Memphis Belle

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Hebrews 1:1-14
Hebrews 2:1-18
Hebrews 3:1-19 Hebrews 4:1-16
Hebrews 5:1-14
Hebrews 6:1-20 Hebrews 7:1-28 Hebrews 8:1-13
Hebrews 9:1-28 Hebrews 10:1-39 Hebrews 11:1-4 Hebrews 11:5-8
Hebrews 11:9-16 Hebrews 11:17-22 Hebrews 11:23-27 Hebrews 11:28-31
Hebrews 11:32-40 Hebrews 12:4-29 Hebrews 13:1-25 What is Faith ?

 

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Hebrews 11:32-40

 

"And what shall I more say?  for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:  who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.  Women received their dead raised to life again:  and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:  and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:  they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword:  they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.  And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:  God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect."

 

Those Who Experience Victory In Their Circumstances Through Faith

 

"Hebrews chapter 11, we have come as far as verse 32, where our author, and if I slip and say Paul, that's because it's my bent, you're entitled to your own, says, "And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:" (verse 32) His point is, look, we've talked about faith, we've examined Abel and Enoch and Noah, Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Rahab.  And he says, 'You know, I can go on and on and on, I could just make this 11th chapter the longest chapter in the Bible if I wanted to.  But what shall I say more of these others, who in same manner exercised their faith? of Gideon, and of Barak, of Samson,' you wouldn't expect to see him in there, isn't it interesting?  As we journey through these snap-shots, Samson, all of his failings, morally, he's included here in this "Hall of Faith," God honouring the genuine faith that he did exercise.  Of Samson, of Jephthah, and all of these so human, I mean, coming down to Rahab, and starting to name these of whom we're familiar, and David.  We love David, we love the humanness of David and all of his greatness, he's a man that could stand in front of a giant as a teenager with a sling-shot and put an entire army to flight, it's going to mention that, and at the same time couldn't conquer his own sexual desires and lusts when it came to Bathsheba, and just his failings as a father, as a parent, and in his greatness as a king, and certainly the remarkable sweet Psalmist of Israel.  And yet the Lord enumerates these people, he puts them before us and says 'We could go on, and talk about the faith of these individuals, Samuel, of the prophets,' "who through faith subdued kingdoms," many of them did that, we don't have to go through all of those stories, "wrought righteousness," set things right in the kingdom and in the circumstances, "obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions," ah, Samson, Daniel, "quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." (verses 33-34) those who waxed valiant in the fight, of course we think of David, turning to flight the armies of the aliens (for you sci-fi people, those are foreigners, those are not some of the things that we see today, just so we don't get that in the wrong perspective there).  "Women received their dead raised to life again:" life of Elijah and Elisha.  And he does something interesting here, "and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:" (verse 35)  Now it's interesting there, he says "others of the same kind," alloy really there.  And then he's going to talk about in verse 36,  "others" heteros, 'others of a different kind.'  Here, he's going down and he's enumerating in verses 34 through verse 35 all of those who experienced victory in their circumstances through faith.  And their faith was in God, their faith was in something that was set before them, it was the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, but in exercising that faith, other things took place, kingdoms were subdued, armies were put to flight, he goes through all of those things, and he says 'you know, there were others of the same kind who did not accept deliverance, they were in control of their circumstances, they had victory over their circumstances through faith, that they may obtain a better resurrection, you know, Shradrach, Mischek and Abed-nego, they could have bent down before the great statue, and they didn't, there were others who didn't accept deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.'  They still were in control of their circumstance, the way their faith was working, they were experiencing victory over their circumstances by exercising their faith in the unseen and invisible God and his promises. 

 

Those Who Through Faith Experience Victory, Under Their Circumstances, Enduring Their Circumstances

 

