"THE RACE SET BEFORE US".
1. There is a great parade of heroes of faith listed for us in Heb. 11, from Abel to Samuel. And there are many that are not named.
2. In the previous chapter, we are exhorted to "have faith unto the saving of the soul", Heb. 10:39.
3. So, these, in chapter 11, are examples to encourage us to "live by faith", as is mentioned in Rom. 1:17.
4. With the heroes of chapter 11 in mind, we are provided with a very graphic illustration of our own responsibilities and obligations in Heb. 12:1,2.
A. "Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the Author and Perfector of our faith."
5. But, it is so easy for us to make excuses for not doing the will of God.
6. The life of a Christian is pictured as "a race" set before us.
A. Surrounding the race course (in the grandstand as it were) is "a great cloud of witnesses", ( Abel, Noah, Enoch, Abraham, etc.).
B. Everytime one of these witnesses is introduced, it is with the expression, "By faith Abel...By faith Enoch... By faith Noah..."
C. These are the witnesses who testify that the life of faith is possible, they lived by faith, in the most adverse conditions, and thus proved that we can too.
7. So, when we begin to make excuses for not getting into and running the race of the Christian, these witnesses are there to tell us that they did it and it can be done by all who so desire to run.
8. [ Over the years gone by, I have watched my youngest son as he engaged himself in all kinds of athletics. But especially in the field of running races of all kinds and most especially the long distance running Of all the years that his mother and I watched him race, in elementary and high school, in college, and after- wards, I know of only one race that he had to quit before he finished. And this was caused by burning woods by the race track with smoke blowing over the track and he with not only an eliptic heart valve, but with allergies that stopped his free breathing on occasions. The last race that he ran was a thirty mile run in the thickest of woods. He came out of that race with blood all over his body from roots, tree limbs, etc. [ I only mention this to say that it takes a lot of discipline and desire to run a race and to finish it ] [ I am so thankful to God, that not only my youngest son, but all of my children and the accountable ones of their children are running the race of life inside the track laid down by our Lord in His Word ].
I. EXCUSES THAT COULD HAVE BEEN MADE BY THOSE HEROES OF OLD:
A. ABEL -- "It would condemn my family."
1. Many times, in talking with people about their souls and obeying the gospel, I hear them say:
a. "If I did that, it would condemn my mother and father, because they never did that."
2. In answer to this, Abel, one of the cloud of witness, could have said:
a. "When I saw what Cain was doing, and it was different from what God has said, I decided to do what he was doing, to keep from condemning him before God."
1) But he didn't, and we read about his faith in Heb. 11:4.
3. What we may do does not, in and of itself, condemn anyone but us, if we are wrong in what we are doing.
a. A person's own actions or lack thereof are what will condemn him.
2 Cor. 5:10.
B. NOAH -- "There is too much work involved and required for me to engage in such a tremendous job as building an ark this big".
1. Some people complain: "If I become a Christian, I will have to go to church all the time, study the Bible, visit people, etc. That is really going to cut into my regular schedule of doing things. It is just too much for me to be called upon to do."
2. In answer to this, a wintess arises from arises from the great cloud surrounding the race track.
a. This witness is Noah. God had said unto him:
1) "Make thee an ark of gopher wood...The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits (450 feet ) the breadth of it fifty cubits (75 feet), and the height of it thirty cubits." (45 feet). Gen. 6:14,15.
a) Noah did not sit back and complain because there was too much work to do and only he and his family to do it. Gen. 6:22; Heb. 11:7.
3. Just what is our purpose upon this earth anyway?
a. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole of the whole matter. Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man." Eccl. 12:13.
b. That is why God gave us life. And no matter what God requires of us, He has the right to do so.
1) "Know ye that the Lord He is God: it is He that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of His pasture." Psa. 100:3.
c. Jesus points out to us, in Lk. 17:10, "When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do."
C. ABRAHAM -- "The commands are too hard."
1. There are many things which God requires of Christians which, at first, appear to be too hard for us.
a. But can we compare with what He told Abraham to do in Gen . 12?
1) "Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will show thee." Abraham was 75 years old at the time.
a) What was Abraham's response to this? See Heb. 11:8; Gen. 12:4.
2. But God was not through with Abraham! He later told him:
a. "Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac...and offer him there for a burnt offering", Gen. 22:2.
1) What was Abraham's response to this? See Heb. 11:17; Gen. 22:3.
3. Has God ever required such from you and from me?
D. MOSES -- "I will have to leave a good position in Pharaoh's Palace".
1. Many people refuse to obey God because it would involve a conflict with their quest of fame and fortune in society.
a. The gospel was rejected by Felix, Agrippa and the rulers of the synagogues.
1) Because they felt that they would lose some of their political favor among the people.
2. But in answer to such excuse, we are told that:
a. "By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter, choosing rather to share ill treatment with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; accounting the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt." Heb. 11:24.
b. Yes, Moses had a great position in Egypt.
