Call to Endure

Home Church Service 3/6/2021

These sermons began as devotionals for my family as we met during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. We have now begun to include our friends and the devotional has now become a full sermon. We are also recording our service and will begin posting those videos in the near future.

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”                        Hebrews 12:1-3 (NASB)

It seems that everywhere we go these days we can be seen by others, no matter what we are doing. With smart phones getting smarter every year, everyone carries a camera and video recorder with them at all times. Even if you wanted to do something without being seen in public, it is almost impossible to do so today. There are times when this is invaluable, say for instance, capturing a crime on video. By and large though, privacy is out the window because witnesses are everywhere!

Our passage looks at a different kind of witness, the kind of witness that provides inspiration and encouragement. The witness we look at today is the witness of those who have, by faith, gone before us with full faith in God. In our world today, there has never been a time when our Call to Endure has been more timely or more important.

With a great cloud of witnesses, we lay aside every encumbrance, the sin that entangles us and fix our eyes on Jesus. Just as He endured the cross and despised the shame to sit at the right hand of the throne of God, we consider the One who endured hostility that we might not grow weary and lose heart in our Call to Endure.

Those who have gone before us issue a Call to Endure as we shake off the things of this world with its sinful desires, to focus on Jesus, the source of faith and follow His example to remain strong in faith and heart.

As we consider the encouragement of this passage, we must ask ourselves, “Why is a Call to Endure given?”

A Call to Endure is given to fix our eyes on Jesus, remembering His suffering that we might be encouraged and strengthened.

1). Our Call to Endure requires inspiration and discipline.

We have a great cloud of witnesses that surround us or envelope us. These witnesses have participated in the race BEFORE us! They have run this race and have won by finishing – enduring to the end!! They endured great temptations against looking, touching, thinking and feeling. They have endured great trials including suffering, loss, hunger, disease, persecution and abuse. They endured against all kinds of opposition including family, friends and neighbors.

These faithful believers who now surround us are also spectators of this race, watching and cheering us on, as we run the race. They watch, with great interest, to see how we will run the race. They watch to see if we lay aside those things that encumber us, that is, do we strip off, take off or remove the weight of this world. In the athletic training sense, it is shedding excess body weight. Here is it referring to those things that may seem innocent in and of themselves, but they slow down the Christian in their race of faith.

This includes things like seeking entertainment instead of fellowship and communing with God. There is nothing wrong with having fun or a night out with friends, it is when this takes the place of reading and studying your Bible and having times of personal prayer and worship, that we run into problems. Seeking material possessions of the world – clothing, cars, toys, power, position, fame – instead of seeking God, is another weight of the world we must shed. While we need to be aware of and maintain the necessities of life, an abundance of things that only speaks of our worldly success, gets in the way of growing our relationship with God. Listening to and watching music, movies and television shows that clutter our minds with inappropriate thoughts and images, these things only serve to distract us from being fully focused on God.

This cloud of witnesses watches to see if we can remove what entangles us. Do we have the discipline it takes to unentangle ourselves and run with endurance? Picture for a moment, someone trying to run a race with clothing so loose it flaps in the wind entangling arms and legs, clinging together, making it difficult, if not impossible, to run freely. This is a picture of sin tripping up the Christian in their effort to run the race of faith. There are sins that are common to all believers, but this exhortation is speaking to specific sin, the particular sin that entangles and throws the believer. Each believer must ask themselves, “What is the sin that so easily entangle me?”

The answer could be any number of things; pleasure, the tongue, pride, the flesh, possessions, sports – what is it that consumes your time and energy and keeps you from following God – fully and wholly? We are to run this race with endurance – or patient endurance. This is perseverance, steadfastness and fortitude. Endurance is not a passive word, it is active, it does not allow us to sit back and put up with the trials of life, but rather it is the spirit that stands up and faces the trials of life. When trials come to those who are justified, they are stirred to action – to rise and face those trials head on!

A Call to Endure is given to fix our eyes on Jesus, remembering His suffering that we might be encouraged and strengthened.

