Keep Your Eyes On Jesus

Bible Book: Hebrews  12 : 1-3
Subject: Victory; Pressing On; Running the Race; Faithfulness

KEEP YOUR EYES ON JESUS

Dr. J. Mike Minnix, Editor, www.pastorlife.com
Introduction

Hebrews 12:1-3 ...

"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 us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls." (NKJV)

Our generation is absorbed with sports. I heard about a man who told his wife last week, "Honey, the baseball season is moving into high gear for the summer, if there is anything you want to talk to me about you might better do it now."

Actually, sports have always captured the attention of the public. This has been true throughout the centuries. Stadiums in the days of the Romans and Greeks were six times as long as some of our modern day football fields. One Roman Senator complained that athletes were more popular than politicians. They still are!

In the days of the Bible the most respected athlete was a runner. Boxing, javelin throwing, wrestling, etc., were important sports, but nothing was more revered than the great runner. So the writer of Hebrew used running as an illustration of the Christian life. One wise guy said that the fastest human being ever was Adam. When asked how that could be true, the man replied, "Because he was the FIRST man in the HUMAN RACE."

Well, let's get serious. Every athlete and every team begins the season in his or her sport with a vision of being victorious. The Christian who truly loves Christ must approach the Christian life the same way. The writer to the Hebrews shares a way for us to envision and experience victory by using the illustration of a runner as an example in the Christian walk and life.

To run effectively in the Christian race, we must have a proper vision - we must keep our eye on the Leader - Jesus. We must not get caught up in images the world places before us. The writer of Hebrews addresses that for us in our text today. We see here a three-fold way we are to look - divine vision - which can propel us to excellence for our excellent Savior.

Let's begin by considering the ...

I. Appreciation of Past Contributions

Hebrews, chapter 11 contains a list of some great saints who served he Lord before us. Now the writer calls on us to keep in mind a vision of their faithfulness - to havbe appreciation of how their exampe can propel us to excellence . Two thoughts are presented here.

A. The Host of Them

What a great cloud, a great host, of witnesses surrounds us from the past. The idea of witnesses in this passage does not mean that previous saints are watching us. The word used in Hebrews for "host" in our scripture today is from the Greek word for "martyr." There are two words that could have been used by the author of Hebrews. The writer could have used the Greek word that represented a theater - which is the Greek word "theatai" - but that was not the word used here. The other word is the Greek word for a "martyr." The witnesses mentioned in this text are not observing us from the grandstands in heaven - they are not watching us. In fact just how sad do you think they would be in heaven if they were keeping an eye of us everyday? That would not be heaven.

Actually, the witnesses mentioned in our text today are those who, through their sacrifice and even their blood, poured out their lives for Christ. They are our examples. They gave their very best for the Lord - they gave their very lives for Him. We are to keep them in mind. They serve as illustrations for us as we live today. Think of all those who came before us and the price they paid for living the victorious Christian life.

If you go to many stadiums or arenas, you will see banners hanging from the ceiling or around the walls. They remind us of the teams that won division or national titles in the past. They are there to remind the people playing today that their institution is known for champions. That is what the great believers before us are to do for us. They remind us of the excellent service given by others before we arrived in the Christian faith.

B. The Cost to Them

When we look back in Hebrews 11  we observe the incredible price they paid in order to be faithful to the Lord. We see this in Hebrews 11:35b and following to the end of the chapter. It reads ...

"Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. 36  Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented— 38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.
39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.

What a price they paid. Remember those disciples and the fact that most of them paid for their faith with their blood. Remember Paul, who was beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned, despised, lied about, stoned and eventually put to death being beheaded by Nero.

Remember all those who came before us. Many of them, as described in Hebrews 11, were burned at the stake, sawn in two, hunted like animals, thrown to wild beasts in the Coliseum at Rome, and suffered many other horrible terrors for the cause of Christ. They serve as examples - exampes signed in the blood of dedication and commitment to God!

So, we must appreciate their contributions, but also note the call for our ...

II. Dedication to the Present Course

We must also get a proper vision of the course God has laid out for us. What do I mean? I mean that we must realize that our path is not meant to be easy. It is like a race and it requires patience can courage. It is a long race we are running and it demands steadfastness. Three things are required to be dedicated to Christ in the Christian race of life.

A. Pulling Off

A runner always wears the least number of clothes possible. Any extra weight slows a runner down, holds him back and tires him out.

We must get rid of some things in our lives, if we would run properly for our Lord. Some things are not bad, they may even be good, but they are not best for us. Some of our activities may be acceptable but they are not expedient for Christian growth or Christian witnessing. It is not illegal for a man to run a race in an overcoat, but it is foolish. You will never see a woman running a race in a fur coat.  We must pull of every weight that would hold us back from our task.

I was a runner for many years, and in those latter years I am sure I looked quite stange in those tank tops that runners wear and those skimy shorts, but I can tell you that running a half-marathon in my 50s and 60s was not easy. A runner tries to wear as few clothes as possible, for all the extra weight is a drag on the runner's body.

My dear Christian friend, you cannot run properly for Jesus with the world drapped around your neck. Christians must decide which activities are best for Christian living and which are impediments. Watching television is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be if it keeps you from reading your Bible or having a quiet time everyday. Using your money to buy new things is not necessarily bad, but if it keeps you from tithing it is a hindrance and a shame. You don't have to be immoral to be impractical in Christian living.

