Andrew Fountain - Winning the Race of Life (Hebrews pt.10)

Sermon notes - Winning the Race of Life (Hebrews pt.10)

This passage

will change your attitude towards problems in your life
so that instead of discouraging you
the problems will motivate you
to run and win.

  • I’m going to work through the first 13 verses of Hebrews 12, verse by verse
    • We are going to hear what God is telling us in these verses



Image source: Steve Ryan

  • Are you weary in the race today?
    • Is life just too much for you, or following Jesus too much? Is that how you ever feel?
  • Athletes
    • Why do some athletes give up and some keep going?
    • Some of them make you have doubts from the start because you are worried about their motivation

More Runners

More Runners

Image source: Richard Croft

  • What is the problem with this guy
    • If his number one motivation was to finish the race, what would be different?
  • Let us imagine someone who is seriously out of shape

Fat Cat

Fat Cat

Image source: Manuel

  • If he fills his mind with images of food all day, what is going to happen?
  • If, on the other hand, his hero is the gold medal winner of the cat-O-lympics
    • And he spends all day thinking about his hero...
  • So, there are:

Two Principles

  1. Don’t wear unnecessary stuff
    • Get rid of it
  2. Don’t loose sight of your goal
    • Keep your eyes on what you want to be
  • Here are those same two points in Hebrews 12:

Hebrews 12

  1. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely,
  2. and run with endurance the race set out for us,
  3. keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
  1. The enemy is sin—like heavy clothing that is dragging you down
    • see it for what it is!
    • see the long-term damage it is going to do you
  2. Endure by keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus
    • Example of someone learning to drive, look at where they want to go not focusing on what they want to avoid, or they will hit it
    • Example of a sports player—keep your eye on the ball!
    • How do we actually do this? —can anyone make a suggestion?
      • thinking a lot about Jesus?
        • Do we keep focusing on my mistakes, or on Jesus?
        • Runner who keeps looking back at where they have put their feet wrong!
    • Primarily in defining where we are trying to get to
      • Recently reading a time-management guru called Matthew Kelly: “To be the best possible version of youself”
      • Sounds good, but can you imaging Jesus waking up each morning...
    • We know what Jesus thought:
      • “How can I do the will of my Father today?”
      • “how can I show his selfless love?”
      • “but at the same time be so uncompromising with evil that people will want to kill me?”
    • He says to us, die and I will raise you. If the seed dies, it will bring fruit
      • die to your own agenda. Does that sound like “The best possible version of youself”?
    • prayer, trying to copy him (like a child does his/her mom or dad)
      • Read about his life, breathe it in

Hebrews 12 cont’d

  1. …For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
  2. Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.
  3. You have not yet resisted to the point of bloodshed in your struggle against sin.

v.2b The passage gives us part of the answer here

  1. Continues to describe his example—he won, and so will we!
    • a problem—often we don’t see Jesus as copyable—he is superhuman
      • That is not what is being said here—we actually should see him as someone we should try to copy
      • children like to copy their parents (e.g. plastic steering wheel in car)
  • Now we are going to move on to the next part of the passage
    • This has some difficulties, especially in some translations
    • I am going to read it in the King James, which has a problem

Hebrews 12:5–11 (KJV)

  1. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
    • Chasten = correct someone by making them suffer
  2. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
    • A scourge is a whip that has metal embedded in it
  3. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?
  4. But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

Hebrews 12:5–11 (KJV)

  1. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?
  2. For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.
  3. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
  • This is a difficult passage
    • It looks like God is beating us to knock some sense into us
    • The King James translates v.6 as “scourgeth” which is a particularly nasty form of beating
    • Is God a heavy-handed father who is constantly bringing bad things into our lives to “correct” us?
  • This leads to an attitude (very common)
    • whenever something goes wrong in our lives we must have done something wrong and God is punishing us.
  • The problem here is that the word does, in fact, literally mean scourge or whip.
    • (Every other usage of it in the N.T. refers to Jesus being scourged)
    • So does God whip us?
  • I’m going to give a technical explanation here, so you have my permission to switch off for a minute if that’s not your strength

Proverbs 3

  1. My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline
          or be weary of his reproof
  2. for the LORD reproves him whom he loves
          as a father the son in whom he delights.
  • First, v. 5,6 are a quote from Proverbs 3:11–12
    • In the Hebrew, the word is a very general word for rebuke
    • There is a principle that a good father instills good values and discipline into his children
      • There is no overtone of harshness
  • This Hebrew was translated into Greek, 300 years before Jesus, in what we call the Septuagint
    • The word “reprove” in Hebrew did not have an exact equivalent, so they chose “whip” with the understanding of the context was not of literal harshness, but more of loving correction
    • The writer to the Hebrews has quoted the Greek here, but anyone knowing the original Hebrew would know that it was not to be understood harshly
    • That is why good modern translations will say something like “correct”
    • It would be quite wrong to translate it as something viscious
  • The word translated by the KJV as “chastise” —how would you understand that word today?
    • In fact “chastise” is a misleading translation
    • is a broad term for the training of children
      • The word is used of Paul’s education under Gamaliel
  • Here is a better translation of the passage:
    • and all you people who switched off, can switch back on again...
  • The context here is of the athlete
    • In that context, the best word I think is training – disciplined hard training
    • (I have put “training” because it would be too cumbersome otherwise, but that is how it should be read.)
      • The kind of tough training you go through if you’re going for the gold medal

