Be Wise About Your Faith

Tim LaFleur, Discipleship Pastor
October 11, 2015

Good morning.  If you have your copy of the Word of God, turn if you would to the book of Hebrews and Chapter 12.  The book of Hebrews and Chapter 12.

While you are turning there, it may surprise you to know that our Discipleship Ministry partnered with Replicate Ministries this past weekend and we did a Discipleship Conference for church leaders, pastors and church leaders.  And what was so cool about it was, we had three that were from different countries.  And we had folks from 15 different states all over America.  And it was awesome to be able to do that.  And one of the staff said, well, oh, Bro. Tim, you have been busy on Thursday and Friday and all day Saturday and you have got to preach this weekend.  And I said, well, I said, I don’t got to preach, Brother, I get to preach.  Amen?  And so what a great privilege it is to be able to share the Word of God with you.

During these days, we have been talking about wisdom.  We saw last week that godly wisdom is seeing things from His viewpoint and practically wisdom is taking the knowledge we know and applying it to real life situations.  So you can be smart and not necessarily wise, right?  You can be really smart and not necessarily wise.

The story is told of a small plane going across America and they had a problem.  The engine stalled.  The power was out and it started free falling to the ground.  There were four folks on the plane:  the pilot, a brilliant professor, an elderly pastor – an older pastor – and a young collegiate, a young girl who was traveling.  And so the pilot gathered them together and here is what he said.  He said, Listen, it is my plane, it is my parachutes and we have a small problem.  There are four of us, but I only packed three parachutes.  So, it is my plane, it is my parachute.  I think I ought to have one and surprisingly, everybody agreed and he strapped on his parachute and jumped out to safety.  At that moment, the brilliant professor got to his feet and he said, Listen, guys, he said, I am one of the most brilliant minds in the world.  In fact, it would be a shame if I died and the world would not have the privilege of learning all of the things that I know.  I must survive.  And surprisingly, the pastor and the young traveler, the student, decided we are going to let you have a parachute, too.  So he strapped on and launched out.  And the elderly pastor began to speak to that young collegiate, that young girl and said, Listen, sweetheart, he said, I have lived a long and full life.  I don’t fear death.  In fact, I am anxious to meet the Lord Jesus.  And she stopped him mid-sentence and said, Oh, Pastor, it is okay.  It will be fine.  Here, have a parachute.  That brilliant professor strapped on my backpack and jumped out of the plane.

You can be really, really smart and not wise.  We know that godly wisdom comes when we begin to see things from His viewpoint.  We know that godly wisdom comes when we fill our minds with the principles and the precepts of the Word of God and apply them to real-life situations so that we can be skillful and successful in all of our relationships and all of our responsibilities.  That is godly wisdom.

And during these days, we have been talking about wisdom.  And today, I want to talk to you about being wise in your faith journey.  Being wise in your faith journey.

Now, it is might surprise you to know that according to the writer of Hebrews, you are on a journey.  In fact, the writer of Hebrews says that you are running a race.  You are a runner.  You might not think of yourself as a runner, but according to the Word of God, you are a runner in God’s race.  And you know, it amazes me how the writers of the Bible, those who penned the Word of God were inspired by the Spirit of God to write down and give us pictures and portraits and illustrations through things we know about, about who a believer is and how we ought to live.  Think about it.  One of the great pictures in the New Testament is the idea that believers are sheep.  We are sheep in God’s pasture.  We are a part of God’s flock and the Lord Jesus is our Great Shepherd.  And that spoke to the people of that day.  They also not only talked about agriculture and farming and ranching, but they also talked about being a soldier in God’s army.  Jesus Christ is our Commander-in-Chief.  We are stones in God’s building and God is building up a spiritual house.  His body and His purpose is to conform us to the very image of Christ and Jesus Christ Himself is the chief cornerstone.  You see how it works.  So the Spirit of God takes things we know about, sheep and stones and soldiers and buildings, to teach us deep truths about who we are and how we ought to live.

Now, in the book of Hebrews, the picture here is that of an athlete.  The picture here is the idea that we are in the games.  The people who read this passage knew exactly what the writer of Hebrews is talking about.  We are in the arena and notice what it says at the beginning of Verse 1.

“Therefore, since we are surround…therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses.”  You see, the Bible not only says that we are runners, but we have been born into a family of runners, those who have gone before us, those who are around us now.  And so my goal today is simply this, I want to help you to see that your faith journey is compared to a marathon run so that you can endure and persevere as you depend upon God.  See that your faith journey is compared, not to a sprint but to a marathon run so that you can endure and persevere as you depend upon Jesus.

Let’s look at the text.  “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, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.”

