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Hebrews 12:1-2

Faith Forward

  • Samuel Wilson
  • Weekend Messages
  • April 19, 2020

  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

Faith Forward

Hebrews 12:1-2

Intro: Don’t look back!

In our lives, so often the circumstances, situations, scenarios, people, or problems around us that we allow to dictate or set our course. Looking back, allowing those things slow us down, set our pace, or get in the way of our faith.

Difficulty, no matter it’s depth or specific definition, can so easily become the definer of our days, looking back,  or looking around we can then become so easily drowned in a sea of that difficulty, rather than responding to it with faith.

This morning we open to Hebrews chapter 12, where we see the writer use an analogy of running a race in order to inspire faith. It is a figure of speech, an illustration that speaks of the Christian life in Christ, running a race. When it comes to our faith, much like in a race, there is great importance associated with the place we set our focus, where we fix our eyes, what we lay aside and leave behind so that we can run the race with faith, and in such a way that we will win the prize.

We are called to run this race with great endurance, and here we see some of the important keys to running the race victoriously, fighting the good fight, and running by faith, not by sight. There is an opportunity we have in the midst of situations and circumstances where a solution is not easy to see or straight forward, that opportunity, is to have faith forward.

Read: Hebrews 12:1-2

Verse one begins with a word that is importance for us to acknowledge, it is the term “therefore,” it is a term in the Greek that also means, “therefore!” Whenever you see the word “therefore” in the Bible, it is important to ask the question, “what is therefore, there for?” In this case, the reason it is there, is because there were many heroes of faith, whose stories were depicted and defined in the previous chapter. They were those who despite difficult circumstances, despite solutions unseen, despite solutions out of sight and conclusions that had not yet come to be, had the faith to move forward.

Hebrews 11:1, Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Faith is a willingness to trust in, rely on, and cling to God. It is the conviction of things not seen. If you have the substance before you, or you can already see the outcome, there is no use for faith. The translation of “the conviction of things not seen,” can actually be read, the “conviction of things not yet seen.”

And for you and for me, while the outcomes of what we face currently may be yet unseen, it is important that faith is foundational to the race set before us.

I. Surround Yourself with the Right Sources

Hebrews 12:1, 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.

  • Here we understand that there is a “cloud of witnesses.” The “cloud” refers to a great multitude, a large crowd, those mentioned in Hebrews 11 and beyond, who walked by faith not by sight, and went before us.
  • Some have suggested that the “cloud of witnesses” is a picture of the champions of faith, cheering us on as spectators to the current race we run, and we press on to overcome what we face presently.
  • Others have said, “couldn’t be!” Heaven is a place where we will not be troubled or worried, it is depicted as paradise. How can those in heaven be happy if they are seeing what is happening here?

Illus. Some say?

  • For today, I will take the approach of this “great cloud of witnesses,” as those whose lives show us the great value of living by faith, despite their circumstance. The stories of the heroes of faith surely give “witness” and testimony to choosing faith or fear.
  • Their stories encourage our faith and are the sources that set their courses according to faith and are the sources we can look to in the face of what we face! If they are also cheering us on as we run the race, all the more reason to be encouraged today.

Hebrews 12:1, Since you have been surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…

Hebrews 11:7, By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.

Illus. More on Noah.

Hebrews 11:8-10, By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God.

Illus. More on Abraham.

Hebrews 11:11-12, And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered Him faithful who had made the promise.  

  • When the Lord revealed to Abraham that his wife Sarah would bear a child, she laughed, saying, “after I am worn out and Abraham is old, will I now have this pleasure?” (Genesis 18:12) God responded, “Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son” (Genesis 18:14).
  • First hearing it, Sarah laughed in unbelief, she would learn that nothing was too difficult for God, and would later laugh in faith, “God has brought me laughter, and everyone who hears about this will laugh with me.” (Genesis 21:6)

Matthew 17:20, Truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.

  • Noah, Abraham, and Sarah are just three of the many witnesses depicted in Hebrews 11. These are three of the many that the writer say we are surrounded by.
  • These are the sources that will encourage our faith, and the sources that we need to cite, and to surround ourselves with, when we are surrounded.
  • Why? Because they encourage us to faith forward. But not all sources are the same.

