Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Vision (7.21.16): Running the Race with Patience

Note:  Devotion taken from last Sunday morning’s sermon on Hebrews 12:1-3:

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us 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 (Hebrews 12:1).

Notice the two exhortations in v. 1[as our English text renders it]:

First, let us lay aside every weight….

You don’t run a race wearing a tuxedo or ballroom gown or trying to carry a suitcase.    You lay all the things that hinder you aside (witness how lightly clothed modern athletes are—to the point of immodesty—and recall that the ancient Greeks competed in the nude!).

He mentions especially the laying aside of sin [any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law of God].

Notice its description as that which “so easily besets us.” Sinners have a natural inclination to sin, because we are sinners by nature.  It does not take any great effort to give in to sinful temptation.  Sinning is like walking downhill.  It is easy to do.  It is the setting aside of sin and the striving toward godliness that requires labor and discipline and makes gains only by the grace of God.

Second, let us run with patience the race…

Notice again how the inspired author includes himself as a fellow participant.  He is not looking on as a disinterested outsider.  He is not an armchair quarterback.  He also is in the race.

For running as a metaphor for the Christian life in Paul compare 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:13-14.

The word for race in 12:1 is agon.  It is the root for our English word “agony.”  The original Greek term also referred to an assembly, especially to see an athletic event.  So it came to mean the place, like a stadium, where the event was held.  At root it means a physical battle, struggle, or contest.

Notice that the modifying description of how the race is to be run:  “with patience.”  If you are on a long distance run, you do not measure the success or failure of the race merely by what happens in the first five minutes.  The mention of patience necessarily requires the notion of encounter with difficulties and setbacks. One might get sidetracked in a race.  One might stumble and fall and have to get up again.  One might feel tired, thirsty, worn-out.  But still he endures.  He runs with patience.  In the end, it is his endurance in the race that shows he is truly a believer (cf. Matthew 10:22; 24:13).

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff Riddle

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