1) And what he went through and suffered for the next eighty years could have caused him to compliain bitterly and make excuses for not leaving his high position.
a) The Revelator says of him, "They sing the song of Moses the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb." Rev. 15:3.
E. JOSEPH -- "I have been so mistreated by my brethren."
1, There are those that complain, "I won't ever get back into the race because my brethren have mistreated me."
a. In answer to this, another witness arises from among the spectators of the race. This time, it is Joseph.
2. Because his brothers were jealous of him, they sold him into slavery. Gen. 37:23-36.
a. As a slave, he was falsely accused and imprisoned. Gen. 39:7-20.
3. But what did he say to his brothers many years later concerning his lot?
a. He said: "Be not grieved...that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life." Gen. 45:5.
F. JOB -- "There are too many trials and tribulations in this life, I cannot be faithful."
1. When people complain and make excuses about all the temptations and trials that they will have to face and overcome, we see another witness arose from the crowd in the stands.
a. This witness is Job. Job was a rich man with a large family.
1) His wealth was destroyed and stolen. His children were killed, and he himself was smitten with boils from the top of his head to the sole of his foot.
2) What was his attitude about all of this?
a) he said: "The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord." Job. 1:21.
2. God never promised us a "rose garden".
3. He never said that we would have no trials and tribulations in this life. We sing: "Must Jesus Bear The Cross Alone, And All The World Go Free? No, There's A Cross For Everyone And There's A Cross For Me".
a. To the contrary, He said: "All that would live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecutions." 2 Tim. 3:12.
b. And "Think it not strange concerning the fiery trial among you, which cometh upon you to prove you, as though some strange thing happened unto you." 1 Pet. 4:12.
4. Yes, trials, temptations, sorrow, problems and pain will come to every Christian.
a. But, "Count it all joy when you fall into manifold temptations; knowing that the proving of your faith worketh patience." Jas. 1:3.
b. Jesus has promised: "Lo, I am with you alway...I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee." Mt. 28:20; Heb. 13:5.
G. RICH RULER -- "It is going to cost me too much."
1. It does cost to be a Christian: in time, ability, energy, and money.
a. And some say that the cost is too much.
2. But from Mt. 19:16-22, we read of a man that serves as an excellent witness.
a. He came to the Lord and asked: "What must I do that I may have eternal life?"
b. Jesus gave the terms: "Sell what you have, give it to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven, and come follow me."
c. But we are told that: "he went away sorrowful for he was one that had great possessions."
3. It seems to be a difficult lesson for us to learn, that:
a. "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things which he possesseth." Lk. 12:15.
4. The apostle Paul put it all in perspective, when he said what he did in 1 Tim. 6:7-10.
5. Jesus asks the eternal question: "For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" Mt. 16:26.
H. PETER -- "I am too sinful."
1. Many times, people say: "I would like to be a Christian, but I have done so many terrible things I just don't think God could ever forgive me, I have gone too far."
2. Many witnesses could be called to answer this excuse.
a. Let us begin with Peter, who said: "Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man." Lk. 5:8.
b. Later on, Peter bragged about never leaving the Lord, but denied Him three times in one night.
c. But, in spite of all this, Peter became a very great and brave servant of the Lord..
3. Paul said of himself: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief." 1 Tim. 1:15.
4. We have all made mistakes, some more than others, "There is none righteous...For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God." Rom. 3:10,23.
5. But Christ did come "to seek and to save the lost." Lk. 19:10.
6. And "He is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him..." Heb. 7:25.
I. FELIX -- "I will obey later, when it is more convenient for me."
1. Most of us are willing to do most anything that we are called upon to do, if we can put it off until we are good and ready to do so.
2. Felix is a negative witness. Because Paul had preached to him, "Of righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come."
a. And we are told that, Felix "was terrified, and answered, Go thy way for this time, and when I have a convenient season, I will call thee unto me." Acts 24:25.
3. Living by faith is not a matter of convenience but a matter of conviction!
4. Too few realize that delay in doing the will of God is actually rebellion.
5. The Lord tells us to obey now, not later. Heb. 3:15; 2 Cor. 6:2.
J. PAUL -- "I would have to change religions".
1. Many people believe that it is wrong to change religions once you have started out in one.
2. But Paul says: "I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age...Of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews...As touching the righteousness which is in the law, found blameless" Gal. 1:14; Phil. 3:5,6.
a. But Paul had to change religions in order to please Christ.
b. And he never regretted it.
c. Listen to what he says: "What things were gain for me, these have I counted loss for Christ." Phil. 3:7.
3. Every Christian that we read about in the Bible had to change religions in order to please the Lord.
4. There are certain other things that one must do in order to become a Christian.
5. There are certain other things that one must do in order to remain a faithful child of God.
6. Regardless of how religious you might be, if you have not done these things, you must change your way of life and do them.
1. Yes, we are required to run the race that is set before us.
2. Are you willing to do this, are you willing to lay aside the weight that so easily besets you, or are you going to begin to make excuses for not doing so?
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