Run the race

Wilson Lake Message – Hebrews 12:1-3

I am sure many of you are watching at least some part of the Olympic games from Brazil.  The modern Olympics began in the late 1890’s, but historically, they date back to the days of St. Paul.  In fact, the author of Hebrews may have been using an Olympic reference in our text when he writes ‘let us run with endurance the race that is set before us’.

Most of you are familiar with what is needed to be a good runner, and to run in a race.  You need to prepare yourself; you need to eat right and you need to exercise.  You cannot just wake up one morning and go out and run a mile long race and expect to win; rather you need to wake up every morning and practice and train, so that when the day comes, you are able to endure the race that is set before you.

The author of Hebrews likens preparing for a race to the Christian faith.  You cannot just wake up one morning and update your Facebook status to Christian and call it good.  If you do, well you will last about as long as a runner who has not trained for a race.

To be a Christian requires training; studying the word so that when the attacks of the devil come, you are ready and are not led into temptation.  To be a Christian requires a diet of the true body and blood of Jesus.  To be a Christian means taking the daily medicine of confession and absolution.

To be a Christian requires training your body to withstand the attacks of the devil, to stand firm in the face of opposition, to be bold in your confession of the name of Jesus.

How long does this take?  Well, I suppose if you are a fast learner you could do it in a few months, or even a year.  You can read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the Word of the Lord and take it to heart, and you can be out on the street corner boldly proclaiming the faith you believe, teach and confess.

But beware.  Do not ignore the plight of many former Olympic gold medalists.

It takes years to prepare; years of practice and early morning training sessions; it takes a strict diet and discipline.

But that can all be lost in a matter of months, if not days.

For those Olympians who do not continue to practice and train and eat right, they soon find themselves looking like many who never set foot in the gym, who never passed up seconds at a potluck, who never did run that mile.

And such is the case for us Christians as well.  You may indulge in the Word for a year or two; may pass all the requirements for confirmation; may even find yourself in a position of leadership and responsibility, but if you do not continue to read, mark, learn and inwardly digest that word; if you fast from that diet of Christ’s body and blood; if you refuse to take the medicine of confession and absolution; then you will be very much like those who never heard the word and believed to begin with.

For the life of a Christian is not a sprint.  You do not run 100 yards, confess the creed so many times, and pray the Lord’s Prayer and declare yourself set for life.  Satan is patient, he will wait until you are tired of getting up for Sunday School, will hold out until you skip church 3 weeks in a row, will count the number of days that you skip your devotions; and then he will pounce.

Rather the Christian life is a race, a long and grueling race that is filled with temptations and traps and hurdles.  A life that if not nourished regularly with word and sacrament, will soon find itself lost in the weeds of despair and destruction.

But running alongside you is Jesus; who never gives up, who constantly encourages, who reminds you that the reward for you, child of God, is not a gold medal, but the crown of eternal life.

Do not grow lazy in your faith, cling to it.  Hear the Word, receive the gifts, and fix your eyes on Jesus, this day, and always.

I

About revschmidt

An LCMS Pastor in North-Central Kansas
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