Then verse 36, we come to this tremendous change, and it says, "And others," now it's heteros, others of a different kind, and these are going to be those of whom the world is not worthy.  And probably many of us will fit into the category he will now describe.  These are those who had victory, not over their circumstances, but under their circumstances, or in their circumstances, not delivered from their circumstances, but trusting and believing and enduring in circumstances that actually contradicted God's love, God's sovereignty, ah, they were in circumstances that were unbearable.  So there are others of a different kind who exercised faith.  It says here in verse 36, "And others" of a different kind, "had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:" through faith, it says, they were mocked, and scourged, through faith, they were bound and imprisoned, through faith "they were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;" that sounds like a popular book in the Christian bookstore, faith to be sawn asunder.  You know, probably, tradition tells us, it was Manasseh that sawed Isaiah in half, with a wooden saw, I don't know whether that's better or worse.  "they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins" ok, this is not Abercrombie and Fitch, this is not the carnal stuff we have today, this is not a fashion statement, impoverished is the idea, "being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." (verses 36-38)  What a remarkable statement, 'Of whom the world was not worthy.'  We look at these men and women who through faith in God, and through their circumstances and lives they experienced tremendous things, and when we think of the heroes of the faith we think of Moses and Abraham and Sarah and Joshua.  And yet now, here comes this unnamed army in front of us, we can surmise some of those of whom he may be speaking of, but he gives us this long list of people, and he says, 'Others, of a different kind, endured tremendous suffering and hardship, and never saw the answer to their prayers.  They never saw God's hand supernaturally deliver them.  They never were set free from the pressure of the circumstances that were causing them to disintegrate and fall apart.'  And yet they exercised tremendous faith, 'And these were individuals of whom the world was not worthy.'  You know, the world that looks at you and I and says, 'You people of faith, you know, you're not worthy.'  God's saying, 'No, the world isn't worthy to have people like that in it.'  The world is not worthy to be a stage for people like that, to live out their suffering upon.  And it's interesting today, particularly today we hear an awful lot in the political argument about this and that and wear your faith on your sleeve, and being open, and religion should be a secret thing.  To me it's, the end of the world is coming, and Jesus Christ is returning, the heavens are going to split open and he's going to descend, and he's going to come and get us, and we're going to come back on white horses, it's not a secret thing (cf. 1st Corinthians 15:49-54 and Revelation 19).  It's just not a secret thing, it's an exciting thing.  And I have hope, I have joy in difficult times, I got it on both my sleeves, down to here.  But what about in the hard days, what about in the difficult times?  You know, it flies in the face of 'The word of Faith Movement.'  And please take note of that.  Some of you may have suffered under The word of Faith Movement, which is great as long as you're prospering and you're healthy.  As soon as you get sick or you run amuck financially, if their theology is correct, and it's not, but you know, then there's either a lack of faith in your life, or there's sin in your life, because you're not prospering, you're not healthy.  Wait a minute, what about those of whom the world was [and is] not worthy, it says here?  What about those that suffered, that were tormented, that lived in goatskins and sheepskins, that were afflicted, that were destitute, imagine that, of whom the world was not worthy?  Paul is trying, the author is trying to encourage sufferers also, now particularly these Hebrew Christians.  He had said back in chapter 10, he said, 'Call to remembrance the former days in which after you were illuminated, you endured a great fight of afflictions, partly whilst you remained a gazingstock, both by reproaches and afflictions, and partly whilst you were made companions with them that were so used.  For you had compassion on me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that you have in heaven a better enduring substance.'  He is particularly saying this to these Hebrew Christians of the first century, who were being cut off from work, cut off from family, cut off from their homes.  Imagine being driven from your home.  Imagine, because of your faith, someone coming and driving you and your wife and your children out of your homes.  That to me, is unthinkable.  You know, I used to listen to my grandmother, before she died (well obviously), but in World War I, you know the Russian army came into Germany where she lived, and she said it was 2 or 3 in the morning, and they were told to gather everything they could carry, and she had 11 brothers and sisters, and she said they were driven from their farm, and she said 'My mother stopped us all in the kitchen, You remember the people on the other side of the Rhine River believe in the same God that we believe in,' and she never saw some of her brothers and sisters again after that, ever, driven out into the night, kids.  Now that wasn't, that was just a war.  But imagine because of your faith, somebody showing up at your door.  And Paul is trying to encourage those who are suffering these things.  James is going to write, and Peter, to the Diaspora, those who have been spread out through the known world, and see them as those who are sown like seed into the lost world.  Yes, there was persecution in Jerusalem, and believers were driven out, but it was God's way of scattering them like seed through the known world.  And he's trying to encourage them.  He himself, you know, Paul and Silas, he said 'We despaired of life itself when we were in Asia [in Asia Minor],' and he talked about the hardship he himself had experienced.  And he's saying 'Remember, yes, there were those, through your own heritage, your own legacy as God's chosen people the Jews, there were many, in the Old Testament, who saw great things happen because of faith.  But there also have been many more that have suffered, and lived and died in faith, not seeing the answer to their prayers and their faith,' and he says, 'those of whom the world was not even worthy.'  Now, take note of that, because I think Paul's trying to comfort why-er's, 'Why do you think that's happening?  Why do you think this is happening?  Moses got out of it, look at what happened to him at the Red Sea, and every time I get to the Red Sea I drown in the Red Sea, and look at this, and look at that circumstance, and why do you think it happened to him?' and people try to figure all of that out.  To me that's as torturous as the circumstance itself, trying to figure all of that out.  

