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RUNNING TIPS FROM THE HEAD COACH

"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." (Hebrews 12:1-2)

At the time this letter was written, believers in Jesus were being severely persecuted. Unrelenting discouragement had set in. Some followers of Jesus were seriously contemplating moving back into Judaism and even legalism. The Great Cloud of Witnesses mentioned in Hebrews 12:1, SAINTS OF THE PAST, had also gone through some very harsh times of persecution. Note Hebrews, chapter 11; it is called The Faith Chapter. Let's just acknowledge some of the severe trials they experienced and endured:

1. "Some were tortured" - Hebrews 11:35

2. "Others suffered mocking and flogging" - Hebrews 11:36

3. "Even others were put in chains and imprisoned" - Hebrews 11:36

4. "They were stoned, sawn in two, killed" - Hebrews 11:37

5. "They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated ..... wandering about in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves" - Hebrews 11:37-38

These saints went through horrendous suffering, yet because of their faith in God, they endured victoriously! They TRIUMPHED in faith! They had laid aside every weight and sin which clings so closely: "let us ALSO lay aside. . . ." (Hebrews 12:1)

The writer of Hebrews, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, admonishes us to practice the TIPS provided by OUR HEAD COACH (JESUS) for running the race set before us. The tips are introduced by the words "Let Us"! (See Hebrews, chapter 12)

I. "Let Us Run" - verse 1

The Christian life is described as a race. It is a race for each believer to run and to win. It is a race set before us by God to enhance and mature our faith. To win this race, like an athletic contest, we are to engage faithfully in a life-style of devotion to Jesus. We embrace purpose, discipline, perseverance, hope, rigorous training and single-minded focus. For the Christian, this means consistent reading and studying the Word of God (the Bible) and a consistent prayer life. Like a fully developed athlete, we are to be willing to go to any legitimate length to accomplish the goal.

Do you know that runners in track or cross country, and in Olympic Competition, are always instructed to look ahead while running and never backwards? They are to keep their eyes and heads focused on the finish line and never look backwards or around to see where their opponents are in the race! Looking backwards could easily result in a trip or fall, veering off course, loosing momentum and slowing down. The runner could fail due to incorrect focus!

OUR FOCUS MUST BE ON JESUS! "Looking unto Jesus". (Hebrews 12:2) Running faithfully requires determination. It results in living victoriously and ministering effectively in relationship to Jesus. Our Head Coach says: "RUN"!

How is our run? Do we need a spiritual check-up?

II. "Let Us Lay Aside" - verse 1

Our Head Coach tells us to "lay aside every weight". It means to throw off every encumbrance. Regarding the Greek Games, the athletes practiced for the race with weights attached to their body. This would help in development and endurance. But when it came time for the actual race, the athletes would discard (take off, throw aside) ALL the weights they had employed for practice.

Our Head Coach instructs us to free ourselves from all that hinders us from competing in the race. Remove the Weights! Here are some examples of the weights we are called on to discard.

  1. Doubt

  2. Fear

  3. Anxiety and worry

  4. Lack of discipline

  5. Procrastination

  6. Busyness

  7. Wrong priorities

  8. Excuses for not reading the Scriptures, praying consistently or attending church

  9. Personal hurts, cares and concerns

  10. Lack of follow through or keeping promises made

  11. Being over extended with work, commitments, pleasures, amusements, recreations, activities, browsing the internet, watching television, etc.

These must ALL be put into proper perspective or perhaps discarded completely! We follow this truth from our Head Coach: Does it help or hinder us in our race? Whatever truly helps, cling to it! Whatever hinders, throw if off!

It isn't only weights that must be laid aside, we must cast aside the "sin which clings so closely". (Hebrews 12:1) This sin which so easily besets, entangles, assault's, harasses, surrounds, confuses and twists itself into the core of our spiritual life is not humanly overcome, but through the Power of the Holy Spirit, we can throw it away! Notice, the word "sin" in this passage of Scripture is singular - not plural. It is the sin we struggle with the most, or that we are most vulnerable to, that haunts us, trips us up. Some examples could be: selfishness, anger, resentment, judgmental attitudes, hatefulness, unforgiveness, alcohol, pornography, addiction, evil speaking, gossip, marital unfaithfulness, lying, deceptive behavior, spiritual unbelief, envy, prayerlessness, idle, harsh or critical words, disobedience to God's Word and will, pride, irritability, etc.

There is no such thing as a little sin because there is no little God to sin against! We must give our besetting sin to God for Him to forgive, cleanse, empower us and we must throw it away!

How are we responding in regard to any sin that entangles us? Do we need a spiritual check-up?

III. "Let Us Fix Our Eyes" - verse 2

Our Head Coach instructs us to focus our eyes and attention WHILE we run the race! We must refuse to be distracted by sin, or lesser, even insignificant things. Allowing distractions of any kind or description to get our focus off what we should be focusing on only spells disaster and failure.

Think over carefully the opposition Jesus encountered! "Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin, you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood." (Hebrews 12:3-4)

"Looking to Jesus" (Hebrews 12:2) is in the present tense and can thus be rendered: "Keep on, constantly looking to Jesus"! The Apostle Paul said this: "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it, Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control. . . ." (I Corinthians 9:24-27)

We are admonished to make sure we do not ignore or disobey the words of our Head Coach. "See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven." (Hebrews 12:25)

Where is our focus? Are our eyes FIXED ON JESUS? Do we need a spiritual check-up? OUR HEAD COACH HAS GIVEN US THESE RUNNING TIPS!

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God has blessed me with a long and fruitful ministry! I have over 40 years in pastoral ministry, retreat speaking, Evangelism, teaching and Christian Radio broadcasting.

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