Notice Verse 2, “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the same, and has sat down…” that is significant…”at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you may not grow weary or discouraged in your souls.”  Some of your translations say weary or faint in your hearts.  We are to look unto Jesus.  We are to consider Jesus.  And that is what I want to talk to you about today.

Let’s go to God in prayer and ask Him to speak to us.  Let’s pray.  Father, we ask that You speak volumes, God, through Your Word.  Lord, they don’t want to hear from Tim.  They want to hear from You.  And so we pray as we study Your Word that You open spiritual eyes that we might behold the truth of it and we pray it in Jesus’ name and for His sake.  Amen.

Several things I want you to notice in this passage of Scripture.  The first thing I want you to notice is this:  There are aspects about this race, about this marathon run.  The first thing I want you to notice is this:  You prepare for the race that God has for you, the preparation for the race.

Now immediately these believers knew who he was talking about.  He was talking about a runner in a race, specifically we will see later a marathon run.  They thought about the games.

Now, in Corinth, there were the Isthmian games and there were the Pythia games in Delphi and there were the Olympic games, kind of the granddaddy of them all in Rome.  And you have got to understand that those who ran the marathon were like rock stars in the First Century and Second Century.  These people were treated like royalty.  And being involved in the games, there are several things that you had to be qualified to be in these games.  The first thing is, you had to be a citizen.  But the second thing is, it required a rigorous discipline and training.  You had to eat right.  You had to exercise.  There was this regimen of exercise.  You had to get enough sleep.  You would train and train and then train some more.  In fact, you would run until your heart beat with the cadence you were born to run.  And listen, you and I have been born into the family of God.  If you are here and there has been a moment in time where you turned from sin and transferred your trust to the living, resurrected Christ, you are a runner in God’s race and you have been born into a family of runners.

And there is something about preparation. There is something about preparation for the faith journey.  And the writer of Hebrews tells us two things.  The first thing he says is, we have got to lay aside every weight.  Notice in Verse 1, “Therefore, we also are surrounded with a great cloud, so great a cloud of witnesses.  Let us lay aside every weight.”  And what he is saying is, you lay aside that thing that encumbers you.  Now, for the Hebrews, the people he wrote to, that weight was the Old Covenant.  That weight was the weight of Judaism.  And what he is saying to them is simply this.  He is saying, you need to lay that old system aside and you need to embrace the gospel of Jesus.  Lay that old thing aside and come to Christ who is the New and Living Way.  And He will provide salvation for you.

You and I must do what the writer of Hebrews says.  We have got to lay aside the law and embrace grace.  We have got to lay aside the old, legalistic, ritualistic religion that is cold and dead and dry and we have got to embrace the glorious gospel of grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen?  Lay those things aside and embrace the gospel.  That is what he is telling them.

But listen, here is the application and it is easy to make.  We must lay aside anything that hinders spiritual progress.  You are on a faith journey.  There are some things that demand and distract you from being all that God wants you to be.  Anything that hinders, the writer of Hebrews is saying, lay it aside!

Now, understand this, these may be good things.  And I want to share with you, I want to share my heart, a faith journey is so delicate and all of us are on that journey.  And listen, I don’t even begin to understand all that you have experienced in your life and I can’t understand how God takes all these things, the way we were raised and how we came to faith and the folks He brings into our lives to help to disciple us and encourage us and mentor us.  I really can’t understand how God does all that.  But I do know this, if there is anything, even good things that hinder spiritual progress, the writer of Hebrews would say to you and I, lay it aside.  Cast it off.  Some of your translations say, cast is aside.  Why?  Because you don’t want anything or anyone to hinder the faith journey that you are on.  You don’t want anything to distract you from making the main thing the main thing.  And the main thing is to follow Christ.  That is the main thing.

Now, it might be good things.  Avery Willis in Master Life says there are three things that hinder godly devotion:  people, priorities and possessions.  Think about that for a moment.  Is there someone in your life that hinders your spiritual progress?  Lay it aside.  Is there some activity you have made as priority, as good as that thing in and of itself may be, that hinders spiritual progress?  Lay it aside.  Is there some possession that you have or some activity that you are involved in that hinders your walk with God and keeps you from going hard after God, the writer of Hebrews says, lay it aside.  Do you see it?  People, priorities, possessions.  Anything that hinders you going hard after God and godly devotion, lay it aside.

The second thing he tells us to do is not only lay aside those things that encumber, he says, lay aside those things that ensnare.  Look at the scripture.  “Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily (some translations say besets us or ensnares or entangles us.)  Lay it aside.  Sin is insidious.  Did you know that?  Sin is insidious.  It will destroy you.

