Sermon on Hebrews 12:1-3
Consider Christ Your King
1. Throw off sin
2. Run with perseverance
3. Fix your eyes
Text: Hebrews 12:1-3
What a year it has been so far! It’s only the end of March but we have been through so much. The New Orleans Saints won their first Super Bowl. The Winter Olympics were held in Vancouver. The Michael Jackson movie commemorating his life was released. The Oscars were two weeks ago and Sandra Bullock won her first Oscar. Apple announced their new innovative product called the iPad. And just this last week the “historic” health care bill was passed.
But 2010 hasn’t been all fun and games. As high as the highs have been, there have been some incredible lows, too. Just this last week the “historic” health care bill was passed. The New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl—and beat the Minnesota Vikings in the process! The swine flu epidemic broke out and became even worse. The Norwalk virus struck Flagler County and knocked out half the students. Almost a quarter million people died in a devastating earthquake that struck Haiti. Weighing the pluses and minuses, especially these viruses and the earthquake, it would seem as though things are only getting worse in this world.
2010 has been no different for our church family. There have been plenty of milestones, celebrations, and parties for many of us. Some of us have enjoyed special occasions or attended special events. As a church we have watched our building fly up from the ground to a point of near completion. Our church family and our Preschool continue to grow. Finding chairs in church or mats for naptime at the Preschool has become harder and harder. These are good things.
But 2010 hasn’t been all fun and games. In fact, for many it hasn’t even been close. Some have battled serious illnesses. Some have had surgeries. Some need to keep going to the doctor for ongoing problems. Some have had family issues the likes of which you didn’t even think possible before. Many worry about money and bills on an every day basis. Many are struggling just to get by. There have been tears, heartache, physical pain, and emotional pain. Weighing all the pluses and minuses, it would seem as though things are only getting worse for us and for our lives in this world.
So what do we do? What do we do when things are rough, life is tough, the family is in a huff, and you’ve just had enough? We think about Christ. We ponder Christ. We open up the Bible to Hebrews 12:1-3 and we
Consider Christ Your King
Have you seen the steeplechase before? The steeplechase is a race. It’s even an Olympic event. The steeplechase race is usually 3000 meters. But it is no ordinary race. There are four solid hurdles on and one large water pit on the track. During the race the runner must clear the four hurdles and the water pit seven times each. The more tired the runners become, the more challenging the race becomes. At the beginning they may be leaping over the hurdles but by the end they sometimes step on the hurdles or even fall over them. By the end they are no longer leaping over the water pit but instead splashing right in the middle of it. It is a long and difficult race with many obstacles along the way.
Our life in this world is just such a race. It’s not a sprint. It’s a distance race. It becomes more difficult the longer we run. There are plenty of hurdles and obstacles along the way. The more tired and wearied we become, the more challenging it is to deal with the obstacles in our way. Sometimes the hurdles in life seem insurmountable and the water pits seem impossibly impassable.
Using this metaphor of a race, the apostle who wrote a letter to Hebrew Christians tells us how we can better run this race called life. Look at what he says first in the middle of verse one: “Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.”
Wouldn’t it be foolish for an Olympic athlete to run the steeplechase wearing a snowsuit and parka? Or what about jeans and sweatshirt? There’s no way the athlete could perform at the same level! Or wouldn’t it be foolish for an athlete to say, “This race isn’t hard enough. Why don’t you make the hurdles 10 feet high and the water pits 50 feet long and 20 feet deep!” How foolish—to make the race harder and the obstacles more challenging!
Yet we do the same thing. How many things do we allow to hinder us? How many times do we let troubles, difficulties, sorrows, sadness, grief, heartache, and pain weigh us down like we’re wearing a snowsuit in a steeplechase? How often don’t we feel, as the famous hymn says, Weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?
That’s only the beginning of our challenges in this steeplechase called life. Then there’s sin, the real obstacle on our course. Satan is crafty. He knows that he won’t get most of us with the real big and overt sins. Instead, he tries to cause us to trip and to fall with sins that so easily entangle. He comes to the go-getter and tempts him to become consumed by work and to ignore church and family. Satan comes to the addictive personality and temps with substances, with the power rush of ego, with the thrill of spending and worldly possessions. He tempts the sad and brokenhearted with thoughts of despair and doubt. He tempts those who work around the foul-mouthed to join in their language and to join in their jokes.
Be honest with yourself. What temptations are most challenging to you? What sins do you struggle with the most? Identify what hinders you and so easily entangles you and then throw them off. Like a snowsuit in a steeplechase, remove those things that cause you to trip up and fall. Consider Christ Your King. He is your strength. He is your support. He is your running coach and your running partner. Consider Christ Your King, rely on his strength and throw off your sin!
