Des Smith, lead pastor from Trinity Lockleys Church in South Australia reminds of the importance of finishing to the end.
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guys. It’s been such a wonderful week, hasn’t it? Such a full week, such a rich week. Have you got 15 more minutes in? You, Have you. Let’s bring this home. Hebrews 12 verses 1 to 3 words. You will know. Well, let’s read them together now. Hebrews 12 verses one, two, three. They’re up your screen.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw up everything that hinders and the sin that so easily and let us run. With perseverance, the race marked out for us fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith for the joy set before him. He endured the cross, scorning its shine and set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider who endured such opposition from sinners so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Coming up on the screen is Florence Chadwick. Florence Chadwick was a famous long distance swimmer in 1952. She tried to swim from the coast of California to Catalina Island, a distance of some 26 miles for 15 hours, she endured choppy waters, possible shark attack and extreme fatigue.
But Then thick fog set in. She gave up. Turns out she’d only been a mile from her destination.
Two months later, she tried again. This time, though, it was foggy again. She made it and she was asked afterwards what made the difference. She said this. She said The first time all I could see was the fog. The second time I kept a mental image of that shoreline in my mind while I swam. Visualizing the destination was how she persevered in her journey.
How much do you think about heaven? For me? To be honest, it’s not very much. You know, I’m so caught up in the business of life. I barely think about next week, let alone eternity. But I know it would help me if I dwelled on it much more. If I reminded myself often that one day all of this will be over.
And I’ll have eternity to enjoy. But this life is just water getting a little bit shallower each day. And that one day I will step out onto Coastline of eternity. That’s where I want us to lift our eyes as we leave this place the ultimate better together. The new creation. And to lift our eyes to the great cloud of witnesses cheering us on there and the Lord Jesus Christ who has gone before us.
As you all know, this passage starts at the beginning of Hebrews Chapter 11, verses 1 to 2 with a discussion of the nature of faith. It’s coming up on the screen now. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the Ancients were commended for. Now, as we know, many people in our community think that faith just means blind belief.
You know, they think that belief is. Faith is belief without evidence or in its most extreme form belief despite evidence, you know, sort of bloody minded wish fulfillment. You know, the queen in through the looking glass, who boasted of believing at least six impossible things before breakfast. But of course not what faith is. Faith is not belief without evidence.
It’s belief without sight. It’s the assurance of what we do not see. You know, you can believe things you can’t see. You’ve just got to have good evidence for them. Well, what in Hebrews 11 are people believing without seeing? Well, it’s the final resurrection. It’s the new creation. That’s why they can’t see it. It hasn’t happened yet. And What evidence have they got to believe it?
Well, they’ve got the promises of God. You see, the rest of Hebrews Chapter 11 is really just a long list of people that God made a promise to about the future and who trusted that promise. So, Noah, by faith, Noah, when warned about not yet seen in Holy fear, built an ark to save his family, God won’t know a flood was coming.
Noah believed him, even though he’d not yet seen the flood because it hadn’t yet happened. And so he built an ark or Abraham. This is 8 to 9 by faith. Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going by faith.
He made his home in the promised Land like a stranger in a foreign country. He lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise by faith when God told him to go to a new land. Abraham both went and settled there because God promised him that he’d one day give it to him.
And the rest of the chapter is full of examples like that. Sarah is promised a son, verse 12, and so she trusts that promise. Judges, kings and prophets of promised kingdoms, verse 33. And so they trust that promise. That’s what faith is. Faith is trust in the promises of God. Now, one of the promises in this chapter about, well, one way or another, they’re all promises to save these people from death.
So Enoch, verse five, by Faith Enoch was taken from this life so that he did not experience death. He could not be found because God had taken him away. Or Noah, verse seven was saved from death in the flood. Abraham was saved from the death of childlessness and given the life of descendants as numerous as stars in the sky verses 11 and 12.
The point is, all of these promises here are, one way or another, promises to save these people from death. That’s what they’re trusting and that’s what their faith is in. And yet, right at the very end of this chapter, the rise of the Hebrews says that none of these people received what they’d been promised. Wasn’t a verse 39.
These were all commended for their faith. Yet none of them received what had been promised. Now, how can that be true? I mean, they were saved from death, weren’t they? I mean, Noah did get on his ark. Isaac did get off his altar. I mean, how can the right of his say that they didn’t get what was promised because what they were really being promised was eternal life to die, but then to be resurrected and to never die again?
You see, that’s why some of them are willing to die now here, aren’t they? First, 35 women received back their dead razed to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. They knew that God saving them from death now was really just a picture of the greater salvation of their resurrection to come.
That’s why they kept trusting promises to the end. Abraham verses 13 and 16. All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised. They only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they’re looking for a country of their own.
They’ve been thinking of the country they had left. They would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country, a heavenly one. Therefore, God is not ashamed to be called their God. So He has prepared a for them. An old missionary couple had been working in Africa for decades and they were returning to New York to retire.