Hebrews 12:5–11

  1. And have you forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as sons?
          “My son, do not scorn the Lord’s training or give up when he corrects you.
                6For the Lord trains the one he loves and reprimands every son he accepts.”
  2. Endure your suffering as training; God is treating you as sons.
          For what son is there that a father does not train?
  3. But if you do not experience training, something all sons have shared in,
          then you are illegitimate and are not sons.
  4. Besides, we have experienced training from our earthly fathers and we respected them;
          shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life?
  5. For they trained us for a little while as seemed good to them,
          but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness.
  6. Now all training seems painful at the time, not joyful.
          But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those given excercise by it.

adapted from NET Bible

  • It is very important that we get the right feel from this passage
    • God wants us to win! He want to be there on the finishing line, cheering you on as you win.
    • He is a loving father to us, not a harsh master
    • It is for us he is doing it, not for him!
  • v.11 is about the athlete
    • change their attitude to the pain of training
  • e.g. Hockey dad interviewed on the radio
    • costs $1,000/yr +
    • Getting up very early on weekend mornings
  • So the King James translation makes no sense in this context of a race
    • The emphasis is on God’s commitment to get us to be the best we can be
  • Notice also all the “son” references
    • Bact at the start of Hebrews we get the idea of
      • “what happened to the son (Jesus) will happen to the (sons) us (inc daugthers)
    • see them also in Hebrews 5 We didn’t deal with them back then because the’re a little hard so wait...)

Compare with Hebrews 5:7–9

  1. During his earthly life Christ offered both requests and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death and he was heard because of his devotion.
  2. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered.
  3. And by being made complete in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,
  • Difficult verse!
  • Was Jesus a bit disobedient before, and learned to be obedient?
    • No, it was a new experience of it
  • Some of you may have passed driving tests recently
    • Learn in the classroom first. Is your learning then complete?
  • How was Jesus incomplete?
    • The original word can meet perfected
    • “made complete” is be a better word. He was completed as a human by going through this experience
  • I am really trying to attack the idea that every time something goes wrong, it is because God is angry with us
    • very damaging
    • Did Jesus suffer hardships?
      • Yet this was not God’s anger on him
    • e.g. starved for 40 days
      • God tests us to strengthen us.
    • so stressed that his sweat was like drops of blood!

Compare Heb 5 & 12

  1. Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered.
  2. And by being made complete (perfected) in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him,
  3. and run with endurance the race set out for us,
  4. keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
  • Often this doesn’t make sense to us.
    • If I said “Keep your eyes on Superman as your example” ?
    • So how can this make sense?
      1. He really did feel at times like you do now (not guilt, but temptation to give up)
      2. He is in you, and you can draw on his strength

Heb 12:12–13

  1. Therefore, strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees,
  2. and make straight running tracks for your feet,
    so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but be healed.
  • One of the main truths to get out of this passage it is how you look at difficulties in your life.
    • They are not because God is angry with you
    • They are to challenge you to help you grow
  • Pain in training to an athlete is different
    • ever heard “no pain no gain”? —what does it mean?
    • e.g. Dentist’s chair —because I know it is for my good, I can endure it easily
    • Our perception of the pain is so important—it controls whether the pain is suffering or seen as positive
  • What about difficulties in your life right now?
    • Do you see them as opportunities to grow and be stronger and fitter?
    • How are you being trained and developed?
    • Don’t be tempted to give up!
  • This is even true of people who are not Christians
    • Right now God’s desire is that you should follow Jesus
    • I know many stories of people who didn’t follow Jesus until God allowed problems into their lives
    • The purpose was not to punish them, but to take away false confidence and hope
      • There was a woman that Jesus met who had very bad experiences with men (5 divorces)…
    • Maybe you have some problems right now—it could be God drawing you to him

Three points

  1. Don’t wear unnecessary stuff
    • Get rid of it
  2. Don’t keep your eyes on failure
    • Keep your eyes on the winner
  3. Embrace the problems—they are stretching you and perfecting you, even as with Jesus
    • Attitude changes everything
  • That doesn’t mean you accept them or don’t try to change them

Updated on 2017-03-26 by Andrew Fountain