For those of you interested in such things, this is the manuscript of the sermon I preached at a PCA church in Duluth yesterday.
THE WEARY RUNNER
Bible Reading Hebrews Chapter 11
Text Hebrews 12:1–3 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Greeting Good morning! I have to say that it is a privilege and an honor to be with you this fine Lord’s Day morning. I have only met your pastor Logan Almy on two occasions at FPC in Hinckley where I attend church. I have only had brief interaction with Edgar Saldana regarding our meeting together this day. I thought I would inform you that I do not always travel to far away cities with an entourage of 14 people. My family consists of 6 people. Myself, my lovely wife of nearly 19 years, Karie. My eldest daughter Ali who is 15 years old today. My middle daughter Rylee who is 13. My 4 year old son Sammy, and my oh’ so smallish 2–1/2 year old daughter Elsa. The rest of the clan is our dear friends the Mindrup’s from Owensboro Kentucky. I won’t introduce them all to you by name, so make sure you greet them sometime after the service. They are in town until after the Fourth of July and Logan told me the more I could bring this morning the better 🙂
Introduction My name is Scott David if I haven’t already said that. We reside in the small town of Harris Minnesota. It is in between North Branch and Cambridge if you have ever heard of those towns. I am 41 years old and the Lord graciously, and radically saved me and my wife at the age of 30. Our lives were transformed, and I stand before you this day as en example of unearned and undeserved grace. I am employed at a company called Egan Companies. I am, and have been an HVAC service technician for around 21 years. I love to read and study the scriptures. I love to share what I learn. So here I stand today.
I am going to ask that you turn in your Bibles to Hebrews chapter 12. We will be in verses 1–3 this morning. I will read the text and then we can pray.
I used to run track throughout high school. I was a sprinter and a jumper. I competed in the long jump, the 4 x 1 relay, and the 300m hurdles. I remember going to the state championship for the 300m hurdles. The tension was high, the competition was way more than I was used to in our local AA track meets. The competition (I noticed) was also quite a bit taller as well 🙂 . Before most track meets, I was very undisciplined in my habits. But this meet was different. I remember watching what I ate, not wanting to be weighed down with excess food. I had learned that many things could slow me down when I ran; like how baggy and heavy my shorts were, how light my cleats were, and the length of the spikes. I learned that the more flexible I was, the quicker I could get over the hurdles. My coach throughout high school was constantly trying to get me to lay down the bad habits that were keeping me from running as fast as he thought I could. I never really listened to him though, and by the time the state track meet was upon me, it was too late.
I stretched out my legs and got situated in the starting blocks. I rose to the set position and awaited the gun shot. As the sound of the stadium cheered, it drove me to do the best that I could. But that day, because of all the past lack of discipline, was not going to be the day I would receive the prize.
When you became a Christian, you entered a race. This race is not so much against those who are seated in the pews beside you; rather against the world, the devil, and your own flesh (1 John 2:16).
- 1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world — the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life — is not from the Father but is from the world.
- 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking someone to destroy.
- James 1:14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desires.
Our Scripture reading this morning was from Hebrews chapter 11 because those are the individuals who are seated in the stands while you and I are running in this race. They are the previous winners that are all cheering us on while we compete. They are the heroes of the faith. And because we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses; we are to lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely. If we do not, we will not be able to compete against the high level of competition from the world, the devil, and your own flesh.
We are commanded to do two things from this text. The first is TO LAY DOWN EVERY SIN WHICH WOULD HINDER US. And the second is simply to RUN THE RACE WITH ENDURANCE. We will look at those two commands in a moment, but first of all; sin is clingy.
Sin is clingy. The phrase which clings so closely is one word in the greek. It is also translated which doth so easily beset us, which so easily ensnares us, or holds on to us so tightly. The idea is of a competitor thwarting a racer from every direction. Sin is like a horrible monster which runs on to the track. He trips you as you run, jumps on your back, chews on your legs, blinds your eyes, screams in your ears, and shackles your wrists and ankles with weights. This is the monster of sin; and it’s clingy. It does not want you to win, or to leave your side. Nor are we able to run while we are ensnared in it’s grip. Sin is a monster. And it clings so closely. The text here calls sin a weight. It is heavy, cumbersome, and a hinderance.
COMMAND 1 – LAY ASIDE YOUR SIN
It is interesting to me that our text tells us things to do while we are running, but does not instruct us of any way to lay down our sin. It simply commands us to lay it aside.
Examples. The book of Acts chapter 7 is the account of Stephen being stoned to death. Stephen was in Jerusalem preaching in the synagogue. The Jews were enraged with him. They grit their teeth, drug him to the out skirts of the city and were about to crush him with stones. They laid down their garments at the feet of Saul so that the garments would not hinder them from throwing rocks at Stephen. This is the same phrase as our text. Laying down our sin so that it does not hinder us. In the same way as the Jews laid down their garments so that they did not hinder them from throwing stones.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 4:22 that we are to put off our old self which belongs to our former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires.