They had no pension. Their health was shot and frankly, they were very discouraged. Now, as it happens, they were returning on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from Africa from one of his big game hunts. And as the boat pulled into the dock, this old missionary couple looked out and they saw the crowds flocking on the wharf to see him and the passengers straining to catch a glimpse of the great man as he disembarked.
But no one was there for the old missionary couple. The man turned to his wife upset. Something’s wrong here. Why should we have given up our whole lives in service to God all these years? And no one cares about us? This man. This man comes home from a hunting trip, and everyone makes a fuss of him. But no one gives two hoots about us.
I slipped off the ship and found a cheap hotel to spend the night that night. The man turns to his wife again. He says, I can’t take it. God is not treating us fairly. Well, why don’t you go into the bedroom and tell him? His wife said. And he did. A short time later, the man came back. But this time he was calm.
His Wife said, What happened? He said, You know, I settled it with God. I told him how how bitter I was that the president got a huge homecoming when he came home. But no one met us when we came home. And when I finished, I felt as if God put his hand on my shoulder and said yes, but you’re not home yet.
Then the writer tells us why God had not yet given has not yet given these ancients all he’s promised them the new creation, verse 39 and 40. These were all commended for their faith. Yet none of them received what had been promised since God had planned something better for us. So that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Do you see what God is doing? God is waiting for us to be saved. All of us to trust in Jesus before He brings in the new creation so that everyone can enjoy it together. I mean, God clearly thinks we are better together. So, brothers and sisters, what are we to do knowing that so many are waiting for the better that better resurrection until we finish the.
Well, with Iran. Chapter 12, verse one. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run with perseverance. The race marked out for us. You see, the Christian life he was pictured is a race, isn’t it? It’s like a marathon.
You know, like a marathon. It can be lonely and hard. You know, I always really feel for marathon runners, particularly when they’re out there on the road. You know, it looks so lonely. The summits that can go wrong so much that can hinder them so much they can slip up on. It’s the same for the Christian life, isn’t it?
There’s so much that can hinder or strip us up the suffering. The seen so many things that can stop us finishing the race. You know, the part of the marathon that I like best when I come into the stadium at the end, after all that time on the road, all that laboring by themselves when all they can hear is the beating of their heart and the laboring of their breath.
They see the stadium in the distance, and as they get closer, they hear the buzz of the crowd coming out the top of it, and then suddenly they’re inside and the buzz becomes a roar as 100,000 people get to their feet and they cheer them as they run down the track. That has got to feel good, right? Do you hear hundreds of thousands or thousands upon thousands of people cheering for them to finish the race?
Well, Christian, you have got millions upon millions of people cheering for you to finish the race. You are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Every believer who has ever lived and every one of them is up on their feet, roaring round. There’s Abraham, father of the patriarchs, receiver of the Covenant, and he’s up on his feet, KFC bucket on his head.
He’s waving his stuff around, yelling, Run! There’s Moses, this big beard and his tablets banging his tablets together. He’s yelling, Run! And there’s ain’t cooking round going on. Everyone even died. And he’s yelling, Ron, everyone’s calling for you. Everyone’s encouraging it. Ron brings the Bible. It’s not a book. It is a stadium. And every time you open it, you can hear its roar.
Ron, Ron, it’s been a great conference. Hasn’t it been so good to spend so much time together wrestling with the scriptures, learning from each other, singing together, wagging sections to grab coffee? You know, it’s funny. Every time I come here, it reminds me a bit about what I imagine, like, heaven will be like. You know, it’s like seeing old friends and making friends and gathering around Jesus and singing our hearts out in a huge crowd.
It’s great. I mean, it’s not hard to imagine, is it, at a conference like this that we are better together. But in a few moments and we’ll all be over. The emcees will come up and ask us to leave. You know, you drive home and you’ll do your laundry and you go back to real life. And real life won’t be like this.
This Sunday won’t be like this and won’t be as big. The band won’t have nearly as many guitars.
The congregation won’t be made up of entirely sold out gospel workers all trying to do the same thing. And as you go back to your small office or your half filled school gym, you may feel very alone. You are not alone. People in your church are with you. We are with you. Abraham is with you. And more importantly than anything, Jesus is with you who has gone before you.
Chapter 12. This one And let us run. With perseverance, the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Jesus has run this race before us. Jesus is the pioneer and perfector of faith. He has gone ahead. He’s cleared the path. He is God, our dear. He rules on high so you can finish the race and live with him forever. I don’t know what your race looks like. I bet you it’s full of hurdles. The brothers and sisters keep running, won’t you?
Too soon it will all be over. And you will be with Jesus forever. And it will be better. And we will be together. I’m going to praise the band comes up loving. Heavenly Father, we thank you so much for the reality of heaven that we get to go there, that this life will over in an instant. And yet Father is so hard to run that race.
Father, we pray that we would run. We be encouraged as we do that we Father, Thank you for the chance to do that this week in so many ways. And your father help us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of faith. Amen.