The "Let Us" Series From The Book Of Hebrews #8




TEXT:       Hebrews 12:1-13


INTRO:     If you have ever watched the Olympics on TV you have probably been amazed at the feats the human body is capable of doing!  It has always amazed me how some of these people have spent their entire childhood preparing for a single event that in some cases is over within a few minutes!  The amount of training and sacrifice is enormous, all for a single goal – a Gold medal and world wide recognition that you are the best in that particular thing of all the humans on earth!


Since we are striving toward a more eternal reward, and more important recognition by God, are we as willing to make the appropriate sacrifices and practice the necessary disciplines?  This is Paul's point in this passage (or whoever wrote the book of Hebrews, other possible candidate is Barnabus).  The writer has in mind the same kind of discipline that we witness every 4 years at the Olympics, they existed as well in the Apostolic age.


We have a more important prize than mere gold, and more important recognition than just that of this world to consider, are we taking seriously our walk with God?


PROP. SENT:     The Bible teaches us that we must be prepared to examine and discipline our lives appropriately if we are to be a disciple of Christ.  Salvation is not just a momentary experience at an altar, it is a lifestyle as well.


I.   SELF DISCIPLINE    Heb. 12:1-3


A.   Fervent     Heb. 12:1

1.   Examples:    This is the meaning of the word for “witnesses” used here.

a.  They are not the spectators of us, rather, they are the examples put before us - we are to look to them as they cheer us on!

b.   This is meant to be an encouragement - their examples witness to us that we can and should be fervent and faithful.

c.   We are literally surrounded by these examples:  Both Old Testament and New Testament as well as contemporary examples of faith.

d.  It is almost as if the writer here has in mind the champions mentioned in chapter 11 (the faith chapter), and like in the Olympics they are standing before us with their medals (or wreathes) and they are spurring us on to dream of winning too, thus encouraging us to strive by their examples.

2.   Excesses:     The example they set for us is to encourage us to "throw off everything that hinders..."

a.   The idea here is to encourage us who wish to win the race to get rid of those things that will slow us down or prevent us from competing seriously!

b.   The word for "throw off" implies in the original Greek excess body bulk!  It may also refer to the heavy garments one wears that must be "thrown off" as one prepares to make the run.

c.   Everyone knows what extra baggage can do to a runner in a race!  No serious runner would ever consider carrying around extra baggage when they are competing to win.

d.  This is the essence of "SELF DISCIPLINE" ... it is our responsibility before God to cast aside those things that become serious extra baggage, those things which might slow us down, or sidetrack us.

e.  Self discipline is needed to even get started!


ILLUS:       I spent a fortune - On a trampoline,  A stationary bike -  And a rowing machine Complete with gadgets - To read my pulse,  And gadgets to prove My progress results, And others to show - The miles I've charted --   But they left off the gadget - To get me started! – Source Unkonwn


3.   Entanglements:    The "sin that so easily entangles us" here is the sin of NO DISCIPLINE, or any sins that would prevent us from running or weigh us down!

a.   How easily sin strikes our lives!

b.   Without discipline there can be no success in a race!

c.  There has yet to be a world champion that never practiced!

d.  The Christian life doesn't just happen, it comes as the fruit of self disciples along with God's graces.

e.  Too much of the time we wait around for something spiritual to happen to our lives, we should be preparing always for those spiritual things to take place in our lives.  A runner does not wait for the goal line to come to him, he goes to it!


B.   Focus    Heb. 12:2-3

1.   "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus..."

a.  Here is where our focus should be!

b.  Good runners never look around them while they are running, this distracts them and causes them to lose their own pacing!

(1.   Too often Christians do this today; we make decisions to drop out of this or that church, or this or that ministry based on someone else that we are looking at, this is wrong!

(2.   We are to be looking at Christ, He is the "author" (starting point) and "finisher" (goal line) of our faith, not other people!

(3.   People can be examples, (negative or positive) but not our focus!

2.   Many times a runner will keep a single focus on something at the goal line to keep their path straight, make sure you are fixing your eyes on the right source (Christ) or you might run crooked!

3.  Unlike the Olympics where you run to be first place winner, running the race in spiritual terms is not to try to be first, but to be faithful and finish well!


