by Father Maurice J Nutt, C.Ss.R.

Scripture Text:  Hebrews 12:1-2

I am challenging you to join us in a journey – a pursuit actually. Pursuing a life that matters — a life of impact.  Life is full of decisions. Do you agree? But, do you know that the decisions that matter in life are not always earth shaking? It’s our day-to-day decisions that either makes us closer or farther from God. We call it steps of obedience.

Now, there are three decisions we need to make in our pursuit of a life of consequence. And we find it in Hebrews 12:1-2. “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.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (NIV) You may ask, what’s the “great cloud of witnesses”? We need not guess. Note the word “Therefore”. We have to ask, “Why is that “therefore” there for?”

Let’s check out the chapter before our verses.

It says in Hebrews 11:1, “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. It was by their faith that people of ancient times won God’s approval.” The entire chapter 11 talks about people who won God’s approval because they lived a life of faith.

They are the “great cloud of witnesses.” Hebrews 12:1 is translated this way in the International Children’s Bible: “So we have many people of faith around us. Their lives tell us what faith means.”

“Their lives tell us what faith means.” They lived trusting God in every step they made. And we should imitate their faith. They went before us in this pursuit. And they are telling us, “The pursuit is worth it!”

Note the word “race”. That’s the reason why I called this a pursuit.

In the Purpose Driven Life, Dr. Rick Warren wrote, “If I asked you how you picture life, what image would come to your mind? That image is your life metaphor. It’s your description of how life works and what you expect from it. It determines your expectations, your values, your relationships, your goals, and your priorities.”

Here we picture life as a race. But this is not a 100-meter dash. Life is a marathon.

2 Timothy 2:5 says: “Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor’s crown unless he competes according to the rules.”

Do you want to win this race? Compete according to the rules.

What are the rules? We find it in the three “Let us” in Hebrews 12:1-2.

“Let us throw off everything…”

“Let us run with perseverance the race…”

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…”

The first rule is assessment. We should have the right preparation.

In the ancient Olympics, an athlete must prove that he is a Greek citizen before he can compete. Otherwise he would be automatically disqualified. Therefore, if we haven’t accepted Jesus as our Savior, then we are not even in the race.

You also need to compete according to the rules not only during the race but also even before the race. In those times, athletes have to prepare at least ten months for the games before the actual event. Then they swear to that before a statue of their god. To fail in preparation meant disqualification.

You know, we are tempted to take shortcuts. But if we take shortcuts, we might short-circuit the process.

Verse 1 says, “let us throw off…” That means to remove things that would prevent us from winning the race. Preparation involves sacrifice.

We need to “throw off… the sin that so easily entangles”. Another biblical version translated it this way: “the sin which so easily ensnares us”.

I’m not just talking about “big” sins like immorality or theft. I’m also talking about “little” sins like envy, bitterness and gossip.

Life is not meant to be a cycle of “repent and repeat”. God wants us to have victory over our sins.

We also need to “throw off everything that hinders”.

In one translation, it says: “everything that slows us down”.

In another, it says: “everything that gets in the way”.

Preparation requires discipline. There are things that are not sins. Yet it can keep us from becoming what God intended us to become. It hinders us. It slows us down. It gets in the way. In other words, as a Bible scholar said, it refers to that “which hinders the believer from being a winner.”

For example, our success can be our failure. Our strength can be our weakness. We can be tempted to sit back and relax. Once we start patting our backs, that’s the end of it.

We should be like Paul who declared in Philippians 3:3:12-13: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.”

When he wrote this, Paul already saw the Lord face to face. Anyone here who had a vision of the Lord? Please raise your hand.

He already finished three missionary journeys. Most of us may have never even joined a short-term mission trip.

In his first trip, Paul went to Galatia where he spent 2 years. After that, he wrote the book of Galatians.

In his second trip, he went to Macedonia, Achaia and Greece. That took him three years. After that, he wrote two letters to the Thessalonians.

In his third trip, he went to Asia and spent four years there. He wrote two letters to the Corinthians.

Then Paul wrote his masterpiece: the letter to the Romans. There are pastors who would spend years just preaching through Romans chapter by chapter, verse by verse, word for word. Paul wrote that.

