
So that you never forget Paul's Olympics for Christians remember the following.
Our life's yoke/yardstick made perfect in Christ's Salvation. That is the Christian Olympics.
Remember every competitor is a winner of gold.
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