Eyes on the Prize, Part 2
We are just going to jump into this. Putting together some things before we get to the particulars of verse 3 & 4. Then pull it together with some closing thoughts that pertains to a faith that is enduring and a faith that perseveres. The reason why it does is because you are eyeing the prize and the prize is Jesus, himself. So the goal of Hebrews 11, through the first 4 verses of chapter 12 is not any different for you and I, then it was any different for any believer of any day and age. We are reaching for, each of us, and living out an enduring persevering faith, and it doesn’t matter if you are new to the family of God or if you have walked in Christ for decades. The text here that we will see this morning says to look to Jesus, to consider him because it is Jesus who is the prize of our faith. It is Jesus who is the founder of our faith, as you were given the gift of faith to believe on him. He is the perfecter of your faith in the resurrection. He will make you perfect. Faith begins in us. It will ultimately be made perfect. That perfection takes place at his appearing when he saves those who love his appearing. The promised redemption as he has really dealt with us throughout this, what we believe is a singular sermon, the book of Hebrews. It is already true for you now. You posses that new creation, yet it will be consummated when Jesus comes. Jesus is the eye of your prize. His people, for Jesus’ sake himself, it was for the joy, as we looked at, before him. Jesus knew the prize that was ahead. It allowed him to endure with joy. The contradiction he had with sinners in the dying for sin. Jesus in that regard is our example. He trusted his father’s plan. He, with great patience and endurance, suffered for sin and he did so with joy because he knew what was, and still is, ahead. He was completely satisfied with his father. He knew that what the cross would accomplish was that he would save us. As a result of that, he knows that because of that salvation we are going to dwell with him intimately for eternity. We look at chapter 11 and did so together, and we saw the people of faith and it was to give us a certain amount of motivation and instruction. Yet ultimately the real example here, the founder and perfecter of our faith, is the one who brings us the full satisfaction. As they were reaching for and look for the promised one, that didn’t come. Now he has of course. He uses this and tells us this, that this will produce as it did in them, a type of endurance and perseverance knowing that whatever suffering we have in this life, it will not be compared to what is ahead. Jesus himself is far more worth than anything that any believer will experience in this life. So here’s the eye of the prize this morning as we get back now to the text, look to Jesus. Look to Jesus. Look to Jesus.
Now, as in anything, any section section of scripture, you begin to ask questions. How do I do that? He defines that for us. That is what I want you to get a hold of before we draw this up. Look at Hebrews 12:3-4. This has a definite Greek idea here, that is very important for us. If we are going to have the kind of faith that endures and perseveres well. It literally means here to calculate carefully. To take a step back and to contemplate Jesus with thought. To think on him. To make him your consideration. Now we all live, and we live in our country, a very busy oriented life. What the pastor writer is asking us to do is to take a step back, to remain seated (metaphorically), to give our minds to muse on this, and to consider Jesus with very careful thought. In this particular example, he uses this as an example. Its Jesus’ example in front of Caiaphas who was his bitter enemy and hated Jesus desperately and plotted to put him to death. It is Jesus’ example in front of Harrod, who would mock Jesus. It is Jesus’ in front of Pilot, though Pilot knew he was innocent and was befuddled people wanted to just do away with him. Jesus, their creator, endured such things. Jesus possesses for us, a type of example of enduring faith. He had a will of steel. He moved with confidence, yet he did so with humility. He had kind of a heart of velvet, with steel-like strength. The text tells us that he endured his enemies. Jesus embraced and engaged people who hated him. What an example this is for us! An enduring persevering faith. He says in that, do not grow weary or fainthearted, but rather embrace and engage those around you who may hate you because you love Jesus. Do so by relying on the power of Christ’s strength. Do so knowing that Jesus has a sovereign means over your life and nothing, listen to me, nothing is happening in your life by chance or circumstance. How do we get through such things like this? With such intense hatred? Consider him. Calculate Christ carefully. Be absorbed by Jesus and with Jesus. Find your greatest satisfaction in anything that you can be a part of in this life to be with Christ. To know he is with you and you are in him. He is asking us, when he says to consider him to be intentional, to be focused, to read the word, read the gospels, see the promise that was made, and that you have obtained the promise. Jesus is the prize before you and it will come to pass, so that you can endure anything that comes to you in life. He is telling us along the way to turn away from things that distract from that. Don’t get that wrong, that doesn’t mean we are to live a life of a hermit, to go away from the world. Rather is is to embrace the world that we live in and to turn to Jesus for the help to run our race. To rely on the power of his strength. To do so in a disciplined fashion. To do so in a trained fashion. He tells us to consider Jesus.
