Running the Race
(notes from sermon given at
Sierra Grande Rancher's Meeting, 2004)
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us
also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and
let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
(2) fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and
perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising
the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
According to this passage,
Christians have a race to run. We’ve discussed the “racing” aspects of this
race in a different message, but today I want to focus on hindrances to the
race. I want to focus on the phrase “let us lay aside every encumbrance and the
sin which so easily entangles us”. After we’ve dissected that phrase, we’ll
come back- we’ll refocus our attention- on verse 2, “fixing our eyes on Jesus,
the author and perfecter of faith”.
Before we leave this passage
and go to the one that I’m going to use for the bulk of this message, let’s look
at a few things.
- “lay aside every
- a racer doesn’t
burden himself with unnecessary weight. He strips down to the bare
essentials; using lightweight shoes, streamlined clothing (and not much
of it!). Some shave their heads or wear tight fitting skull caps to
reduce wind resistance.
- Good racers are in
shape. They work out and they stress, if possible, themselves past the
demands of the race. If they run sprints, they run both shorter and
longer sprints that the one they’ll actually race. If they’re going to
run a mile race, they will strive to run at full pace for 2 or 3 miles,
so that the shorter distance will seem easier. They watch their diet
and eat properly, avoiding brisket, beans, and potatoes, most likely.
The racer who wants to win will be in the best physical condition that
he or she can be. These are physical encumbrances.
- There are mental
encumbrances, too. A racer who is thinking about something other than
the race is not going to do as well as if he/she were focused on the
race. The very best racers focus on the race and allow absolutely no
distractions. They visualize the components of the race and see
themselves taking the lead right off the start. They can picture the
first turn, and they can picture each and every turn afterwards. They
focus on the race.
- “…and the sin which so
easily entangles us”
- Note that this sin
easily entangles us. Sin doesn’t even have to work hard! It
lays out a sloppy, easily discerned trap right out in the middle of the
road for everyone to see and we walk along and stick our foot right in
- Note also the word
“entangles”. Sin doesn’t just catch us by the little toe. It wraps us
up like a spider wraps up a fat juicy bug. So, often when caught in
sin, we lie or cheat or try to wiggle our way out and only get entangled
more in this spider web. What we need to do is get out our sword (the
Bible) and use it to cut our way out. We need to confess our sins, and
let God cut us free. But, we don’t- we have our pride to consider and
so we just get more and more entangled.
- Note that the
entangler is clear identified- sin. It’s no mystery as to who set the
trap or what the trap looks like. It looks like sin. It looks like
disobedience to God’s commands. In the Garden of Eden, sin looked like
fruit on a specific tree. God pointed it out to Adam and Eve and said,
“There lies sin! Don’t eat from it!” And, of course, they did. Sin
today is not always so obvious, but a lot of times, it is. If we stop
and examine the situation, like a wary coyote, instead of rushing in
like a dumb city dog, we’ll nearly always recognize the trap. But, we
don’t and sin thus easily entangles us. We can’t say we weren’t warned,
though. Sin is it that easily entangles us.
- One last thing is that
this race is run with endurance, with patience. We don’t know the end of
our race and finishing well is what matters. If we start with a sprint and
the race is long, we might be tired by the end. If we start slow, thinking
it’s going to be a long race, it might not be. We must run well at all
times, but with endurance and with patience.
With these things in mind,
let’s move to the meat of the text and look at some of the things that hinder
When a large crowd was coming together, and those from the various cities were
journeying to Him, He spoke by way of a parable: (5)
"The sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed,
some fell beside the road, and it was trampled under foot and the birds of the
air ate it up. (6)
fell on rocky soil,
and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.
seed fell among
the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.
seed fell into the
good soil, and grew up, and produced a crop a hundred times as great." As
He said these things, He would call out, "He who has
ears to hear, let him hear." (9) His
disciples began questioning Him as to
what this parable meant. (10) And He said,
"To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of
the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is
in parables, so that SEEING THEY MAY NOT SEE, AND HEARING THEY MAY NOT
"Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God.
(12) "Those beside
the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word
from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.
(13) "Those on the
rocky soil are
those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no
firm root; they
believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away.
seed which fell
among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way
they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of
this life, and
bring no fruit to maturity. (15)
"But the seed
in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and
good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.
