“OLYMPIC SERVICE” Sermon
Jesus Ran 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:2-3)
Aaron made a comment to me the other day as we watched some Olympic Diving Competition. He said, “Dad someone said instead of training people for years and years, they should invite regular people to run the races, play the games.” A contestant made a beautiful dive, in my mind there couldn’t have been any deductions, and I said, “No, I’d rather see people who have practiced.”
When it comes to the race called life, I’m not just an amateur, I’m a failure. There is no possible way for me to medal. With original sin from my mom and dad, I’m not even in the race. I don’t want to run for God!
And while no one ran the race, while no one climbed the ladder, even laced up the shoes, Jesus ran. By the Holy Spirit’s help we “Fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,” who ran, who played, who worked, who trained. Why? Who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame.” He endured the cross, he endured a painful death by Roman soliders¸ more than that, endured the punishment of God for sins committed by mankind. As we fix our eyes on Jesus we see an innocent man scoring 10, hitting the bullseye, bringing the Father to his feet, “This is my Son whom I love.” It would earn Jesus no medal on the cross, only pain as he endured the punishment for our sin. But it did earn him this reward, “…sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus ran the race for us. There isn’t a human being alive who could live perfectly. And he didn’t live for himself. He ran this race for us. We fix our eyes on Jesus who loved his fellowman and obeyed his Father for us. We fix our eyes on Jesus who endured the cross, who died to pay for our guilt. We fix our eyes on Jesus because he ran this race of life for us.
We Run for the Prize
And yet we are told to run. We run for the prize.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I will not be disqualified for the prize. (1 Cor 9:24-27)
Jesus won the prize for a world full of sinners. With his innocent sufferings and death and resurrection, Jesus has earned the gold medal for all people. Heaven, the prize, is assured through him.
All people run in the race. We are told, “Run in such a way as to get the prize.” What does it mean to “beat my body” and go into “strict training.” How well do you know your Bible? You know everything about your responsibilities at work. You might know all the players on your football team. How well do you know God’s Word? How are your knees? Do they ache for spending so time on them in prayer? How are doing with sin and temptation? Is sin a big deal or not so big a deal? Paul said, “I do not run like a man running aimlessly…No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others I myself will not be disqualified.” The goal is eternal life in heaven. Temptation leads this way or that way. The goal is heaven. Let us train. Let us pray. Let us study. Let us encourage.
The one who won the race is also the one who tells us how to run.
Our Coach Knows What It Takes to Win
I run in the path of your commands, for you have set my heart free. (Psalm 119:32)
He gives us his commands to lead us, guide us, comfort us.
Sometimes even those who run the race look at his commands and think that they slow down the runner. But his yoke is easy and his burden is light.
But look at what he has done: “You have set my heart free.” With a freed conscience, run the race.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:30-31)
You hear about the American 400 who ran half a race with a broken leg. He didn’t want to let his teammates down. Mind over matter. How about God over matter. He’s trained you for decades now. How long ago were you confirmed, baptized, brought to Christ? “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” “They will walk and not faint.” Your gracious God has trained you for what lies ahead this week, not month, next year. You may be very physical as you run this race, but the race is spiritual. Your loving God will allow you “to soar as on wings of an eagle.”
When you are running a race, it is counter-productive to look to the side, or behind. As you look to the side, you start to veer to the side. If you look backward, we really start to veer and you may even run outside of your lane and be disqualified.
Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Forget what is behind and strain toward what is ahead. You’ve been hurt in life—the Lord saw you through. You have great difficulty—the Lord holds you by his hand in this race. In this race, we press on toward the goal. The only important thing about the race is getting across the finish line. So, run: pray and study. Discipline your heart and mind and body.
Previous Finishers Cheer Us On
Not only have other people already finished the race, these people are cheering us on.
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. (Hebrews 12:1)
Who cheers us on? Moses and the prophets. David and those who wrote the Psalms. As you read your Bibles you are listening to God make promise after promise and those who wrote the words down are encouraging us: It’s worth it. The goal is attainable and its great. God keeps his promises. All things work for the good.
People who were carried off into captivity in the Old Testament can see now how it all worked out. Job sees now how it all worked out. You’re going to see it too.
And because we have such a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on, “let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Runners take off their sweats. Basketball players take off their warm up clothes. Runners racing toward heaven throw off the sin that entangles or trips us.
Stay on Course!
Sometimes we are tempted ask, “Is it all worth it?” Running this race. Disciplining our hearts, minds and bodies for something we can’t even see.
You were running a good race. Who cut in on you and kept you from obeying the truth? That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. (Gal 5:7-8)
Satan and a sinful world will do whatever they can to make sure you veer off, or go another direction. You may be tempted to just give up running. When that little voice starts talking, its not Jesus. No, keep going. Jesus’ call and Jesus’ salvation and Jesus’ promises still remain. No one wants you to cross that finish line more than he does.
The Goal: Finish in Faith
I saw an interview with some Americans who won medals but hadn’t received them yet. One of the women said it was the greatest feeling to know that standing on the medal platform was yet to come.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7-8)
Crossing that finish line of heaven you will find not a gold medal, but a “crown of righteousness” and streets paved with gold. All who finish the race will be so blessed.