David, here is the biblical illustration, David, according to God, God said about David…now it is one thing for David to say it, but God said about David, here is a man after (what?) My own heart.  And so David came to be known as the man after God’s own heart.  Why?  Because God declared it.  David sinned and it cost him dearly.  And that is what is so insidious about sin.  You see, sin dims our eye so that we can’t see spiritual reality.  Sin dulls our hearing so that we can’t discern the voice of God in our lives.  And sin distracts us and keeps us from hungering and thirsting after God.

David sinned and it cost him.  It cost him his health.  David sinned and it cost him his family.  There were consequences to pay.  You will recall the sin of David.  In the days when kings were going to war, during that season in time, David, for some reason, stayed back and he was on his roof.  You know the story.  And he looked out and he saw this woman and he lusted after her and he said, I have got to have her.  And he sent his servant and he took her and he hid that sin from God for more than a year.  Then the prophet Nathan came.  You are not only guilty of adultery; you are guilty of murder because you had her husband murdered.  This was the man after God’s own heart.  This was not the one who went around boasting and saying, I am a man after God’s own heart.  This is the one God declared, I don’t have anybody like David.  He seeks after Me.  He is after My heart.

Besetting sin or the sin that he is talking about here that ensnares is that sin that you struggle with.  It is almost as if you have made a pact and you won’t tolerate any other sin, but there is this sin right here that is a stronghold in your life.  And if you continue in that sin, Brother and Sister, I want to tell you something, it will destroy you and it will put you in terrible bondage.  The writer of Hebrews says, lay aside every weight.  Lay aside sin that is besetting sin, the sin that ensnares and desires to put you in bondage, repent of it.  Turn from it.  Confess it before God.  Acknowledge it.  We saw last week that when we acknowledge our sin, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  Amen?  That sin that has potential to put you in bondage is the one that you have made a pact with and you allow to stay in your lives rather than forsaking it and turning back to God because He is the only One who can forgive and restore and deliver.  Lay it aside.  Lay aside all that encumbers.  Lay aside all that ensnares.

The second thing he tells us in this race is this:  He talks about the perseverance in the race.  So there is not only the preparation, it requires discipline and training.  A faith journey requires that we lay aside everything that hinders and we deal with sin.

But notice what it says.  It says and talks about our endurance and perseverance in the race.  Look at it.  “Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, 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 patience the race that is set before us.”  Notice that phrase, “run with patience,” with endurance, with perseverance, the race that is set before us.  Do you see it?

A couple of thing I want you to notice here.  The first thing I want you to notice is the nature of the race.  This race, the word translated race is the word “agon.”  It is where we get our English word, agony, from.  It is not a sprint run, it is a grueling marathon race.  Listen, it is going to require every ounce of strength that you can muster.  It is going to require every spiritual resource that you can lay hold of.  You are going to have to be dependent upon God as you run this race.  It is not quick and it is over.  It is a race that will last for a lifetime.  Do you see that?  I want to make that abundantly clear.  Listen, it is not a sprint run, it is a grueling marathon run and it starts, that faith journey starts from the moment you are saved until Christ comes or you go to be with Him.

So the nature of the race.  Get the right mind-set.  And there are so many things that happen in our faith journey.  There are seasons, aren’t they?  And you know, I am really burdened for so many who are going through a tough time of adversity.  But there are seasons of joy and heartache.  There are seasons of struggle and victory.  There are seasons of times when you really feel good about your walk with God and then there are those times when you don’t feel so good because something has hindered your progress or kept you from being all that God wants you to be.  And so we all go through these seasons.  But the nature of the race is this, that even in the midst of that, God can be depended on.  Amen?

And here is the thing I want you to see.  I don’t have to run your race and you don’t have to run my race.  Notice the uniqueness of the race.  The race that is set before us.  When you begin a faith journey, God sets a race before you.  And that is a beautiful thing.  Why?  Because we are not in competition.  We can all win.  In that day, those who ran in the games, there would only be one winner.  But when you and I are on a faith journey, we can all win!  We are not in competition.  We cooperate.  We love one another and we rejoice when believers rejoice and we weep when believers are heartbroken.  And we encourage and we help our brother up or help our sister up and sometimes we can only walk as we are on the faith journey.  There are times when we mount up as wings, with wings as eagles.  There are times when we run and we are not weary, but there are certain times and all of us need this, where we need help.  But the Bible promises those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.  Amen?  They will mount up with wings as eagles.  They will run and not be weary.  They will walk and not faint.  Why?  Many times because it is God who carries us.

I can only imagine what a group of this size might be going through in this moment and at this time.  I can only imagine that.  Some of you in your journey are experiencing adversity.  There are others who are experiencing times of great joy.  There are others who are making progress.  There are others who seem to be distracted and dismayed.  But the beautiful thing is, we can all help one another finish the race.  Amen?