2). Our Call to Endure requires focus on the supreme example of Christ.

Believers who have run the race, who have trusted God and endured, are a great witness to us. This is the point of Hebrews 11, the chapter we call the Hall of Faith. We can still see this great faith in God in believers around us today. But it is the Lord Jesus Christ who gives us the supreme example of patient endurance. In fixing our eye, we are also to fix our mind on Jesus. All runners, whether in a sprint or marathon, find a fixed point on the horizon, near the finish line. This is the prize they have so diligently trained and prepared for – they NEVER take their eyes of the prize!

As Christians running the race of faith, Jesus is the prize we are and have been training and preparing for, therefore we must find a fixed point on the horizon and NEVER take our eyes of the prize – the Lord Jesus Christ!! He Himself has run this race and He has shown us how to run the race. Jesus has run the race as the Author and Perfecter of faith. As the Author, He created, began and originated the Christian race. As the Perfecter, He completed the race, running it to the finish.

What is pictured here is Jesus running the course of life perfectly – sinless, perfectly righteous and obedient to God the Father. He finished the course living a perfect and righteous life. Therefore, Christ is our supreme example of faith in God – He created as the Author and completed as the Perfecter – the Christian race for all believers. While our inspiration can be drawn from the cloud of witnesses gathered around us, Jesus found His inspiration in the joy set before Him.

There are many ways to express the joy set before Jesus but what really motivated Jesus was the joy of redemption – this is what brought Jesus to earth in the first place! The day of redemption when Jesus will be united an exalted with all believers; the day of redemption when Jesus will realize all the glory and joy for which He dies and what His death was meant for. The day of redemption when the salvation of all believers from every generation will be completely and perfectly fulfilled; the day of redemption when those who love Jesus will rule and reign with Him forever!

Jesus is the supreme example of discipline. Jesus followed all of the rules of this race including obedience to death in order to create the Christian race. His obedience to God was perfect; He ignored the shame associated with the cross to finish the race; He blazed a path of perfect righteousness and provided faith that is acceptable to God. Jesus did all of this willingly, so we too must endure believing and obeying God the Father no matter the cost – even if it means dying a martyr’s death.

A Call to Endure is given to fix our eyes on Jesus, remembering His suffering that we might be encouraged and strengthened.

It seems that everywhere we go these days we can be seen by others, no matter what we are doing. With smart phones getting smarter every year, everyone carries a camera and video recorder with them at all times. Even if you wanted to do something without being seen in public, it is almost impossible to do so today. There are times when this is invaluable, say for instance, capturing a crime on video. By and large though, privacy is out the window because witnesses are everywhere!

Our passage looks at a different kind of witness, the kind of witness that provides inspiration and encouragement. The witness we look at today is the witness of those who have, by faith, gone before us with full faith in God. In our world today, there has never been a time when our Call to Endure has been more timely or more important.

Jesus never promised that running this race of faith would be easy, in fact, He told us just the opposite, that we would find trouble in this world. There are times, as believers, we will be tempted to focus on the trials we face, some may even be tempted to renounce their faith. But it is exactly at these times we must consider – or think about – all that Jesus endured to finish the race ahead of us.

Consider what it would be like today for Jesus to be born to an unwed, young mother, in the worst possible conditions – perhaps a crack house – to parents who are less than poor. His life was threatened as a baby; He moved around so His parents could avoid those who wanted Him dead; He was raised in a place that was considered despicable and His father died while He was young. Hard enough in the first century but can you imagine the taunting and ridicule He would face in our hate filled society of today? And then, when He did die, it died the most humiliating death possible!!

By fixing our eyes on Jesus and considering all that He has been through, all that He did willingly on our behalf, we should find the inspiration to fight on – to not grow weary or lose heart. As we face trials – hardships and discouragement – we must not lose sight of the bigger picture – WE ARE NOT ALONE!! Jesus haws finished the race as the Author and Perfecter of faith!

May your eyes be fixed on that point in the horizon, near the finish line, never removing them from the prize as we press on in a world that continues to grow darker and more hated filled each passing day.

Amen and Amen.

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