 

We Have To Be Careful Of Judging People By Their Circumstances

 

And you see, here's the thing that you and I have to take note of.  You can construct an equation, where you say to someone, 'Because you're living in sin and rebellion, this is what the Scripture says, and if you continue to do that, you're going to end up under the chastening hand of God, and here are examples, you're sinning against God, you're living in rebellion, and he loves you too much to approve of that, so you're running out of room, and ultimately you're going to find yourself in difficulty.'  You can construct that equation from the front-end.  But you can't look at someone who is suffering or in difficulty and say 'Aha! Because I see them suffering, therefore they must have done something wrong to get into this circumstance,' that's what Job's counselors did.  And what God is saying here, 'No, there are many who are right in the middle of my love and my will, who are suffering, and in difficulty,' and we have to be careful of judging people by their circumstances, when we have no idea what led up to that.  You know the disciples were told to get into the boat and go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus sent them into the storm.  There are storms of correction, no doubt, but there are storms of instruction also.  And we have to be careful that we don't do that, because there's a whole [warped] theology out there that's going to say to someone 'Oh, you're struggling financially? or there's illness in your life?  You must be in sin, or there must be a lack of faith in your life.'  That is heretical, it's wrong.  Again, I remember hearing somebody years ago on the radio, and just saying 'Oh yea, Joni Eriksson,' [and painted her in that light] and she's just a hero to me.  'Joni Eriksson, sure, she does great things for God, but if she really had faith, she'd get up out of that wheelchair.'  You know, I just wanted to reach through that radio [laughter], and grab that guy by his throat, and pull him out my end, and waffle him.  I was in the flesh, it was not right [my feelings exactly though, but God will do it to those that say this, in the end].  And if he'd have blamed me, I'd have denied it, and everybody would have believed me, not him.  [laughter]  I believe in grace, I've repented, been forgiven, but.  You know, you hear people that do that, somebody's being tortured or in illness or a difficult circumstance in life, and they're searching their heart, they're broken, they're saying 'Lord, why?  If you're all-powerful, you're on the throne, if you love me, why this suffering?' and then to have somebody come along and drop that kind of bomb on you.  That just really bothers me.  [I'd hate to see the bomb God's gonna drop on people like that later.  I don't want to be standing near them when that takes place.]  Some of the most remarkable people in this church, and some of the most remarkable people I know, and some of the most remarkable people I've read of, are people who have gone through things that are way more difficult than anything I have ever faced.  I whine and complain, I'm such a wimp.  Pray for me that nothing ever happens to me.  [loud laughter]  But I've watched folks in our church lose children, lose spouses, I've watched folks in our church, their own body disintegrating from cancer.  I know folks in our church that have seen someone in their family shot to death right in front of them, or forsaken by husbands or wives, infidelity, things that might send somebody to the bar or to drugs, and I've watched people in our church, and I've watched their lives, and I've watched them hold onto Jesus Christ, and I've seen their tears, and felt such a lack of words for anything to say.  But I've stood back and admired the depth of their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, when there was no evidence in the circumstance.  How do we know he loves us when life is falling apart?  In this is manifest the love of God, that he sent his Son into the world to be the propitiation for our sins, in this is manifest the love of God, that he sent his Son into the world, to be the place where he would satisfy his own wrath, so it wouldn't have to come on us.  What greater love could there ever be? that I would punish one of my own sons, they cried out to me for deliverance, Dad, my God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? and fire all of my anger and wrath upon them so somebody whose at enmity with me can be forgiven?  I don't know why, sometimes, I don't know why [bad things are happening to them].  People ask me why, and I have to say 'I don't know.'  But I do know, some day we'll stand on the other side, and we will know fully, even as we are fully known. 

 

'And All These Received A Good Report Through Faith, Never Having Received The Promise'

 