Colossians 3:5–8 Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away (same phrase – lay them aside): anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.
I found probably 10 different places in the Bible where we are simply commanded to just put something away, or lay it down because it is hindering us. There are two things that I see in the text that may help us to lay aside our sin.
1. The first is the example of the heroes of the faith that went before us. We are to be immersing ourselves in the Word of God. It is from there where we see these patriarch’s of the faith. Their lives were written down for our example.
Romans 15:4 says “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”
- How much time do you spend in the Bible during an average week?
- Do you find that there are many times where you lack encouragement and feel fainthearted or weary. It may be because sin is hindering you and you are not laying it aside. You are not laying it aside because you are not reading about those who came before you who did.
2. The second help for us in laying aside our sin I think, comes from learning the truth that we have been discussing. Knowing that when you were created anew though Christ Jesus, you were entered into a running race, and that your sin is hindering you from running the way you ought. This is meant to motivate you to throw your sin in the trash and press on.
I am reminded of the burden that Christian carried in Pilgrim’s Progress. Do you remember what it was? The burden was Christian’s sin that he carried. And it fell off of him when he went to the cross. Calvary is where our burden of sin is removed from our record. Yet the sin that we are here commanded to lay aside is sin that we pick up while we are living in this world. The cross takes away the guilt and penalty of our sin, but does not make us holy and sinless in this life. The process of laying down our daily sin is called sanctification. It is our duty before God to press on towards holiness, without which, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
COMMAND 2 – RUN THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US WITH ENDURANCE
It’s important to notice that before we can run a race with endurance, we must first lay aside our sin. After we have lain it aside, we must run the race that is set before us. We must run with endurance.
Endurance is cheerfully and patiently being consistent. This word is particularly speaking of things or circumstances as opposed to people.
I really fail at this. This may be one of my worst besetting sins – the sin of inconsistency. The endurance we are called to have is in direct relation to our circumstances. One of the hardest things for me to do is to be constitent with so many varing circumstances.
For instance: My children come to me daily asking questions whether they can do this or that. They ask me whether this or that is right. They ask me when they will be able to do x, y, or z. I give them an answer. Then 2 weeks, 2 months, or 2 years later when they ask me the same question, I give them a different answer. And they remember the answer I gave them in the past. They then preceed to remind me of what I said in the past and it makes me see and feel like I am horribly inconsistent! I hate that I can’t remember things I have told them in the past.
It also seems that I begin something new every day. I start blogging, and then 3 weeks later I am burnt out. I start journaling and never make it a week. I start an exercise program and peter out 2 weeks later. I start reading a book together as a family and then get bored and never pick it up again. My wife is so patient with me. I can hardly live with myself, and if it weren’t for the grace of God, she would probably be long gone. My inconsistency drives me crazy, but never crazy enough to actually change the way I am.
How about you? Are you cheerfully and patiently consistent in your life? This is what we are called to as Christians. This is the race we are running; to run with endurance.
But what exactly is the race?
Let’s continue reading on in our text, and we will see what the Christian race is all about. (Read Hebrews 12:1–14.)
We get a glimmer of it in verse 11 “but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” And then nail it in verse 14, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”
The Christian race is a race towards holiness. “Be holy, for I the Lord am holy!” Are you excited for the day when you will enter into Jesus’ heaven and be holy? When you will be set apart from sin? Are you eager for a time when all of your sin will be removed from you? Because those who are truly eager for what they will have, are in pursuit of it in part now. If we will have it in full someday, we will want it in part now. Holiness is the Christian race!
Looking to Jesus
When I would run the 300m hurdles on a 400m track, I was unable to see the finish line. I knew that it was there, and I pressed on towards it, but could never see it until I jumped the last hurdle. We can not see our Christian finish line. But, like the hurdles, I kept the finish line in my mind’s eye; we are to keep constantly in our mind’s eye the person of Jesus Christ. He is to be the object of our attention. He is to be the one we are pursuing. We are to be cheerfully and patiently looking to Jesus. And looking is to behold in the mind, or to look intently at a distant object.
So looking to Jesus can sound vague and religious; so what is it exactly we are to be doing?
1. Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith.
The founder is the originator, the chief, the leader, the first cause. He is the grand champion in the stadium. He is one who is the pinnacle, and supreme model of all runners; HE IS THE FOUNDER!.
He is the perfecter. The first place finisher, the completer, the one who reached the goal, the one who ran the race that all others failed to complete perfectly. He has made the way. He is the model, the example, the trail blazer, the one who broke the ice, the champion of all champions. This is our Jesus! HE IS THE PERFECTER!
Of our faith. “Without faith, it is impossible to please the Lord.” He is the one who founded our faith. He is the one who has perfected faith. He is the one who perfects our faith.
Not only are we to look to Jesus who is the founder and perfecter of our faith. We are to look at his purpose in running. He ran his race of faith for two reasons according to this text.
1. To be the founder and perfecter of our faith. This drove him on towards holiness. Jesus did it out of love for us! To be our example, and to give us what was needed so we could run our own race; faith.