Now I am not going to do this long, but I want to give you some examples of this. Of people who have ran their race. That is what is means, to run your race is your life. We are running this race, Jesus is the prize, and he tells us to run with a type of endurance and perseverance because this is not a sprint, it is a marathon. We are involved in a marathon, yet there are a plenty of examples that he set before in chapter 11. There are prophets, there is Moses, there is Elijah, there is Samuel, there is Daniel, and there are others that are set before us that sought to obtain and see the promised redemption. There are the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We have the New Testament examples of the apostles with Peter and John and Paul, and this pastor writer himself whomever it may be. My friends we have martyrs, both in our history and currently across the globe. People who are running their race with a fidelity out of a love for Jesus who are dying for the cause of Christ. We have reformers who were set before us in guys like Luther and Calvin and Knox that possess a rich history. They persevered with an endurance because they loved Christ. There was evil that was set against them. He is offering us a challenge here. He tells us, in verse 4, something kind of odd in terms of, how does this fit in here? He gives us a challenge, which is the struggle of faith. I think what this text is really relying on, because again it is a sermon, is written back in chapter 10. He says, none of you have died, you have endured a lot, but there is no reason to fall away from Jesus, you have not died. He has given examples of people that have died. Look at Hebrews 10:32. There were no martyrs in this church, though they had endured suffering. You do as well friends. It is what is ahead. It spurs us to have a faith that endures, that perseveres. Again, it’s not this, “Man, I’m just trying to hang on.” Jesus is the prize! He is the goal of this thing. You are running a race and you are trying to run it well. He gives us an athletic type of form to help us understand what was going on. We are in a race. He offers a challenge to look to Jesus. He tells us, you haven’t shedded your own blood, but Jesus did. Jesus bled in the garden. Jesus bled when he was beaten. Jesus bled on the cross. I don’t know what it means to pray to a level with such great intensity, the bible tells us that he sweated blood. From what I learned about that, it is said to be extremely painful. I can only imagine it! Again, what is he doing? He is trying to set before us an example. This is what Jesus endured! He endured this for you. He endured this to pay for your sin. The intensity of the garden, which I’ll be honest with you is sometimes left out, all along life’s way Jesus was enduring the contradiction of sinners. He saw the pain and sorrow of death. It caused him to weep over people he loved. He loves you. He wants you to run your life well. How are you going to do that? You have to eye the prize. You have to look to Jesus. You have to consider him, and it helps you to put off all the childish and immature things that can distract. Here is the truth of this, everyone who becomes a Christian starts well. There is this delightful, joy-filled satisfaction. You remember it. There is this initial rush of joy that overwhelms you. But if you are not careful, over years some Christians turn sour. Hardship of life causes you to be bitter. You see this in Christians. People call it burn-out. You see this in pastors. People call it burn-out. You say, are those things real? Yeah they are real. But it is because they lose sight of the prize. I’m not saying I can’t fall prey to that, but if I do, it is because I lose sight of the prize. The prize is Jesus! He is the prize of the high calling of God. It is Christ. He is what awaits me. He is what awaits you. So you don’t want to become bitter. You don’t want to become hardened over life’s sorrows. In difficulties, stresses, and persecutions that arrive, you have to find your joy and satisfaction in Christ and in him alone.
Well that can’t help but cause us to ask, how do I do this? How do I apply so that I can get years and years in of knowing Christ and I can run better? So that I can keep running to the end of my race? I want to give you four quick things to wrap this up as we close this section this morning. Four, what I would consider, applications to endurance. Again, let me read this text so you can see this. Four quick things that are all centered on looking to Jesus and considering him.
Which means to kill it. When you get sinful impulses of lust and greed and sinful desires, when they creep up out of a fidelity to Jesus because Jesus is the prize, refuse your sin and turn to Christ. Now let me say this, you are never going to run your race well, and neither will I, if we don’t capitalize on this. Because the other ones are meaningful, they are essential but we can’t look past sin, in terms of battling it well in our lives. Yes it has been conquered, but we all know we have been engaged in this war. That is why the bible will give us military type terms. He does so here. He wants us to be focused and know that this is serious. This is not only a sport arena, it is a battle. It is a war, and it is to be taken serious because as Jack Nicholson said, “lives are at stake.” Your own life first. Soldier take up your post. Fight your own sin.