And he says here 'There are those that have endured such remarkable things, other's they're of a different kind, they didn't see victory over circumstances through faith, they saw victory through circumstances, under circumstances, cruel mockings and scourgings, bonds and imprisonment, they were stoned,' Stephen of course, 'sawn in half,' [Isaiah] I don't know whether that's worse or a shark is worse, 'tempted, slain with the sword, wandered about in sheepskins and in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, Of whom the world was not worthy.  They wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.' (verses 36-38) David did that for years.  "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:" (verse 39)  That's the divine estimation, "a good report"  I don't know, for 12 years in school I wanted to get a good report and never did.  I can get one now.  "these all, having obtained a good report through faith," Joni Eriksson blows my mind, Corey ten Boom, things that she went through in Ravensbruck, the German concentration camp, watching her sister die in front of her.  Paul the apostle, just the things that happened in his life, you read in 2nd Corinthians, the list of those things, like wow.  Of course, Jesus himself, and our author is going to bring us to that point.  'They obtained a good report through faith,' isn't it interesting, even Samson's getting a good report here, through faith.  When we read of Abraham we don't get any of the lapses of faith in his life, when he tells Sarah to lie when they go down to Egypt.  You don't get any of that.  Jacob, in one sentence we hear about his faith.  I mean, that's because everything else that could have been said but that one sentence would have been trouble.  Just look at some of these people, they obtained a good report through faith.  And even those unnamed believers who suffered and died, where people in this world would point to them and say 'They don't have faith, that's why they're dying, that's why they're sick,' that's crazy, that's crazy.  You know, isn't it interesting, one of the main proponents of the 'Faith Doctrine' of 'The Word of Faith Movement' who says everybody is supposed to be healed, and everybody's supposed to prosper, and I look at them and think 'Why do you have crossed eyes?  If your faith is so strong,' I'm not gonna name any names, but 'Why do you have crossed eyes?' I'm tired of listening to this guy, strange looking character.  "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith," I was in the hospital a little while ago, and they covered it all up, because of course it wouldn't look right for somebody with this theology to be in the hospital.  Deception, isn't it?  [obviously he's referring to one of these Word of Faith Movement leaders, sick in the hospital.  Gotta love God's sense of humour.]  "And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:" that's singular, "promise" in regards to the Messiah, in regards to the Kingdom [i.e. entering into the Kingdom of God]  "God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." (verses 39-40)  Now, Jesus said 'Abraham longed to see my day, and he saw it, he rejoiced.  You know, they have Moses, if they don't believe Moses, Moses wrote, and the things he wrote of testify of me.'  Those Old Testament saints saw Christ, they saw Messiah, they saw the Kingdom, and it says 'they died not having received the thing they looked for.'  'Abraham wandered in the land of promise as a stranger and a pilgrim, looking for a city whose builder and maker is God,' he never received that, he died in faith.  And it says here there's this whole line of believers in every age that have died that way, 'God having some better thing for us, that they should not be made perfect without us.'  In other words, if a hundred years ago, believers would have received the end of their faith, the Kingdom would have come, you and I wouldn't have been born, you and I wouldn't have been saved.  [Comment:  The whole first segment of the Plan of God revolves around all the believers from righteous Abel to the two witnesses in Jerusalem just before the 2nd coming of Christ, this being what the Bible terms "the Bride of Christ", and this Bride receiving the promises and eternal life at the time of the 1st resurrection to immortality, all together in one fell swoop, all at once.  Those saved during the Millennial reign of the Kingdom of God on earth is another phase or part of this overall Plan of God, God's master-plan of salvation.]  God having some better thing, it says "And these all having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:  God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." (verses 39-40)  I got saved in 1972, I'm glad God waited that long.  But selfish old man that I am, I wish he'd come now, 'I'm in, so get us outa here Lord.'  But the truth is, there are thousands of others that will come into the Kingdom, 'God having some better thing for them, that we without them should not be made perfect.'  But we're believing.  Some better thing for us, certainly the new birth, certainly the new covenant, certainly faith in Christ, not complete, but more complete than what they enjoyed in the Old Testament. 

 

Hebrews 12:1-3

 

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience 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 is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds."

 

'We're Surrounded By This Great Cloud Of Testimonies Which We Just Read Through

 