The steeplechase is such a fascinating race. You can be going along smoothly for six and a half laps, then suddenly trip on a hurdle or fall in the water pit. Anything can happen because it’s no a sprint. It’s a distance race—with obstacles along the way! How foolish it would be for a runner to stop after five laps and give up because the finish line was just too far away. How foolish it would be for a runner to call it quits just because he trips over one hurdle! The steeplechase is a race that calls for perseverance.
So is life. Listen to the apostle at the end of verse one: “Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” If ever there was a time in our lives and in history that called for perseverance, this surely would be one of those times. As they say, “When it rains, it pours,” and it sure seems like it has been pouring for a while. Almost every day there is another person we know who gets cancer. Marriages are failing at a higher rate than ever before in the history of the world. Families are breaking apart. This isn’t the Great Depression, but for those of us who didn’t live through the 1930’s it probably feels close enough. Christians readily identify the plethora of sins in the world around us. But we fall into many of those same sins. On top of that, Christians are berated and belittled in society and media more than they have been for a long time. There are earthquakes, famines, diseases, disasters, problems, pains, and so much more.
But Jesus told us this would happen. He told us the world would hate us. He told us that these problems would occur. He told us that those who want to come after him must take up the cross of Christian suffering and follow him. He said, “many are called but few are chosen.” He said, “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life.”
This life is not a sprint. It’s a distance race with many obstacles along the way—a steeplechase if you will. So Consider Christ Your King. As the apostle says in verse three, “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men.” Jesus himself endured more suffering than we could ever imagine. The people despised and hated him. On this Palm Sunday we hear their phony cries of “Hosanna!” which in five short days will morph into bloodthirsty shouts of “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Jesus faced more obstacles and hurdles, more suffering and pain, than we ever would. He even squared off with Satan—not just when he was tempted in the desert, but on the cross.
Therefore, Consider Christ Your King. He overcame the troubles and hardships and pains of this world. He defeated Satan. He won. Rely on him. He is your strength. He is your support. He is your running coach and your running partner. Consider Christ Your King, rely on his strength and run with perseverance this race of life.
All serious steeplechase athletes have the same thing in common. They are focused. They train so hard and so often that they don’t let any of the obstacles get in their way. They don’t get distracted by any of the other runners in the race. They keep their eyes on the finish line and the prize. Great steeplechase athletes train and run as if they have blinders on. They are absolutely focused.
We are to do the same in life. Listen to the apostle in verse two: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” Do you want to know how to throw off all the pain and suffering along with all the temptation and sin that hinders you in life? Do you want to know how to run this race with perseverance? Do you want to know how you can possibly finish this race and claim the prize of eternal life? Fix your eyes on Jesus!
Why? He is, “the author and perfecter of our faith.” He is the one that has chosen us. He is the one who brought us to faith. He is the one in whom we have faith. He is the one who gives us a reason to have faith. He is both author and perfecter of our belief. Why? Because he “for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus willingly endured the cross. He willingly suffered. He scorned the shame of being nailed to the cross. He scorned the shame of carrying our sins and our guilt. He lovingly suffered the punishment that our sins deserve and died the death that our wrongs have earned. He did that all because of the joy set before him. Riding into Jerusalem on a lowly donkey, Jesus knew what was going to happen. He knew that he would be betrayed, tried, crucified, and die. He knew that he would have to suffer hell on the cross. He knew that he would have to carry the sin of the world. But Jesus knew the after the pain of Good Friday there was joy waiting on Easter morning. He knew that he would rise victorious from the dead. He knew that he would live again as the one who had defeated Satan and accomplished salvation. He knew that he would be giving forgiveness freely and fully to all. For that joy, Jesus willing endured the cross and its shame. And having triumphantly risen from the dead, Jesus has now sat down on his seat of victory at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Christ Your King. Fix your eyes on him. He is your strength. He is your support. He is your running coach and your running partner in this race of life. Consider what your king has done for you, and fix your eyes on him.
It’s been an incredible three months so far in 2010. There have been lots of ups and lots of downs. It may even seem like at this time in history there are many more downs in our lives—more pain, more suffering, more struggle, more worry, more temptation, more sin. But this steeplechase of life isn’t a sprint. It’s a distance race. Throw off all that hinders you. Run with perseverance. Most importantly, fix your eyes on Jesus. Fix your eyes on him today riding into Jerusalem. Fix your eyes on him Friday as he goes to the cross to bear your sin and suffer your punishment. Fix your eyes on him Sunday as he appears again victorious and alive. Consider Christ Your King and you will cross the finish line and you will claim the prize.
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