Illus. – In Numbers, Moses sent 12 spies to go look at the land of Canaan, of the 12, only Joshua and Caleb were standing in a place of faith.

2 Corinthians 5:7, For we walk by faith, not by sight.

  • Many sources will lead you the opposite way, the wrong way, down the wrong path. The question comes, what sources are you surrounding your life with?
  • Clearly, the writer here didn’t add the 10 spies to the list of those to surround our faith with. They would be the wrong sources. The sources you surround yourself with matter.

Illus.  Trusting the right sources.

    1. Run the race no matter what you face

Hebrews 12:1, 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.

  • In speaking of encumbrances and sin that entangles, we are told “let us also” lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin that easily entangles.
  • The acknowledgement is that there are certainly encumbrances, other translations say things that hinder, or every weight that slows us down. Those three make up the definition of the Greek word here, “ogkas”: A burden or weight.
  • This would have meant something to those who understood racing in the ancient world. Racers in that day would often run without clothing, get in the best shape possible, removing all excess weight possible so that they could run unencumbered.
  • Here we are being implored to throw off every weight, no limits, no lines, if I find something is an encumbrance, I am to throw it off.
  • We carry many weights that are unnecessary. Encumbrances, or burdens are differentiated here from sin. They may no be sinful, but may be a hindrance, nonetheless. How we use our time, how we engage in entertainment, what we place priority on.
  • Our choices are not always between right and wrong, but there are certain things we engage in that may hinder our ability to run well, and others may not.
  • The next thing we are to lay to the side is the sin which so easily entangles us. The word entangles us is an interesting word in Greek as well, euparistatos, which depicts a skillful surrounding.
  • In order to run the race, we have to lay aside the sin which so easily entangles.

Matthew 5:29-30, If your right eye makes you stumble, tear it out and throw it from you; for it is better to lose one of the parts of your body, than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. If your right hand makes you stumble, cut if off and throw it from you…

1 Corinthians 9:24, Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

2 Timothy 4:7-8, I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return.

Galatians 5:7, You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you.

Illus. Cut in on.

  • Surely there are many things that can cut in on you, keep you from running well. But our objective is to run the race, and run the race with endurance.

James 1:2-4, Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

  • Just as another racer would want to get inside my head, or cut in on me, there is a real enemy that want to do the same to you and to me. In Revelation 12:10 he is called the accuser of the brethren, the one who accuses day and night.

John 10:10, The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

  • Let the testing of your faith produce greater endurance. Run the race, no matter what, or who you face.

Illus. Consider Job.

  • Endurance gives the picture of a person who is not swerved from their deliberate purpose, even in the midst of trial and sufferings. A steady determination to keep going!
  1. Keep fixing your eyes on Jesus

Hebrews 12:2, 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.

  • Jesus finished the course God had set before Him. He accomplished the very purpose He was sent to accomplish.
  • He is the example we are to look to. He is who we are to turn our eyes to, to fix them on, and keep fixing them on.
  • We are called “followers of Christ,” we talked about this recently, what it means to follow Christ is not following Him on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. It is not simply “liking” the words He said like we like a post. Rather it’s following Him fully, making Him foremost, even when I don’t like the way my circumstance or situation has been diagnosed. 
  • “Fixing” is active. It does not set it and forget it. And for us, we must continue fixing our eyes on Jesus. In order to fix your eyes on something, or someone, you have to turn away from other things and other people.
  • Here we read that He had joy set before Him.
  • How could He have joy as He was beaten, bloodied, scourged, spit on, mocked, and crucified as a criminal on a Roman cross? He knew what awaited on the other side of the finish line.
  • Jesus did not just begin a good work, He completed that work. He ran the race, and as He focused on the finish, He had joy set before Him. He sat down and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Illus. Leader board.

Illus. A map?

  • We may not know exactly where, but we know exactly who. Outside of faith I may not know exactly how, but I know exactly who.

Hebrews 11:6, Without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to Him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

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, 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.


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