August 28, 2022
This article is based on Pastor Adrian Rogers' message, How to Run Like a Champion.
Hebrews 11 lists champions of faith. Then, in chapter 12, a challenge comes to us. “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).
Hebrews is not written just to inform us what others did, but to encourage us to do what we ought to do. The heroes of the past are in the stadium, watching, witnessing, and praying for us. We are now the ones on the track, running the race of the Christian life.
You are not here just to draw your breath and your salary. There is a race for you to run. There is no way to retire, quit, or move aside.
Now: you are not running to make it to Heaven—salvation is what puts you on the starting block! You must be a citizen of Heaven to qualify for this race. And we are not in a race with one another.
We are racing against sin, Satan, and self. Paul said, “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).
No athlete can run who does not prepare. “…Let us lay aside every weight…” (Hebrews 12:1) Weights are things that slow us down.
Maybe you are living a fairly good life, but dragging around excess baggage—maybe it is a hobby, or a friendship. Certain things, like these, are not bad in themselves…until they keep you from running your race. Good things become bad when they keep you from the best things. “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful” (1 Corinthians 10:23a). If it is not helping you in your influence for Christ, lay it aside.
You ask, “Why don’t I have more faith?” Because you have sin in your life. “Well, I have intellectual problems.” No—you have rotten sin, an evil heart of unbelief. (See Hebrews 3:12.) Unbelief is not an intellectual problem. It is sin.
What is your besetting sin—something you come back to and fail at over and over again? If you are having difficulty with faith, try repentance.
“…Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1b). Endurance is a chief factor in running a race. However far ahead you may be, if you quit running, you will lose.
Are you looking for a cheap, easy way to serve God? Forget it. “You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 2:3). The race must possess you. Weep over it, pray over it, work for it, concentrate on it. Nobody ambles over the finish line.
Do not quit running until the course is finished. Paul endured. (Read 2 Timothy 4:7.) So must you. You do not know when the end will be. Hit the finish line with a blaze of energy! Your race is not over until you bow your head like Christ and say, “It is done.” (Read John 19:30.)
Many of you are saying, “I don’t think I’m able to do this.” The God who calls you is the God who enables you. “Let us run…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1b-2a).
Christ is the “author” of our faith, meaning the leader, the example. He fires the gun at the starting block, and He is the one to whom you are running. Jesus gives you faith. If you are man or woman of great faith, that is wonderful, but you cannot boast about it—because Jesus is the author and finisher of your faith.
“Looking to Jesus” means depending upon Him. The word looking is from a Greek word that means “looking away from everything else.” Do not let the devil sidetrack you. Anything that takes your eyes from Jesus is wrong for you.
When you race, you run for the prize. Jesus was running a race, and He is not only our example but our empowerment. “…Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus ran the race because He saw His people. This was the joy set before Him.
Back in Bible times, when a man won the Olympic games, his name was proclaimed, his family, country, and hometown were honored, friends scattered his path with flowers, he was presented with costly gifts, hymns were written about him, and his way was paved through life. You can see why the athletes strived so hard to win.
But how much more we should strive, when we see Christ and receive the crown! “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming” (1 Thessalonians 2:19)? Paul was saying, “One of these days, I will see Jesus face to face. And what is my crown? You saints whom I won to Christ. You are my crown and my joy.”
Now you might say, “What do I want with a crown?” You want a crown to lay at Jesus’ feet. (See Revelation 4:10-11)
When Paul wrote, “I have finished the race,” (See 2 Timothy 4:7.) he was in the Mamertine Prison. In just a little while, they were going to cut off his head. He knew he was coming to the end, so he was writing to young Timothy.
Consider what Paul’s body had been through. Imagine a stoop-shouldered, hollow-chested, bald-pated man with poor eyesight. He has been stoned and left for dead (Acts 14:19-20). He has been beaten with rods (Acts 16:19-22). He has been whipped with a cat-of-nine-tails. His body has been pickled in the Mediterranean. He spent many, many days in prison. He has been abused and scorned. He has fasted (2 Corinthians 11:24-28).
The Roman guard says, “Paul, it’s time.” The ax falls. Paul’s head topples into the basket.
The next scene is Heaven—Paul is face to face with Jesus Christ. “His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord’” (Matthew 25:21). Paul is now singing eternal praises to God, glad that he ran the race and did not quit.
That’s what we all need to do—finish our race with joy. (See Acts 20:24.) What tragedy, what folly, it would be for us to study these champions of faith and then go on living the same way we do! One day, you will wish you had been more faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ. We are not saved by works, but we are rewarded according to our works. (Read 1 Corinthians 3:12-14.)