"Wherefore" he says, "seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us," (Hebrews 12:1)  "Wherefore," in light of all this, 'seeing we also are compassed, we're surrounded about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us do two things, let us lay aside every weight and sin, [and] let us run with patience the race.'  We're surrounded with this cloud of witnesses, he says here.  Now the word is not a "witness" who is observing something or looking at something, it's someone who is "a witness of something, to let somebody else know about that thing."  In other words, we're surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses. What does that mean?  Does that mean that Abraham and Enoch and Noah and Abel and Isaac and Rahab and David and all those guys are standing around watching us, cheering us on?  'Come ooooh, you can do it!'  [laughter]  Does that mean that your mom and your dad and your grandpa and Charles Spurgeon and all those who've gone before us, that right now they're standing around cheering you on?...and that when you do something stupid in traffic, you go, 'Oh man, they're all watching.'  Or you loose your temper or have an argument with your wife, or scream at your kids, or scream at your parent, or scream at yourself in the mirror, that they're all going 'Oh wow, did you hear that!?'  That's not what it means.  Just think how crazy that whole idea is.  What you're saying is, heaven is so boring, all they got to do is stand around and watch us.  You know what?  If heaven is like that, so that my relatives and friends that have gone on before me are standing around watching me, that ain't much of a heaven, I'll tell you.  If I'm more exciting than what's going on there.  I think that what's going on in heaven is the glory that's in front of them.  If any of you have lost loved ones, what are they beholding?  Think of what's in their view right now, think of what's in front of them.  They are in the place that they were made for.  Every color is the color that they've longed for.  You know, when your wife at home says 'Honey, you know we need to change the color of the carpet.'  I do it, but I know it's futile, because it's not really the color she's looking for.  Then you have to change the color of the wall to go with the color of the carpet, the color of the clothes, drapes.  You know, just when we get there, all of a sudden we're going to see, understand what our eye-balls are for, what they were meant to see, of glory, of things shining and glistening, and refracting and reflecting light, and shining.  Then we're going to understand what the most comfortable temperature is [Pastor Joe and his wonderful wife cannot agree on the thermostat setting for their house in winter], and my wife will not be in charge of the thermostat [shut-up, you have a wife, be grateful].  That'll be heaven in and of itself.  Then we'll understand what ears were made for, when we hear myriads, untold millions of saints and angels singing.  And every voice, redeemed, none of that cat with a truck on its tail singing anymore.  Just everybody, then just imagine, with those who've gone to glory, and in front of their eyes is Jesus Christ in his glory with the cherubim around him singing 'Holy! Holy! Holy!'.  You think they're standing around saying 'This is boring, I want to watch Joe,'  Just think how crazy that is.  No, no, they're not a witness like that. [Comment: Now this idea of all the saints being up in heaven conscious and alive, before the resurrection to immortality spoken of by Paul in 1st Corinthians 15 is for those who believe the spirit-in-man, the human spirit stays conscious after death and goes to heaven.  The other side of the Body of Christ believes the spirit-in-man goes unconscious upon death, yes, does go up to heaven, awaiting God's re-uniting it with the body it came out of at the time of the resurrection, whether that be the first resurrection to immortality or the second resurrection back to physical life---two schools of thought and theology here.  And none of us will know whose right until we die and find out, now, will we.  This doctrinal understanding is a twiggy one, that doesn't quite square with the Bible doctrines about the two major Bible resurrections.  What he's really describing is what we'll be seeing and experiencing in the New Jerusalem after it comes down to earth, cf. Revelation 21:1-23.]  Now what he's saying is, 'we're surrounded with this great cloud of testimonies that we just went through,' that they encourage us.  It doesn't say they're standing around watching us.  The testimony of their lives and their faith is to be an encouragement to us.  'Oh I'm too old to get started now, I understand what you're saying, but I can't make a serious commitment.'  Wait a minute, Abraham was 75 years old.  'Well you don't understand, I'm 85.'  Well Noah was 800.  [laughter]  'Well I'm having troubles with my family, I have troubles at home.'  Well Jacob stands up off the page and says "Come on, you can do it, I had four wives, 12 kids, don't tell me about your problems"  [And his four wives were extremely jealous of each other, two of them being sisters.]  'I really can't put my life on the altar.'  Isaac said, 'You have no idea what it feels like to put your life on the altar.'  'I struggle with sexual temptation.'  So did Samson, so did David, they're here in front of us.  The Book of Hebrews is exhorting the first century Hebrew Christians, and us, obviously, to have faith in the One, in the One, and we're surrounded with this great cloud of witnesses, in every age, that believed in him.  That their testimony is to be an encouragement to us.  That's what the grammar says here.  The sufferers of other ages, are you suffering tonight?  And I know some of you are.  Are you in difficulty tonight?  Are you in pain in your physical frame?  Are you broke, destitute, afflicted?  I know that some of you are.  There are those who will rise up off the page and say, 'I believed, you can believe, I believed, you can believe.  It's still in front of you, the promise of God is still real.'  The difficulties of life have not contradicted the promises of God, they're yea, and amen, and they still lay on the horizon in front of us.  You know, the world is completely different than that.  What do worldly people hope in?  What are they after?  What are they trying to get hold of?  And when they get it, it's a vapour, it's an illusion.  You know, I love David, he says, "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life."  One translator translates that, 'Goodness and mercy shall hunt me all the days of my life.'  You know, worldly men and women are out seeking good things for themselves.  It says for the believer goodness and mercy is hunting us all the days of our lives.  Seeing we are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses there's encouragement there. 

 

'Let Us Lay Aside Every Weight, We're In A Race'

 

"Let us" do two things, first, "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us," that's the first thing.  Lay aside every weight, and then every sin, two things, every weight.  We're running a race here.  I don't know about you guys, I was glued to the Olympics all I could be, Michael Phelps, I felt like, you know I shouldn't say this, I felt like they really, in the team sports there were so many calls against us.  Europe and the rest of the world are sick of Americans.  So I loved the races where it was one guy against one guy, or one gal against one gal, because they couldn't say nothing if we won, because we won, 'we won, nah!'  [laughter]  But you see the swimmers, they all got their different rubber thing on their head, I guess to keep their hair from slowing them down, or if they had big ears they had their ears pulled down over their head, and some of them have the streamlined long outfit with stripes in it, none of them have ribs running this way, that would, they're all streamlined, they study the belly of a whale, they got those ridges down, put that on a bathing suit, make 'em swim faster.  And the runners, they all have their stuff.  It's interesting, I love that 26 mile run, I watch that, because to me anybody who wants to do that to themselves is insane, so I enjoy watching other people do it.  It's just not the race that I'm called to run, but.  And I knew, I watched, and the one runner from the United States, they got the silver.   I kept watching, because I knew before the race was over, he was going to knock his hat off, because I kept looking at that hat thinking, 'OK, you're in Athens, you're in the middle of the day, the sun is hot, so there's some scientific reason, you've been coached, and you've got this white hat on, it's not a black hat, it's not drawing the heat, it's a white hat and it's reflecting the heat, and I know there's some science to keep you from overheating,' but I'd have at least turned it around backwards, because it seems like if the flap was in the back you'd run faster, but you know, I'm thinking the whole time, 'That's slowing you down,' and I knew somewhere before it was over he was going to throw that thing off, and I watched and watched and watched, and sure enough before they got close to the stage, that hat came flying off, and I thought 'I knew it!'  You don't want that, every weight is going here.  They say that over one third of Americans are overweight, probably round figures, but you know. [nobody laughs] Oh come on!  But the term used here in the Greek applied to two things, it applied to unnecessary body weight.  In the Greek games they would torture themselves to get their body fat content down.  We were watching, they talked about one runner that ran 150 miles without stopping, in less than 48 hours, and dropped dead when he got to where he was supposed to go, he gave the message and died.  He ran 150 miles without stopping.  [Now Pastor Joe has got his facts screwed up.  That was the very first marathon runner, who ran from Marathon, Greece to Athens, 26 miles, at full speed, to tell of the Persian attempt to invade Marathon.  He dropt dead after delivering the message.  I can't remember whether he was warning of the Persian assault, invasion, or their victory over the Persian army, where their hoplite soldiers slaughtered over 2,000 Persians while hardly loosing a man.]  Now you know he wasn't carrying stuff, he didn't have hoagies under his arms, his favorite dictionary in his hand, I mean, let us cast off every weight, you know, we strip down to what we need to run the race, is the idea here. 