ILLUS:    The Christian race is not a competitive event to see who comes in first, but an endurance run to see who finishes faithfully. It's like the experience of Bill Broadhurst, who entered the Pepsi Challenge 10,000-meter road race in Omaha, Nebraska.  Ten years earlier, surgery for an aneurysm is the brain had left him paralyzed on his left side. Now, on a misty July morning in 1981, he stands with 1,200 lithe- looking men and women at the starting line.  The gun cracks!  The crowd surges forward.  Bill throws his stiff left leg forward, pivots on it as his right foot hits the ground.  His slow plop-plop-plop rhythm seems to mock him as the pack fades into the distance.  Sweat rolls down his face, pain pierces his ankle, but he keeps going.  Six miles and two hours and twenty-nine minutes later, Bill reaches the finish line.  A man approaches from a small group of bystanders.  Bill recognizes him from pictures in the newspaper.  He's Bill Rodgers, the famous marathon runner.  "Here," says Rodgers, putting his newly won medal around Bill's neck.  "You've worked harder for this than I have."  Broadhurst had also been a winner.  – Source Unkonwn


4.   Jesus becomes the perfect example for us to follow ... He followed the course with joy even though it included pain and suffering because of the goal ... our salvation.

5.   It is amazing how much work Olympians go through for a single medal, often one they earned for just a few minutes of performance, but it took a lifetime of self discipline to get there!


ILLUS:      These words were uttered by Scott Hamilton Olympic skater, shortly after winning his Gold medal:   "It was a moment to be shared.  Someone asked me why I was looking at the medal so intently.  What I was doing was looking at 16 years of my life." – Source Unkonwn


6.   We are to consider the rewards that so far outstrip the sacrifices so that we do not become weary and lose heart!

a.   In all honesty there will be times you will feel like quitting, it will be tough to live a life of faith in a world that scoffs at it!

b.   Sometimes it is tough doing all the hard work and discipline when you see no results for it immediately, much like Olympians – they have to keep fighting back the pain and losses with the idea that in the future the reward will come.

c.   Many runners have continued to compete with torn ligaments and injuries, very much in pain, but knowing the reward will be worth it in the end.

d.  Part of competition is pain and if we quit every time we hurt we will never finish the course!

(1.   so many have done this as believers, someone hurts their feelings so they quit!

(2.   they didn't know it was going to require so much sacrifice, so they quit.

(3.  If you want the reward you must continue!

(4.  When it gets tough just think of those who have endured even greater pain than yours and still kept going.

7.  Keep focused and faithful!




A.   Failures    Heb. 12:4-10

1.   A good coach will use failures and pain to teach an athlete.

2.   God does at times bring discipline into our lives when we fail to use self discipline!

a.   Nobody likes to preach on this subject, it is not a pleasant idea!  There are few "amens" when this comes up!

b.   However, even when God does bring discipline into our lives, it is never RETRIBUTION, it is REDEMPTIVE in focus!

3.  The point of discipline is love, a love that cares too much to let someone learn self destructive patterns.

a.   This is why parents discipline their children, to keep them from developing characteristics and qualities that ultimately will be destructive to a healthy and happy life.

b.   While it is hard to see them when you are on the side of being disciplined, the fruit of proper discipline shows itself later.

4.  Rather than getting angry with God when He does allow discipline in our lives we should be grateful, God is using it to teach us to be self disciplined and to correct our harmful patterns.

a.   With this knowledge we should then receive that discipline rather than run from it!

b.   Too many Christians fail to learn and thus are doomed to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again!

c.  Too often we try and get as far away from the punishment as possible rather than approach it so we can learn from it and move on.

d.  Yet, to move closer to it is to move on quicker with less pain, to move away from it is to increase the pain and minimize the learning.


ILLUS:      (Ironically the word translated "punish" in Heb. 12:6 literally means, "To whip")   When I was a boy my mother used to send me outdoors to get a birch stick to spank me with, when I had to be punished.  At first I used to stand off from the rod as far as I could.  But I soon found that the whipping hurt me more that way than any other; and so I went as near to my mother as I could, and found she could not strike me so hard.  And so when God chastens us let us kiss the rod and draw as near to Him as we can. -- D.L. Moody, Moody's Stories, (Fleming H. Revell, 1899), p. 28.


