I had a guest speaker this past Sunday, plus I took Wednesday night off. We had our 5th anniversary as a church this past Sunday. Everyone who helped out in the church did a fantastic job and they all have my appreciation.

This is the sermon for Sunday, April 6th, 2008. It is the final sermon in the gotta have faith series.

GOTTA HAVE FAITH PART 15
The crowd is on their feet
Hebrews 12:1-2

We have been away from our Sunday morning series, “Gotta have faith,” where we have been looking verse by verse at Hebrews 11:1-12:2. Now we are back with the concluding sermon in this series.

Last time we finished the verses of Hebrews 11. We looked at an enduring faith. This morning as we finish this sermon series we are going full circle, looking at these great people of faith that we have been preaching about. Their focus was on Jesus Christ. Which when going through day to day life, the good and the bad, it must we our focus as well.

When Josh was younger, he used to play soccer. He was very good at the game. One team that we played was from a little community called, “Shiner.” They were very good. In fact, they always stomped all the Victoria teams. They would play us unmercifully, and run up the score to like 18-0. They always played rough and our team always left the game battered, bloodied and bruised. The last year that we played them was the most memorable though. The game was close all the way to the end. They would hit one of our guys, and we’d just hit back. Josh’s team was not intimidated at all. They matched them perfectly that day. Shiner unfortunately scored the last goal in the last possible second to win the game. But the amazing thing was, the Shiner parents gave our team a standing ovation. They were coming to us saying that they never had a team play them this hard, this rough before. Though our children lost that game, they played like they believed no matter what obstacle Shiner would throw their way, they would have an answer for. And while they may have lost the game, they had a moral victory. The other teams parents applauded them and cheered our team on after the game, encouraging them to keep up the good work and the training.

During this sermon this morning, I want you to keep this in the back of your mind. We have an adversary. He wants nothing more than to steal from us, to kill us, and ultimately, to destroy us. He can be rather intimidating on the surface. But the good news is this: We have Christ, plus others who have gone on before us, who have gone through what we are going through. Those precious saints of the past are now setting in the stands of eternity – cheering us on.

Let’s look at our text this morning and see what God would say to us.

Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV – 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, (2) 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.

1. The cheering crowd.

Hebrews 12:1a ESV – Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…

A. This huge crowd of witnesses that is cheering us own are none other than those great heroes of the faith found in Hebrews 11.

They endured hardship, enemies, difficulties, and life itself.

But they all had 3 things in common.
• They were called out by God.
• They put their faith in the God who called them.
• They were obedient to the God who called them.

We are in the same running shoes as they are:

• We are called by God (called out of darkness into His light).
• We must put our faith in Him who calls (without faith it is impossible to please God).
• We must be obedient to the one who called us.

B. How many of you have wondered if the saints in heaven can see us?

I’ve wondered this and while I’m still not too sure exactly, let me point you to another passage of Scripture.

Luke 15:7 ESV – I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

2. The first step in preparing to run this race of faith is to strip off what will slow you down.

Hebrews 12:1b ESV – Let us lay aside every weight and sin which clings so closely.

A. Runners during the time of this writing would often run in the nude so that nothing would hinder their speed.

In our times they run with either barely anything on, or it is super tight, not loose fitting. The reason is to prevent wind-drag from occurring.

B. We must do the same thing spiritually – we must strip off, what will drag us, or slow us down in this race.

The sin that clings so closely – These are sins that we don’t like to preach about much anymore, the reason, these are the ones that often stay hidden in secret that know one knows about. Sins like: Pride, greed, arrogance, lust, gossip, dishonesty, stealing, and unbelief. These sins can slow down our progress in running the race God has called us to run. We must strip these sins off – and place them at the foot of the cross and ask not only for the Lord’s forgiveness, but His help in overcoming these sins.

The weights – While these may not be necessarily sins, they are things that can slow us down nonetheless: Our use of time, entertainment, relationships, etc… We must be mindful of these.

I do want everyone to notice that this passage doesn’t say that sin that clings closely and weights will stop us, or prevent us from running, but it says they will slow us down. We won’t be running in our full potential.

3. The next step in preparing to run the race is endurance training.

Hebrews 12:1c ESV – Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

A. There was a reason that Joshua’s soccer team was so good that year and able to compete against a very tough team – it is because they developed endurance through training hard.

In their practices, they didn’t just practice ball control, and scrimmage, but they also did endurance training. They would run a mile before the practice would start, and then run the field over and over again while dribbling the ball, then run and jump back and forth across this gravel pit, then do ball control training and scrimmaging, and finally end with another mile run before going home. They would do this about 3 nights a week. How did this help? When other teams would tire out, our team was still going on strong because they had developed endurance.

B. In real life it is the same way – endurance is developed in the fiery trials that we daily face.

James 1:2-4 HCSB – 2 Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.

These trials are there for our endurance and as we pass those little test of faith, they will prepare us for the bigger trials we will face down the road.

4. Know where your source of strength lies.

Hebrews 12:2a ESV – Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

A. Jesus is our strength, our sustainer, the founder and the one who perfects, or completes our faith.

B. Think of Him as our coach, calling us to continue in the race when it starts getting tough.

5. Look at His example.

Hebrews 12:2b ESV – 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.

A. Jesus endured the trial He faced – which was the cross.

He despised the shame the cross brought. He was doing this for the reward He would receive – You!

B. We too must ignore the thoughts of giving up and push on past the pain and look toward our reward – Him!

APPLICATION

• When you feel alone, realize that others who overcame difficult times are cheering you on.
• Prepare for the race of faith by stripping off everything that might hinder, whether it is a sin or not.
• Think of the daily issues of life you face as endurance training for the bigger issues.
• Focus on your source of strength – Jesus Christ.

DECISION

Every believer runs in the race of faith. You are not alone this morning. If you are facing difficulties, we want to pray for you, and encourage you by cheering you on.

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