Again, before we get into the other three I want to say this. Here is what happens from time to time. We get focused on our sin, to our own detriment. I want to teach you how to handle this. And I say teach, I believe this is driven by the scripture. This is why we are to look to Jesus and consider him. The gospel never, never, for any of us wants us to be thinking of our sin to lead us to despair. That is the guilt of the world. That is where Satan wants you. He wants you in despair because if you see yourself in despair he is going to render you useless for the sake of the kingdom. So it’s not like you want to look at your sin and to be fixated on it, no it is to acknowledge it and then to look to Christ where there is the victory. He is the hope, so that I know the victory is sure, it is ahead, I refuse my sin. I refuse my in fidelity to Jesus. Not like, “I can’t lust, I can’t lust. I can’t steal, I can’t steal. I can’t be greedy. I can’t hate. I can’t be angry. I can’t.” See it’s not teeth gritting and making it through, its desperation knowing I can’t make it through. Jesus, I need you. Jesus, I know you are going to perfect in me the faith that I have obtained. It is turning to Jesus. So refusing your sin, centers on fidelity on Jesus. When you think about trying to be faithful to Jesus, your faithfulness to him will be joy filled, it will be satisfying, it will be, “Wow, I can’t believe I have this life!” Refuse your sin. To do so, so seriously, the sins that you are struggling with, the sins that are close, the sins that are besetting war them in such a way and do it well. Kill your flesh, mortify it. Put off the impulses. Deal with them with a quick response. Initial reaction. Refuse your sin. Hebrews 4.
Run to Jesus. Run to Jesus. I mentioned this last week, I think the pastor writer uses the name Jesus, because Jesus is his human name. He wants you to know, and I to know, when Jesus is the example, you see him as God, but he lived this life. He is human. He became a human. He is with us right, Immanuel, God is with us. So that Jesus is sympathetic to you. He is understanding. He knows the way you are made up. He know your frailties. He knows your weakness. He knows your sin, better than you know your sin. When you are going to sin, and you will even though you want to war it well because you want to mature in Christ, he wants you to run to Jesus. Now we all know this, usually when we sin we have a tendency to run and hide. They have been doing that, and everybody has been doing that since the garden. What God says, is when we don’t war well, run to Jesus. Cast yourselves and say, I don’t have the strength to do this. Lord, I need you. I need you for the faith you have given me to perfect in me. To give me the strength to battle this sin and to refuse it. I want to do so in a way that I am going to refuse to walk away from Christ. That is the primary reason for this epistle. People were walking away from Jesus. It caused some awkward situations within the context of this local assembly. I am talking about people who wouldn’t follow Christ any longer. Obviously faith that is real endures and perseveres and that is what he has been explaining. We are to run to Jesus, We are to refuse to quit following him, to never do that. To do it in an unhasting way. To do it in the sense of an unresting way. To be constant. To run to Jesus because, Jesus I need your help to endure. I need your help to persevere. I cannot make it through this life well, unless you are the center of it. Run to Jesus. That is what he is saying. Here is the beauty of it. He is there! He is there. Verse 14. Again, he uses his human name. He is basically just saying this point, run to Jesus. Run to him. Refuse to quit. Do it quick. Do it tirelessly. Be constant. Run to Jesus and then hold fast our confession for we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness. He knows everything about your life and what you are enduring. The one who, in every respect, has been tempted as are, yet without sin. Let me tell you something, we all have need, every day, for this. If you feel self sufficient, you are listening to the hiss of the serpent. It is to live in your inner man with a sense of desperation, Jesus I need you. I want you. I can’t get through this without you, but with you I can have a sense of confidence and strength that I can take it all on, even if I have to do it alone. When you run to Jesus for this kind of help, that help is there.
I love the word grace. Whenever you find the word grace in the bible, God never just gives you a little. He pours it until it runs over, everywhere. That is what I love about God, he likes to lavish. He likes to lavish, he likes to pour it over. He wants you to feel enriched by him. He wants you to sense his compassion. He wants you to sense his care. He wants you to sense that if you feel alone, you are loved by him! Are you kidding me? That makes you want to endure. That makes you want to persevere. Look to Jesus! Consider Jesus! Calculate him carefully! Run to Jesus!