Next consider ...

B. Purging Out

Sin must be purged. We must get the sin out. Purge it. If we had no sin, there would be nothing to lay aside. No one here is so perfect that you don't some things that need to be changed for the cause of Christ. There is a sin that will easily beset us. There is a personal sin that is particular to you or to me. If you are not deliberate about being faithful to the Lord, this sin will stop you in your tracks. Every person has certain weaknesses. Our common attitude is to be judgmental of people who have a weakness unlike our own, but we are often very forgiving of our own weaknesses. Take your eyes off of others and look at the things that are holding you back in the race for Christ. Purge those things out of your own life so you can run the race successfully for the Lord.

Then, we are told to be ...

C. Pressing On

Then we are press on for Jesus. Be patience. Be faithful.

Running takes great discipline. As I said, I started running as a hobby many years ago. Once I got up to six miles a day, I thought I was ready to enter my first race. It was a 5K race, which is 3.1 miles in duration. I had never be in a race and didn't know anyh better, so when the race began I bolted off the starting line like a jackrabbit. I was ripping down the raceway with the fastest runners out there. When I reached the first mile marker, I was running less than a six minute per mile pace. By the time I got the 1.5 mile marker I was breathing like I was having a heart attack. I finished the last mile of the race a bit slower than 8 minutes a mile. I learned a valuable lesson about running. You have to pace yourself. You must run with patience. Since then, I have run in many of races, some of which were 13.1 miles in length. I have never tired in a race like I did in that first 5K race. I learned to be steady, patient and to save something for the end.

That is the way we run for Christ in the Christian life. Some people live for Jesus like a shotgun. There is sudden blast followed by a puff of smoke, and it is all over. Living for Jesus takes discipline and patience. Few of us really know how to do that well. Some never start running. Some run quickly at the beginning but then fall back. But we are to keep on keeping on as wise runners in the Christian life.

I have been in races where people leave the start line walking. They came for the atmosphere and not for the race. They often get in the way of people trying to run faithfully. Let me remind every Christian that worship and service for Christ is not a spectator sport. Living for Jesus is not a picnic. It cost a runner hours and years of work to run properly. The Christian life is even more important. It takes discipline and dedication run in the Christian race of life and to be victorious in it.

How do we do that? The writer to the Hebrews tells us next to think about the ...

III. Concentration on the Perfecting Christ

To "run" for Jesus as we should, we must get our eyes on Him. It is like crossing a bridge. If you see great trucks and cars crossing a bridge, you will have enough faith to put your weight upon that bridge as well. So it is with Jesus. Get your eyes on Him and you will soon have faith to trust Him no matter how high the hill, how long the path or how heavy the load. He went before us. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith.

There is the story of a man who needed to cross a river in Nova Scotia. The river was frozen over but he was afraid the ice would not hold him. So, he got down on his knees and started crawling across the river. Just then he heard something. He thought the ice was crumbling beneath him. He looked up to see a man with two horses pulling a cart full of wood coming across the frozen lake. He felt rather foolish about his anxiety. His fear left him. He stood up and walked confidently across the ice to the other side.

Many saints have gone before us. They showed us that we can have victory. The One however that is most important is our Perfect example - Jesus Christ. He lived rightly, died bravely and rose to show us that there is victory on the other side. We are look unto Him.

A. The Perspective

Fix your eyes on Him. This means depending upon Him. It is not just looking at Him, it means to look away from everything else. The Greek word used here is "aphorao," which means to concentrate on one thing but avoiding everything else. A runner who looks away from his fixed goal will lose speed. We must keep our perspective - keep looking at Jesus as you live each day.

B. The Persuasion

He alone can keep us from failing. He can persuade us in the midst of the race to keep going even when we would stop. When you want to give up, look to Jesus. Don't examine yourself. Keep examining Jesus. He will persuade you to keep going. Don't ask yourself what is best for you - ask Him what is best for His kingdom. We are fickled and often confused by feelings, personal ideals and societal concepts. But Jesus never leads us astray.

An Armenian King was captured by the Romans and brought before the Emperor along with his wife and children. The king came before the Emperor and fell of his face and began to beg. He said, "Oh Emperor, I will not beg for my life. Do with me as you will, but please spare my wife and children. They had nothing to do with my Army. Kill me but release them." The Emperor was so moved by the humble, sacrificial plea of the Armenian king that he spared not only the family of the king but the king himself. The king later spoke to his wife and asked, "Did you see the beautiful tapestries in the Romans justice hall?" His wife said that she had not seen them. "Did you see the gold upon his throne?" Again she answered that she had not seen it. "Well, did you see the royal guests in their beautiful garments?" Again she answered no to his question. Finally he asked, "Tell me, what were you looking at?" She answered, "I had my eyes fixed on the man who was willing to die for me and our children. I could only see you, my husband."

Oh, friend, that is the way we must be. In this passing parade called life, let us fix our eyes on Jesus. Don't let the gaudiness of worldly things grab your attention. Fix your eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of your faith. He is the One who died for us, let us be the ones who will concentrate upon Him and follow after Him!

Conclusion

Look where you are going Christian! One day you will meet Him. Will he say, "Well done thou good and faithful servant?" That does not depend on whether we fall down while running, but on whether we get up, dust ourselves off, set our eyes on Him, and return to the race with boldness and sacrifice.