 

'We're All In A Race, Running Against Ourselves

 

And, it says, the other thing is, "and the sin which doth so easily beset us," it's an interesting construct, it's sin that encircles us, sin standing around.  Camel Morgan, I love it, he translates it 'every sin in good standing around,' and the idea is, we're running a race.  They run a race, and Paul says they run it to receive a laurel wreath, we saw that all through these Olympic Games, and it's a fading crown, and only one gets to be the winner, Paul says.  Of course, now we have gold, silver, and bronze.  But not in this race.  In this race everybody wins.  Because who you're running against is you're running against yourself.  When we start to compete with other Christians, it's just a sign that we're in the flesh, and we're carnal.  Because the race we run is the race that God, it says, "that is set before us," it's set out before us, God's sovereignty is involved in it.  Each of us has a lane.  And when you're in that hundred-meter, and 400-meter, you are in that lane.  They tell them, "don't look at the crowd, don't look around at other runners, because it slows you down, just keep your eyes on your lane, and you keep your eyes on the goal, and you don't take your eyes off, and you run that way."  And each of us, we're running against ourselves.  I want to be a better teacher, I don't want to be a funky, old, crotchety, miserable pastor.  I want to be more like Jesus next year than I am this year.  I want to pray more next year than I do this year.  I'm running against myself.  And every one of us has a lane that we run in.  Every one of us has a coarse, it says "that is set out before us," the idea is, it stretches out before us.  And we're running our race.  Some of us, in running our race, we're exercising faith towards God, and we're having victory over circumstances.  Some of us are running our race, and we're having victory under circumstances.  And for each of us, 'we have to lay aside every weight, and every sin that doth so easily beset us.'  The sin in good standing is some of that.  When you think of stripping off every weight, it's every little thing, every little thing that would slow you down.  Because you see some of those swimmers touch the wall one one-hundredth of a second ahead of the other guy, which gives them the gold.  They strip down everything.  And it says this is the race that we're running.  It's a race that's set out in front of each of us as an individual, and we're running against ourselves, not against anyone else.  And we have to know the weights that we carry, that we really don't need to carry.  You and I have to know, first of all, sin in good standing.  You know there's those big, black terrible sins, and then there's those little, not so bad white sins.  But when you're running a race, you want all of that off.  You know, there's like sin in good standing.  'My son's not a murderer, he just has a drink once in a while.'  [now the Bible teaches drinking in extreme moderation is ok.  Calvary Chapels, reaching out to alcoholics and drug addicts doesn't prescribe to alcohol consumption at all for that reason.]  'My daughter is not a harlot, she just loves to go, [laughter] you didn't know what I was going to say, 'She loves to go see Madonna, yea we stand in line to get our tickets.'  Wait a minute, what's your Achilles heal?  You know, we wrestle in different arenas, we have different stuff, we're all individuals.  God loves us that way, we're glad that we have the freedom to be individuals, but that means we have different struggles.  Some of us struggle with fear, some of us with bitterness, some of us with lust, some of us with gambling, some of us with addiction and substance abuse, we all wrestle with different stuff.  But we're not running against each other.  "So let us set aside every weight, and every sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience" that's endurance, perseverance "the race that is set before us," God has set it, he's given us a lane.  There is something that is set out in front of each of us.  That's our course.

 

'How Should We Run Our Race?  What, Who Do We Put Our Focus On?