Rest in Jesus. You are probably wondering, that sounds weird. How do I run, which when I think of running exhausts me, then how do I rest? I am going to give you an athletic term. I will never forget this. I have used the illustration before. That my nephew, John, who was a collegiate runner. A great runner. They come up every now and again and the dude would go on these 10 mile runs. I’m like what are you doing, 10 mile run? It didn’t matter what the weather was. If the weather was raining, he would just throw on the right gear and I’m telling you, I remember driving down Metro Parkway and it’s pouring. I am out and about from the morning, I left the house and there’s John. So I asked him once, I said, “John, how do you do it?” He said, “Well I just love to do it.” and I said, “But how can you do it for 10 miles?” He said, “You relax.” I said, “You relax?” He said, “Yeah! You train so long you relax, you feel relaxed.” So you can perform your best. That is true for really any athletic endeavor. You have to do something with force, so you relax. Here in a spiritual sense, God tells us to run to Jesus with a fixed focus, to be intentional that way, and then he tells us to rest in Jesus. What I love about this, it doesn’t trust on self-sufficiency, it lets us rest knowing that Jesus has paid for everyone of our sins. Everyone of my sins! Knowing this isn’t a trump card to sin more, that’s an oxymoron. When we rest in Jesus, it gives us this mentality. Jesus has to be the center of all of your goals in living. You are eyeing the prize in him and with such vision like that, it will develop in you this persevering endurance to follow after Christ well. Knowing, as we have learned, he is the pioneer who has blazed the way. He is the author of my faith. He is the founder of my faith. He is the perfecter. He is the finisher. He is the one who will complete it. This is going to come to pass. We will win the race because Jesus is the strength. That lets you rest. It lets you feel confident. Jesus has paid the way. You now have access to God so that you can spiritually run, rest, and relax. Because when you recognize that Jesus is sovereign over all, you don’t have to panic over everything. You turn to Christ. Learning and training yourself to do this, and that is what I believe exactly what Hebrews 12 is all about, he wants us to refuse our sin, he wants us to run to Jesus, he wants us to rest in Jesus which means to rest in the truth of the gospel that I belong to him and that I am in him and he is mine, and then I can live. When perhaps the task seems overwhelming or the circumstance great and difficult. Learn how to relax and yet you are running, full force, just like John.
Fourthly, as we close, what he is saying to consider him, to look to him. He is saying, remember Jesus. Refuse your sin, run to Jesus, rest in Jesus, remember Jesus. That should ring a bell with us. It really should. It should ring a bell, because if you casually read the bible in the Old Testament, God is always reminding his people do not forget me, do not forget me, do not forget me. I am the covenant God who keeps his covenant. What I divinely promise will come to pass. It’s easy, even on our part, to sometimes forget Jesus. He is asking us to remember Jesus when we consider him. To not be overwhelmed by the circumstance you are in, and to take a pause and remember Jesus. You know what it means to remember Jesus? Please listen to this. Friends, if you get a hold of this, you remember Jesus how he lived. Which is the fulfillment of the fruit of the Spirit. When you take the fruit of the Spirit, you will live your life with your spouse, your children, people in this building, and those without, you will live with the fruit of the Spirit. It is not when I come to church, I’ll do the church thing and when I go into the world… No! It is taking and remembering Jesus in every set of circumstances. So that, in remembering Jesus, Jesus becomes your motive for everything. No matter what your circumstance is, trust Jesus, follow him, and remember this sweet, sweet Savior.
In closing, before we go to the table, I want to give you a couple things. It is one thing to have a sermon, it is one thing to give notes, but I am going to find, I am going to give you a couple names of a couple of authors who I have found, when I read, they make me want to love Jesus more. So I thought, though it is not in my notes, it would be appropriate to at least share with you, and I would get a hold of every book that they have. Because anything that will ignite in you a desire to refuse your sin, a desire to run to Jesus, a desire to rest in Jesus, and a desire to remember Jesus, the people who want to hang out with them, they will cause you to have joy. Michael Horton, for me I read that man and it makes me want to love Jesus. I feel adored by Jesus when I read him. And yes he is as sound as this wood pulpit. Now I have read this second guy to a lesser degree, but everyone who I talk to gets the same thing, Tim Keller. Read Tim Keller. I follow his tweets, I have twitter. I read his tweets and you know what I think, this guy loves Jesus. He loves Jesus and he just takes shots. Michael Horton, Tim Keller. That is just a side note.