Everyone of us need to be running in this race, to deny ourselves, and to be serious about winning.
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.
People that run in the Olympic races are chosen by the Olympic committee when they meet the requirements. They must deny themselves so they get their rest, eat a special diet, and practice 4 hours every day. To be in God’s marathon (26.2 miles = Carmichael to Woodland), first we have to accept his invitation to be saved and then we begin our race. Paul wrote to the Corinthians who were familiar with the Isthmian games of Corinth. He said to be temperate in all things to win. Temperance is self control in our actions; and self-restraint in temptations or desires – our thinking, our appetites.
I Corinthians 9:24-25 Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.
We all have mind battles and have to cast down imaginations (thoughts that don’t have any real basis of fact). Fear is an imagination that we have to cast down. Everything contrary to the word of God or negative needs to be cast down and brought into captivity. We have to cast down thoughts that make us discouraged or fearful because they’re from the devil. We can replace them with a scripture or a song. Part of temperance is to control our mind and focus on the goal instead of focusing on what we imagine. We aren’t effective witnesses if our mind is distracted by imaginations.
II Corinthians 10:4-5 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
When a racer named J.J. Gill was tripped by another racer, the crowd yelled for him to get up. The pack was 20 yards ahead but he got back on his feet and kept going. He finished the race just ahead of the racer who tripped him. We may not be the first in the race we’re running, but God wants us to get up and keep going if we stumble. We have a great cloud of witnesses that are cheering us on. Derrick Redmond was running the 400 meter relay in the 1992 Olympic races when he tore a hamstring in the final 250 meters. He started hopping to the finish line with his father assisting him and finished last. He came to finish the race, not to quit. A lot of us are going to be injured in the race, but we must keep going and not stop, but finish. Don’t quit, not matter how you feel. We can’t let anything separate us from the love of God.
Romans 8:36-39 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Saul isn’t mentioned in the great cloud of witnesses because of pride. If someone backslides, it’s always because of pride.
Proverbs 16:18 Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.
We come to God humble and must stay humble. We’ll get off track if pride gets in the way. Saul wanted to please himself and the people, so made his own decisions. God rejected Saul and an evil spirit came on him. Solomon isn’t in the cloud of witnesses either. He asked God for wisdom to rule when he became king. Solomon had lust and wanted to please his flesh, no matter what God said. He started right but got off by not controlling his thoughts but going after his lust.
I Kings 11:1-9 But king Solomon loved many strange women…the daughter of Pharaoh, women of the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Zidonians, and Hittites; Of the nations concerning which the Lord said…Ye shall not go in to them, neither shall they come in unto you: for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods: Solomon clave unto these in love. And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the Lord…For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Zidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. And Solomon did evil…Then did Solomon build an high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab…And likewise did he for all his strange wives, which burnt incense and sacrificed unto their gods. And the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart was turned from the Lord God of Israel, which had appeared unto him twice,
Esau isn’t listed in the great cloud of witnesses because he despised his birthright for his inheritance. He sold it to Jacob for a bowl of lentils. Esau couldn’t find a place of repentance because he utterly rejected God’s promise. He wouldn’t forsake his ideas and will so he couldn’t find repentance. He wasn’t willing to meet the condition of forsaking everything.
Hebrews 12:14-17 Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears.
Balaam isn’t in the cloud of witnesses. He started out good but got his eyes on riches. The donkey saw the angel of the Lord, but Balaam couldn’t see him (Numbers 22:21-28). He wouldn’t give up riches. God sees if we’re not holy.
I Peter 2:9-10 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
God is faithful to every soul. We’re on a holy way and we won’t see the Lord if we aren’t holy in our actions and dealings with others. People have to be willing to give up what causes them to get off the way or they won’t get back. If we’re bitter against someone, it will make us unholy. It doesn’t matter how old we are or how long we’ve been saved, we won’t win the race if we don’t control the imaginations of our mind.
II Peter 2:14-16 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children: Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet.
We can’t let distractions of this world to get us off the way but have to set our affections on Christ.
Colossians 3:1-2 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
We have to bridle or control our tongue. If what we say won’t glorify God, we need to keep our mouth shut.
James 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain.
We need to pray for God to set a watch before our mouth every day or we won’t have a temperate, controlled mouth but will blurt out whatever comes to our mind. Temperance is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Even if temperance is listed last, it doesn’t mean it’s less important than love or any of the others fruits.
Psalm 141:3 Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.
(Notes from the Mature Class Bible Study, teacher Edith Tolbert)