Most of us may have never even written a letter to the editor of a tabloid.

Paul shared some of his experiences in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28.

“Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. [That’s a total of 195 lashes!] Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.

Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches.”

Yet, despite that, Paul admitted in Philippians 3:12: “I do not claim that I have already succeeded or have already become perfect.”

Most of us have never even started when it comes to serving God. And yet we live as if we already succeeded.

Look at what Paul did: “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize…”

I’m not saying we dismiss our past. That’s not what I meant. What I am saying is that let us not live in the past. Let us not be so attached with the past that we just daydream about the good old days. We must press on. Let us not become so proud of what we achieved that we no longer attempt to do anything anymore.

As one commercial said, “The best just got better!”

The first step is assessment. We should have the right preparation.

The second step in pursuing a life of consequence is attitude. We should have the right determination. Hebrews 12:1 says: “and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

“Let us run” is a command to “keep on running.” And we are to “run with perseverance.” That means we “run the race that is before us and never give up.”

We are to run “the race marked out for us.” In Ephesians 2:10, it says: “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Even before we were born, God marked out a race for us. In one translation, it goes like this: “God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.”

And the race marked out by God for us is the pursuit of a life that matters.

The first step is assessment. We should have the right preparation. The second step in pursuing a life of consequence is attitude.

The third step is aspiration. We should have the right motivation.

Hebrews 12:2 says: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” Fix our eyes on Jesus. Not on our reputation. Not on ourselves.

That’s why “We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith.” He should be the one and only reason why we pursue this life of impact.

We are encouraged to “run with endurance… [To] fix our eyes on Jesus… [Who] endured the cross, scorning its shame,” Since Jesus endured, we must endure also.

Someone wrote this, which I say, to you: “I have nothing to offer but blood, tears and sweat.” We will only succeed if we endure together.

We are also commanded to “fix our eyes on Jesus… who for the joy set before him endured the cross… and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

If we work hard together, this is God’s promise for us. Since Jesus was rewarded, we shall be rewarded also.

Let me read this passage again:

“Today I am stepping across the line. I’m tired of waffling, and I’m finished with wavering. I’ve made my choice; the verdict is in; and my decision is irrevocable. I’m going God’s way. There’s no turning back now!

I will live the rest of my life serving God’s purposes with God’s people on God’s planet for God’s glory. I will use my life to celebrate his presence, cultivate his character, participate in his family, demonstrate his love, and communicate his Word.

Since my past has been forgiven, and I have a purpose for living and a home awaiting in heaven, I refuse to waste any more time or energy on shallow living, petty thinking, trivial talking, thoughtless doing, useless regretting, hurtful resenting, or faithless worrying. Instead I will magnify God, grow to maturity, serve in ministry, and fulfill my mission in the membership of his family.

Because this life is preparation for the next, I will value worship over wealth, “we” over “me,” character over comfort, service over status, and people over possessions, position, and pleasures. I know what matters most, and I’ll give it all I’ve got. I’ll do the best I can with what I have for Jesus Christ today.

I won’t be captivated by culture, manipulated by critics, motivated by praise, frustrated by problems, debilitated by temptation, or intimidated by the devil. I’ll keep running my race with my eyes on the goal, not the sidelines or those running by me.

When times get tough, and I get tired, I won’t back up, back off, back down, back out, or backslide. I’ll just keep moving forward by God’s grace. I’m Spirit-led, purpose-driven and mission-focused, so I cannot be bought, I will not be compromised, and I shall not quit until I finish the race.

I’m a trophy of God’s amazing grace, so I will be gracious to everyone, grateful for everyday, and generous with everything that God entrusts to me.

To my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I say: However, whenever, wherever, and whatever you ask me to do, my answer in advance is yes! Wherever you lead and whatever the cost, I’m ready. Anytime. Anywhere. Anyway. Whatever it takes Lord; whatever it takes! I want to be used by you in such a way, that on that final day I’ll hear you say, “Well done, good and faithful one. Come on in, and let the eternal party begin!”

Father Maurice J Nutt, C.Ss.R.

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