 

How do we do that?  Verse 2 tells us how we do it.  "looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of" not of "our faith" but "of the faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds." (verses 2-3) in your minds, in your minds.  Isn't it interesting?  "In your minds," isn't it interesting?  Because some of us here could run a mile and some of us would drop dead at 100 meters.  But there's a race we all run here [pointing to his head, obviously].  "lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.  Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin." (verses 3b-4)  And the sin particularly of unbelief is what it's talking about here.  How do we run this race?  Looking unto Jesus.  Now it's interesting, it's "Ever looking off unto Jesus," there's a construct there that's very interesting, "Ever looking off unto Jesus," it's as though you're in your lane, and you're running your race, and the finish line is Jesus himself.  You're not looking at Abraham, you're not looking at Moses.  You know, their lives were an example to you that the race in fact can be run.  There are those who have suffered, Joni Eriksson, Corey ten Boom, and the race can be run, you read "Foxe's Book of Martyrs" and it says the race can be run, but who we're looking off unto is Jesus.  He's both the author of our faith, it's because of him we're saved, and he's the finisher.  The finisher is, he was the first to lead, it's a construction of two words, he led first, he's the pioneer.  He didn't just say, 'I want you to do it,' he did it.  He didn't just come down here and exercise all of his divine prerogatives, he came as a man, he said to Satan when he tempted him, "Man does not live by bread alone," and he wept, and he bled, and he sweat, and he suffered, and he feared.  'Ever looking off unto Jesus, who was the first to finish, cross the finish-line, and is the author and the finisher, keeping our eyes on him.'  Not your Jesus, my Jesus.  I'm not called to keep my eyes on your Jesus.  Now I say that in this sense, ok, a lot of us have a personal relationship, 'Don't tell me your Jesus is one of the ascended masters, you know he has a special ministry, you know, to the Hopi Indians, or he's the same Jesus in the Bakivad-ida,' no, no, no, no.  When I say your Jesus and my Jesus, I'm talking about our own personal relationship with "the Jesus of the Bible, of the tribe of Judah, the Jewish Messiah, born of a virgin, crucified under Pontius Pilate, raised again, returning, the Jesus of the Bible."  My race is in relationship to my Jesus, my Jesus, the Jesus that's saying to me, 'Do it now.'  Isn't it interesting, that chapter 11 began by saying "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  But isn't it interesting that it says "Now faith"?  And he's challenging me in my life about "now faith," not yesterday's faith, not tomorrow's faith, "now faith."  I know that's out of context, forgive me, but the idea is "my Jesus," the one who says to me, 'Do it now, don't procrastinate, don't carry this weight one more day, cast it away,  Don't let sin in good standing entangle you,' and that's the idea, 'cast that off, run the race that I have set before your life with endurance, with perseverance---ever looking to me.'  That's all he asks.  Because he's the author and the finisher of my faith.  He provides everything I need along the way, he himself has run every step, I have a High Priest who can be touched with my infirmities, because he suffered in every way, yet without sin.  And I can come boldly to the throne of grace to receive help in time of need in this race that I'm running, ever looking off unto Jesus, it says here, whose the author and the finisher of my faith. 

 

Jesus, God Has Given Us A Rule-Book Showing Us How This Race Is To Be Run

 

So don't tell me 'Well my Jesus tells me,' no, no, no, no, Our Jesus gave us the rule-book.  Ok?  I just saw somewhere in the news today this, and I hadn't seen it during the Olympics, somebody got up on the high dive with some kind of a purple leotards and a little tu-tu, some guy, and some advertisement for something "dot-com" and disrupted the competition and jumped off the high-dive with some crazy ballerina outfit on, and now the Greeks are thinking of sentencing him to prison for five months [and make him wear the leotard, tu-tu outfit in there, sorry couldn't help myself].  And he's saying 'Oh well I didn't think it was a big deal.'  Well that's my point.  Let's go back to the point, because I lost you out there with the tu-tu on the diving board.  The point is, there are rules, and you have to run the race according to the rules [i.e. the Ten Commandments, Matthew 5:17-48, 1st John 3:4, etc.].  It's an open-book test, ok, that should put us all ahead.  [Now Pastor Joe, if you know anything about those teachers that gave open-book tests, they were some of the toughest tests I've ever taken.]  It's an open book test, but Paul will say in another place, that we strive for mastery, we strive according to the rules.  Don't tell me your Jesus says you can live in sin, you can live in fornication, you can go out and get drunk, you can be gambling your family's money away, you can be filled with hatred and unforgiveness.  No, no, no, no, he's given us all the same rule-book that we compete within the pages of.  But my course is different, we're not competing on the same course.  Paul said, 'I've finished my course, I've kept the faith,' he had a course for his life.  Every one of us has a course for our life, and it's custom-made, God's sovereignty rules over it, within the context of it there is victory over circumstances and there is victory under circumstances for every single one of us.  Every one of us in this room will suffer, every one of us in this room will, if the Lord tarries, will die, every one of us in this room, if God tarries, will feel the breakdown of our physical frame and be trapped within it one day, and long to be set free to be with Jesus, across the finish-line.  What I'm hoping is, because I'm an escapist, is the Trumpet will blow, and we'll all be out of here, and we'll cross all together, that's what I'm hoping.  And I don't think that's a bad thing.  Somebody says 'Well you're crazy.'  Well I'm crazy about great things, I'm crazy about Jesus.  People are crazy about all kinds of stuff out there.  Look what people do, look how they dress, look at what they spend money on.  I just saw this new sports car the other day, we were watching it on TV, it starts at $175,000.  It don't go as fast as I'm going to go when I get my new body [or my Starship Enterprise, Next Gen, composed of spirit, with spirit-warp-drive engines, for slow sailing across the universe, forgive me, I'm a sailor at heart, and that's the next level of sailing, for all you real sailors.]  [laughter]  I'm crazy, everybody's crazy.  I live in the world with the same six [seven] billion people you do, they're all nuts.  It's just a matter of what you are crazy about, that's the important thing. 