(16) "Now no one
after lighting a lamp covers it over with a container, or puts it under a bed;
but he puts it on a lampstand, so that those who come in may see the light.
(17) "For nothing is
hidden that will not become evident, nor
anything secret that will not be known and
come to light. (18)
"So take care how you listen; for whoever has, to him
shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be
taken away from him."
- The devil takes the
word out of their hearts. It’s Genesis 3 all over again! They listened to
the devil. Don’t listen to the devil. What was Jesus’ defense against the
devil when He was tempted in the wilderness? He quoted Scripture at the
devil. He used his sword and let it cut away the spider webs. When you see
the devil approaching, get out your sword. Know, also, that God is
sovereign- the devil cannot do a thing w/out the permission of God. We know
this from Job. Read Job, chapters 1-3 and study the relationship between
God and the devil. We have been warned and we’ve been given ammunition to
refute the devil, just like Christ did. And if we are Christians and Christ
is our Savior (and only in that case), we have the power and authority to
use that word.
- No root- this group of
seeds has shallow root and in times of temptation, they fall away. What
does this mean “shallow root”? I think it means that they haven’t studied,
they haven’t dug deep in their theology to see why the believe what they
believe and whether or not their beliefs line up with Scripture. 2
Timothy 2:15 tells us to “Study to show yourself approved unto God, a
workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth”.
2 Timothy 3:16 says “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and
is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in
righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto
good works”. These are clear commands to study the Scriptures. Ask
questions, dig deep, and put down roots. This is your protection against
being “tossed about by the winds of doctrine” and against being uprooted in
a time of temptation.
- Thorns are choked out
by worries and riches and life’s pleasures, and bring no fruit to maturity.
Beware of these things!! Scripture gives us power against these things:
Philipian 4:6 “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and
supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God”. Be
anxious for nothing. We have many cautions against riches: Matt 9:24
“It is easier for a camel to pass thru the eye of a needle than for a rich
man to enter Heaven”, Luke 16:13 “you cannot serve both God and
wealth”. 1Timothy 6:10 (p. 1046) “For the love of money is a root of
all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their
greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows”. Beware!!
Note the problem with this seed- “…and bring no fruit to maturity”.
John 15:1-10 talks about what happens to vines that do not bear fruit.
Do NOT let worries and riches and pleasure choke you out. Guard against the
world- don’t conform, be transformed! If you feel them moving in on you,
the best thing to do is hit the deck and pray.
- And finally, the seeds
on good ground. They hear the word with a noble and a good heart, keep it
and bear fruit with patience. And there’s our link to running the
race- patience. Our fruit may not spring up immediately, it may take some
time to grow. The plant must be mature first. Fruit grows only under the
right conditions and there are many different types of fruit. Agave plant
Now, it is critical to note
that none of these seeds can move themselves. God is the sower, and the seed is
the Word of God. We know from Ephesians 2:8 and Romans 12:3 and
Hebrews 12:2 that God is the one responsible for our faith. In Hebrews,
Christ is called the “author and finisher of our faith”. We know from Luke
17:5 that the disciples asked Jesus to “increase our faith”- they didn’t say
“how can we increase our faith”, they asked Him to increase it. We know from
Mark 9:24 that the father of a demon-possessed boy told Jesus “I do
believe! Help me in my unbelief!”, again asking Christ for greater faith. So,
we cannot move ourselves from one type of seed to another, not of our own
strength and will and might. But God can. We have been given this warning and
this illustration of different types of seeds so that we are aware of the traps
and pitfalls and of the sin that so easily entangles us. We have been given a
sword with which to cut away the webs of entanglement, and we know from 1
Corinthians 10:13 that we will never be tempted beyond what we can bear and
we will always be given an escape from the temptation. We know from Matthew
7:7 and Luke 11:9 that we should “Ask and it will be given to you;
seek and you shall find; knock and it will be opened to you”. The warnings are
there and the promises are there. Which seed do you desire to be and how do you
want to finish the race? Fruitless, with a lackluster finish? Or with fruit,
finishing well? “Ask and you shall receive”. Jesus is the author and finisher
of your faith- look nowhere else.
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