HEBREWS-JESUS IS BETTER
Eyes On The Prize
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday September 2, 2018
Have you ever heard the phrase “it’s a marathon not a sprint”? This encouragement is crazy – and I think it’s only needed in crowds.
Lets learn to focus in the crowd.
We’ll see some things today about not being distracted by those around us, not keeping pace with them, not “keeping up with the Jones’”, rather we’re given a different point of reference.
We’re encouraged however, by the titans of faith and those who displayed faith in great trials – they’re the “cloud of witnesses”, and why it’s certainly true that we run a marathon race, by faith, we get to set our eyes on something, surrounded by this great cloud – and we’ll see that too.
WE need BOTH encouragement and focus.
Hebrews 12:1–3 (ESV)
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
This is talking about the saints, the heroes of the faith, presented to the Hebrew believers in chapter 11. Those people who endured much, by faith, by trusting what they’d not yet seen. And so, they’re surrounded by this cloud of witnesses. Not in the sense that the OT believers are in heaven watching them run, but in the sense of encouragement.
I went to a cross-country meet recently. I think of the race the Greeks would have run like the author here is drawing against. At the cross-country meet crowds can watch the athletes run at different points of the race, and there is much encouragement for each individual to run their race, whether they’re in the front, middle or back, the crowds encourage their run, their race.
Where are you in your race, I don’t know? But be encouraged. In chapter 11, we saw people who were larger than life heroes, and those referenced in verse 35b:
Hebrews 11:35 (ESV)
35b Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.
Where are you, ahead of the pack and killing it! Great keep going! Are you in the middle keeping pace, keep going! Are you in the back feeling tired – consider the saints that faced impossible odds, murdered for their faith – be encouraged by the great cloud that surrounds you!
Wuest said of that word for cloud, that it’s not the word that would mean a sharply outlined cloud, that you know you’d say looks like a rocket or a dog, but rather a sky full of clouds he said, “a great mass of cloud covering the entire visible space of the heavens, and therefore without definite form”.
That’s the crowd of encouragement swallowing you up, maybe you feel discouraged, believers before you have endured, you can run this race!
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.
In case you weren’t sure what the race is like, it’s not a 40 meter sprint, it’s a marathon plus. It’s a long race – you’re in it for the long haul. What does that require? Training and practice.
When you prepare for longer races, you cannot do that race day after day, week after week, you have to break it up, and break it down. Athletes today are so well tuned, we’ve learned so much more about physiology and recovery. We know that training volume and rest have to meet up and the body needs to recover. You have to train the body in sections for the long haul; the same goes for the life race that the Author-Pastor is encouraging these believers to run. They need to lay aside every weight, sin, which is close to us must be set aside so that we can run with endurance.
Have you ever watched endurance runner’s faces? It’s not pretty!
I have a friend, who is a Boston qualifier, and a many time over marathon runner (that’s not me, I run the half and finish with the marathon qualifiers), he says it’s like agony up front – people are grinding out the race, church, as you’ve run your race, have you felt that way?
If so, this is why the next part is important.
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,
I remember when I was learning to drive, someone told me driving in the fog follow the white line on the side of the road (preferably the right side) because you tend to drift towards what you’re looking at.
I’ve experienced the starting line frenzy before at the Philly marathon, you’re all amped up in the moment, you’ve been training for a year and the pack lurches out, you need to know YOUR pace, have your eyes set on that, you cannot follow everyone else race. You don’t know where they’ll end up, they may drop out, and they may be capable of MORE than you. But when you remember the cloud, the endless and formless mass that surrounds you with witness and encouragement for your race, and you set your eyes on Jesus, you run straight.
OK – so how do you set your eyes on Jesus? Consider scripture memory, what has Jesus said:
John 14:27 (ESV)
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Are you feeling the pressure of life, do people want more from you than you can give? Jesus gives you peace!
John 14:28–31 (ESV)
28 You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
29 And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me,
31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,
What was the joy that was set before Jesus?
Jesus is added to the great mass of encouragement, the formless cloud of encouragement – but he’s the aim and the focal point of that encouragement – what was His joy, it was doing the will of God, like the human witnesses, who chose ill treatment in this life and alignment with God over sin – they cast off sin and chose God’s glory.
Despising the shame, and are seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
They didn’t enjoy the shame, but rather the promise – what was and is God.
Think about that, if God is the treasure and life is fleeting, we can endure much knowing what we aim at, we aim at Jesus Himself who is the way the truth and the life.
Does that sound tiresome?
Do Not Grow Weary
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Jesus is our focus.
Jesus is our aim.
Jesus is enough.
We need to earn that mantra, Jesus is enough. We can resist much, we’d often just rather give in, the cloud of encouragement surrounds us and remember again the saints of Hebrews 11.
At that cross-country meet I attended, I overheard a coach give advice to more than one runner – and it went like this, towards the end of the race, you were looking down, when you look down as you run you’ve given up, you slow down and you’re mentally beaten – look up and look forward.
Church, when we come to Jesus, we come to Him as the suffering servant, who was tortured and tied for our sins, we follow Him as he who endured this life and endured the cross and now rests at God’s right hand – we’ll share in His inheritance as sons! Romans 8:17
So how does that connect with my life? What is different about tomorrow when I focus on Jesus?
Train yourself as a worshipper; it’s part of your race. How do you come here on a Sunday, are you ready for worship? Do you pray before service and ask God to reveal truth from His word? Is your mind prepared for the Spirit to open you to truth? Or are you distracted, rushing, and a distraction to others?
I want to encourage you in a pattern next Sunday and to develop your own pattern:
- Come to Sunday service, and before announcement time, before music, pray and ask God to still your mind and open your heart to worship.
- Sing and consider the song lyrics, their truth and their drive to push you to God.
- Take notes as we study scripture, you wont remember what we study together unless you discipline yourself to take notes. Focus on this: what is the truth taught, what is the application for me, what scripture was referenced, and what can I do differently THIS week, in reflection of this?
- Finally, re-read your notes, reference the related passages we provided, and listen again to our study, it’s online and podcasting too. Then meet together house to house, in small groups and discuss with others and encourage/be encouraged.
This week, we were encouraged by the cloud of witnesses from Hebrews 11, in your season of life, what stands out from the cloud. Next, what are verses where Jesus speaks encouragement that you align with? I referenced John 14 find others.
Finally, read Psalm 63:8 – what does this look like when it plays out in your life?
How does this kind of encouragement help you focus in the crowd? Because we need both, we need to be encouraged that we can keep going, and we need to place our focus – Jesus is that placement, and the cloud provides that encouragement – Church you can do it.
Eyes On The Prize!