Running the Race


(notes from sermon given at Sierra Grande Rancher's Meeting, 2004)



Hebrews 12:1-2  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.


With these things in mind, let’s move to the meat of the text and look at some of the things that hinder our race.


Luke 8:4-18  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)  "Other seed fell on rocky soil, and as soon as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture.  (7)  "Other seed fell among the thorns; and the thorns grew up with it and choked it out.  (8)  "Other 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 UNDERSTAND.  (11)  "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.  (14)  "The 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 more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has shall be taken away from him."


  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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 example.


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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