5.   If we can accept our earthly father's discipline as an act of love, and respect them for caring enough to challenge us when we are wrong, how much more should we accept our Heavenly Father's discipline which is always perfect and from perfect love?


B.   Fruitful    Heb. 12:11

1.   The whole purpose of this discipline is the fruit it will bear in our lives!

2.   As every child can testify, no punishment at the time seems pleasant when it happens, but later in our lives it will bear great fruit!

3.  God's discipline in this way is always redemptive!

a.   It really did hurt Him more than it hurts us!

b.   His son Jesus died on a cross to cover those failures of ours!

c.   In bearing our punishment, He has made possible our salvation!

4.   God always disciplines us with this in mind, to return us to a fruitful life and not a fruitless one!

a.   The harvest is righteousness and peace!

b.   Discipline is part of our training!

c.   We can avoid His discipline if we practice correct self discipline in many cases.

5.  This same idea is found in the Gospels when Jesus talks about "pruning the branches" in order to make them more fruitful.  The "we are the branches, He is the vine" passage in John 15:4-6 - it is painful but productive.


III.  SOCIETY & DISCIPLINE   Heb. 12:12-13


A.   Feeble    Heb. 12:12

1.   The writer returns again to the training of an athlete image and encourages the listeners to "strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees."

a.   In other words to deal with the weak areas in our lives!

b.   Failure to do this will cause us to stumble in the race which will lead to serious injury.

c.  It may also cause others to stumble that are running near us!

2.   Part of the plea here is to encourage their example in the face of a society that will surely be watching and who could easily stumble over those who fall!

a.   We have witnessed this in past years with well known Evangelists and Pastors who have fallen through weaknesses and sins!

b.   Others have stumbled over their examples and thus kept some from the race!

3.   The world is watching, we must run strong in order for others to run well too.

4.   It is not just the responsibility of well known Christians to run well for society's benefit, we all must run well for society to see that Christianity is real!  It is a call to all of us to bear responsibility!


ILLUS:     There are a lot of Christians who are doing nothing.  But there are no Christians who have nothing to do. -- Anonymous


5.   We cannot afford for the world to see "feeble" Christians, we need to be strong, the authenticity of the Gospel is at stake!


B.   Faithful    Heb. 12:13

1.   This final verse clinches the thought in verse 12 about our example in society and in the church:

a.   We are to make "level paths for our feet so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."

b.   The word for "LAME" here literally means, "THOSE WHO WAVER BACK AND FORTH" a reference to those who are uncertain and uncommitted.

c.  Our path should be level so that our run is without obstacles that we could trip over - this would only cause those who are uncertain or uncommitted to ignore the path we are taking!

2.   We bear a responsibility to keep a level path for our feet and for society!

a.   The Gospel is quite simple and pure, we must be careful not to clutter it up either by going off deep ends or by trying to make it so complicated that no one could understand it!

b.   We must not follow the crowd, we must lead; keep our own path clear!


ILLUS:      In a recent NCAA cross-country championship held in Riverside, California, 123 of the 128 runners missed a turn. One competitor, Mike Delcavo, stayed on the 10,000 meter course and began waving for fellow runners to follow him. Delcavo was able to convince only four other runners to go with him.  Asked what his competitors thought of his mid-race decision not to follow the crowd, Delcavo responded, "They thought it was funny that I went the right way."

     Delcavo was one who ran correctly.  In the same way, our goal is to run correctly; to finish the race marked out for us by Christ.  We can rejoice over those who have courage to follow, ignoring the laughter of the crowd. "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness." (2 Tim. 4:7-8)  -- Loren D. McBain, Leadership Magazine, Summer 1994, Vol. 15:3, p. 49.


3.    Discipline, self or God's, is designed to help make our path level so we can lead society toward the cross of Christ.

4.    We are in a race!  How well are you running?


CONCLUSION:    The pursuit of spiritual maturity requires effort and focus in our lives.  It is possible to get saved and not grow, we must like all good athletes learn to be responsible for our own growth in the Lord.  No athlete succeeds without discipline and focus, and no believer will succeed without this either.  How well are you running?