One of the things I shared earlier is that I wouldn’t wish my race on anyone and I don’t want to run your race.  Several years ago, this thing that I thought was so tragic in losing my direct vision, it is amazing when you see it from God’s perspective.  Rather than a tragedy, this has been one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me.  I guess besides my wife, Chris, who is here this morning, the greatest gift that God has ever given me has been the loss of my eyesight.  Why?  Sometimes God permits what He hates in order to accomplish what He loves.  And what He wanted to accomplish in my life because I was so full of myself, He took away my direct vision so that I would learn to trust and depend totally upon Him.  Do you see it?  And sometimes God allows things in our lives in the midst of our journey that we just can’t comprehend or understand, but God knows best.  Amen?  Father knows best!  And your heavenly Father knows best!

So there is a preparation, there is a perseverance, but notice third, there is a priority or a preoccupation during the race.  Two phrases I want you to see in Verse 2 and Verse 3, “Look unto Jesus and consider Jesus.  Notice Verse 2, “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.”  A couple of phrases I want you to see briefly.  Sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Do you know why He sat down?  Because He finished the race.  He sat down because Jesus Christ is the victor and He won the victory and all of our enemies are under His footstool, according to the Word of God.  Jesus Christ is our victory.  Amen?  And we trust in Him.  He sat down.  But notice, “who for the joy that was set before Him.”

Now there are several things that could mean.  And I think we can learn from those things.  That phrase, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame.  Jesus had as motivation as He went to the cross, a joy that was set before Him.

Now a lot of people have been wondering, what is that joy?  It could be a couple of things.  One that has been suggested and really emphasized has been, He had the joy of knowing that many people would get right with God as a result of His sacrifice.  And you have heard the old gospel song, I will give you a familiar one.  When He was on the cross, (what?) I was on His mind.  That would be a great motivation that many sons would come to God.  But you know what may be a greater motivation was?  Do you recall when Jesus was in the Garden, more than anything else, Jesus wanted to glorify God more than anything else.

Could it be that the joy set before Him would be the glory of God?  Could it be in the Garden when He prayed, Father, not My will but Thy will be done.  And He knew God would be glorified as He obeyed Him, as Philippians 2 says, even unto death.  It is an amazing thing to think that Jesus would walk down heaven’s stairway and become a man.  What humility!  In Revelation 4 and 5, all of heaven revolves around Him and yet, He humbled Himself.  The Bible says, He stooped down low.  Why?  To bring glory to God and to receive many sons and daughters and that is you and I, folks.  Isn’t that awesome?

Now the writer of Hebrews says, we are to look unto Jesus.  I glance at a lot of folks, but I don’t fix my gaze on them.  Why?  Because people will let you down.  I glance at some many people.  I glance at Uncle Phil because he is an encouragement to me.  I glance at Collin.  He is an encouragement to me.  Some of the guys in the worship band.  Some of you who are here.  I can’t see all of your faces, but you enrich my life and you encourage me.  And we have all got feet of clay, don’t we, and we all make mistakes, as James says.  But look to one another to find encouragement and love and joy.  But you and I must remember, as the writer of Hebrews says, we have got to fix our gaze.  We have got to be laser focused on Christ.  He is the One that finished our race.  He is the One who is the victory.  He is the One when it is all said and done, we will stand before Him and give an account of our lives.  I want Him to say, Well done at the end of my faith journey.  How about you?  But you know what, as Robby has reminded us many, many times, He won’t say well done if we haven’t put our trust and hope in Him.

The second thing he says as a priority during this race is, we are not only to look unto Jesus, but we are to consider Jesus.  Notice Verse 3.  “Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against Himself, so that you might not become weary or discouraged in your souls.”

Do you ever get discouraged?  I do.  Somebody said discouragement is a sin.  I don’t believe that.  There are times when we get discouraged, I mean, prolonged discouragement and not finding encouragement in Christ might be a sin, but listen, if we are honest, we are going to admit, we are discouraged from time to time.  And any time we are discouraged, the writer of Hebrews says, consider Jesus.  He says, Look unto Jesus.  He says, consider Jesus.  You know, that tells me that Jesus experienced disappointment and discouragement and adversity and because He is our Master, we can’t expect anything less than discouragement and disappointment and adversity.  Do you see it?  We are to consider Him and find encouragement that He persevered.  He endured, even in the midst of adversity.  He experienced adversity to the extent that He suffered hostility from sinners.  In fact, they were so hostile, they took His life, if you can imagine that.  We know it is the biblical account.  We know it is true.  And so we are to have a mind filled with His Word.  We are to have a heart ruled by His peace and filled with His love.  And we are to live a life for His glory.  We ought to be so wrapped up and tied up and tangled up in Jesus that we can’t look to anyone else or think anything else besides Jesus.  Our minds ought to be saturated with Him.

If you want to endure. If you want to persevere, the writer of Hebrews would say, you keep your mind stayed on Jesus.

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