Let me just linger here a little and apply this truth in a way that may not seem obvious at first. This motive and desire of Jesus to be the originator of our faith is something that drove him towards the finish line. This same motive should be the driving force behind all our parenting and grand-parenting. We, as husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, grand-fathers, and grand-mothers, are to have a motive of leading the way for those who are coming behind us. Our lives are foundational in the faith of our children and grand-children. We do not take the place of Jesus, but we are to be the model of Jesus to our children and grand-children. We are to be the founder and perfecter’s of our children’s faith.
Q – Does your Christian walk look more like you are walking in the faith of Jesus, or the unbelief of the devil? Are you walking with a trustful eye upon the words of the one who inspired the scriptures, or are you disbelieving and distrusting what God has said? Jesus was the founder and perfecter of our faith, and so we reflect his foundational and perfecting faith to the younger generation.
2. The second thing that drove Jesus towards holiness was his position at the right hand of his father in heaven. It says that he endured the cross and despised the shame for the joy of being seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Jesus’ position is one of being exalted above the heavens and the earth as the Lord and King, the Son of God who became the Son of man.
Philippians 2:8–11 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
These two things, beinging the founder and perfecter of our faith out of love; and his position drove him to endure the horrific sufferings of the cross.
Q How do you and I endure suffering? When the trials and tribulations of this world wash over us like a title wave in the ocean, how do we keep going. When we feel like we are drowning and can’t breathe under the wave of affliction, where is our strength? Our strength is found by looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. We are to be beholding in our mind’s eye the entire life and person of Jesus Christ. We are to be reading of his birth and the grace of God to send him on this mission. We are to be reading of his life and modeling his example to humanity. We are to be reading what he taught and growing in the truth. We are to keep the distant object of Jesus always before us. We are to be dispersing our thoughts on the life, death, truth, and position of Jesus. And then the love that spills over by looking at Jesus will drive us on to endure the title waves of suffering that wash over us.
I want to mention a personal thing we learned regarding shame. My family and I suffered a horrible wave of affliction 8 months ago. Karie was pregnant with a seemingly healthy baby boy named Justus Samuel David. We had been in for our 12 week checkup, saw his little life and watched him move about freely in his momma’s womb during the ultra-sound. Then an absolute shock came at her 16 week check. The mid-wife was no longer able to detect his heart-beat.
We scheduled an appointment to be induced less than a week later. And on the 24th of October 2013, Justus Samuel David was born. He looked like this perfect little baby, yet he had no beating heart. What we would not have known without going through this process ourselves, was there there was so much shame involved throughout this entire process.
My eyes were led to this text of Hebrews 12:2. This text became for us the hourly pointer to the Rock of Ages; Jesus Christ. The phrase despised the shame, means that he thought little of, or lightly of, the shame. The entire process of Jesus’ crucifixion was shameful; yet he thought little of it. This truth helped us an incredible amount. That if Jesus could atone for sin he did not commit, be rejected and despised by mankind, and suffer an incredible amount of humiliation; all the while thinking little of any shame; then so could we. We were able, and continue to be able to endure this suffering by keeping our mind’s eye fixed upon Jesus Christ.
The last we are told to do during our run of faith is really a repeat of the command to look to Jesus. We are told in verse 3 to consider him. To consider Jesus means to distribute your thoughts upon Jesus, and particularly to distribute your thoughts upon the endurance of Jesus. This is our remedy for growing fainthearted or weary.
This sermon is entitled The Weary Runner. I sent this title to Edgar and he mentioned that it was an apt title because you just had Grandma’s Marathon up here last weekend. And in one sense, you and I are all running an eternal Grandma’s marathon. A race that will not end until we are either taken up in glory, or Jesus returns. And in our race, we become weary and fainthearted.
Just two weeks ago a friend of ours texted me and told me that their baby had a condition in which it would not be born with a brain. There was no chance that this baby will live much past birth, if the birth itself does not kill it. I called my wife and told her the news. She was silent for a second, began to cry, and said; Oh – This life is soooo hard… It is. This race we are running is so hard and it is so easy to become weary and fainthearted.
I come into a strange town, and into a strange Church this Lord’s Day and do not really know any of you. But one thing I do know, is that there are times in each of your lives when you become weary and fainthearted. The Lord knows each one of your situations and circumstances perfectly. He knows what you are going through and how you struggle. He has been there, and has sent me to you this morning to tell you that you can endure. You can endure by keeping the entirety of your thoughts dispersed upon the person and endurance of Jesus Christ; your Lord, King and Savior. He reigns supreme in the heavens and the earth. He orders all of the affairs of mankind and he has a purpose in each one of the specific hurdles you have to jump over during your race.
Keep your eyes on Jesus brother’s and sister’s in the Lord! Look to Jesus, and consider him who endured such hostility against himself. You are surrounded by such an amazing cloud of witnesses that are cheering you on as you run towards the finish line. Lay aside all of the weight of sin that is keeping you from running and press on beloved; press on!