 

What Motivated Jesus In His Race?

 

'Ever looking off unto Jesus the author and the finisher of the faith,' "who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."  "And for the joy that was set before him," and what was that joy that was set before him?  People try to wrestle that all around.  It tells us, even in Isaiah 53, it says, 'he shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied, for by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many,' cleanse them from their iniquities, 'he shall see the travail of his soul, he shall be satisfied,' Jude says it this way, 'Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory, with exceeding joy.'  For the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame.  What was the joy that was set before him?  You and I, one day all in glory, 'Father, I will that those whom you have given unto me be with me where I am,' he says (cf. John 17).  That's the only time he says to his Father, "my will."  Every other place it's "your will be done."  The one time he exerts his own will, and he says 'Father, I just long for the day that they're all with me in glory, and they can behold the glory that I had with you before the world began,' for the joy that was set before him, it's you and I, that one day, he's going to take you and I, and present us faultless before the throne of his Father, and he's going to say, 'Father, meet my Bride, meet my Bride.'  And we won't look like we do now, look around the room.  The Father would say 'You sure?'  [laughter]  No, this corruption will put on incorruption, this mortal will put on immortality, we will be spotless and pure, we'll be perfect (cf. 1st Corinthians 15:49-54; Revelation 19:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10; Daniel 12:1-3).  And the Father will say 'Wow!  I understand,' "for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross,"  It's interesting, John tells us, I think chapter 10 or 11, that Jesus was wandering in Solomon's Portico during the Feast of Lights (Chanukah), in the winter, it was winter, wandering alone in Solomon's Portico, because within six months Peter would preach a sermon there and 3,000 souls would be saved, in the Book of Acts.  Jesus before the cross, wandering in Solomon's Portico, alone, for the joy that was set before him, he endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of power, set down. 

 

In Closing

 

'What more can I say?' he says to us, 'of Gideon, of Barak, of Jephthah, of David, Samson, the prophets, who did incredible things through faith, subduing kingdoms, putting to flight the armies of aliens, some even refusing to be delivered, still having control of their circumstances, that they might obtain a better resurrection.  But then there were others of a different kind, who endured cruel mockings, scourgings, they were imprisoned, they were in bonds, they were driven, in sheepskins, goatskins, destitute, poor, afflicted, men and women of whom this world is not worthy, who lived and died in faith, and did not see the promise, God having some  better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.  Therefore, seeing we're surrounded with such a great cloud of testimonies, of brothers who lived and died in faith, let us lay aside every weight and sin that doth so easily beset us, and let us run with endurance, perseverance, the race that is set out before us as individuals, ever looking off unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith, who for the joy, the glory, that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the Father.'  What a great race we're running.  You know, I'm so thankful that I can get to run it with you guys.  I really am.  Whatever comes, whatever God has for us, before this is all over, I'm so thankful that he put me in a family of believers, I'm so thankful for my family, my wife and my kids, I'm so thankful for you guys, that we're here together.  Whatever comes, you know, I don't know what's going to happen.  If terrorism comes, and smallpox sweeps across this neighbourhood, I'm glad I'm going to get spotted with you guys.  If a nuke goes off out in the parking lot, I'm glad I'm going up with you guys.  If something terrible happens and we all stand around going 'oooh, ooh, ooooh,' I'm glad I get to do that with you guys.  What a privilege, and what a great race we're running.  And I pray that we can all be an encouragement to one another, to exhort one another, it says, while it is called today, to love and to good works, not forsaking the assembling together of ourselves as is the manner of some.  But all the more, being faithful to gather, to worship, to study as we see the day drawing near, what a privilegeÉ[transcript of a connective expository sermon on Hebrews 11:32-40 and 12:1-3, given by Pastor Joe Focht, Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia, 13500 Philmont Avenue, Philadelphia, PA  19116]       

 

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