Don’t Be Discouraged in the Race of Faith

Preached on March 10, 2024

Are you running the race of faith to win the prize at the finish line? The race of faith is filled with many trials and tribulations which can make it easy for you to become discouraged. Join Pastor McCrary this week as he takes a look at how to win the race of faith and discusses our suffering.


In Hebrews 12:1-13, the writer spoke about running a race— race of faith.  The writer encouraged his readers to run the race with endurance.

Today’s sermon asks the question: where is your journey taking you?  I hope that you are joining with me on the path to glory.  We are on the narrow path, running the race of faith.  The path to glory is not easy as it is filled with many trials and tribulations which Jesus never hid from us.  Yet, many believers become discouraged on the path to glory and even consider giving up.   

Today’s sermon asks, how do you handle being discouraged?  This brings my attention to my key verse for today.  Where the writer states, “consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged.”

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.


The Race of Faith

How often do you consider Christ’s journey while you run the race of faith?  How often do you look to the example He set while running the same race?

Scripture leaves us with words of encouragement that we should heed to run the race as Christ ran.  In 1 Corinthians 9:24, Paul encouraged believers to run to obtain the prize.  In other words, Paul said we should run to win the race.  What is the prize we should run to win?  The prize Paul spoke of is the imperishable crown (1 Cor. 9:25).  To receive that crown, Paul said that we must be temperate (disciplined) in this race.  

It’s a marathon

There are a few things I want to point to in Hebrews 12:1.  The first:  the writer said to run the race with endurance.  One of the biggest problems that many of us have today is that everything is a sprint.  In order to win a race, we believe we have to finish first.  However, the race of faith is not a sprint, it’s a marathon— it requires endurance.  

To complete a marathon, marathoners will tell you it takes discipline and patience to endure.  You must take on the mindset that you’re running a grueling marathon.  So, be ready to run on flat land but also be ready to run up hills.  Therefore, we must run with patience and not waste away our energy. 

Cast away heavy weight

Are you running the race of faith?  If you are running the race, are you a disciplined runner?  Are you running to win the race?  In Hebrews 12:1, the writer encouraged those believers who may not be running the race to get up and get moving!  

Yes, it’s good to know of God and His word, but get up and move in it— the word of God demands action!  To start running the race, the writer said to lay aside every weight and the sin which ensnares.  In other words, don’t be trying to run the race of faith carrying around a bunch of weight that will hinder you.

 Sadly, rather than ditching our weight, many of us hold on to it.  How do you think the race will go carrying around a bunch of dead weight?  Do you think you can win the race carrying around a bunch of dead weight?  Do you even think you can finish the race carrying around that weight?  Many have been crushed by that dead weight.

Peter encouraged us to cast our cares upon the Lord for He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7).  Where did he get that from?  Jesus taught that all who are weighed down should come to so that He can take away what weighs us down (Matt. 11:28).  How often do you go to Jesus when you are weighed down on this journey?  You’re not going to win the race if you aren’t doing this. 

Run with hope and joy

Unlike other races where only one can win, all who enter the race of faith can win! In Hebrews 12:2, the writer shows us another way to run this race.  The writer called on runners to look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.  Why is that we should look unto Jesus?  Because Jesus is one that ran this same marathon and won!  

How did Jesus win the race?  Jesus, the writer said, “endured the cross, despising the shame.”  As we know, Jesus suffered in His race.  Peter wrote, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18).”  Yet, as the writer of this epistle said, Jesus ran the race “for the joy that was set before Him.”

Do you run this race for the joy that is set before you?  This is a very important question to ask.  Why is that?  Because many people think they are running this race but they run with no joy in their heart.  Many run this race like how I sometimes feel when I feel I have to workout.  You know that feeling I’m talking about? I don’t really want to workout today but I need to workout.

We shouldn’t be running this race with that kind of heart!  No, we should run with a heart of hope while in this race.  Why is that?  As Paul said, there is a prize that is waiting for us at the finish line!

In the Beatitudes, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled (Matt. 5:6).  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:10).  Blessed are you when they revile (hate) and persecute you for My sake (Matt. 5:11).  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven (Matt. 5:12).”

Why should I run this race of faith any other way that is without hope and joy when the prize at the end is so great?  Yes, the marathon is going to be tiring!  Yes, the marathon is going to be difficult!  But the prize at the end of this race is going to be worth it!  So, I will run with discipline, hope, and joy so that I may obtain the prize!

Why Do We Have to Suffer

What about you?  Will you run this race with hope and joy?  Some believers often wonder why they have to suffer if they have chosen to follow Christ?  There is the thought that God’s children ought not ever have to suffer while on this journey.

Yet, David said, “many are the afflictions of the righteous (Ps. 34:14).”  Why are our afflictions so many?  Why do we suffer so much?  Let us remember that Jesus repeatedly said to the disciples, “a servant is not greater than his master.”  Let’s consider why it is that we, God’s children, suffer while running this race. 

Suffering from poor decisions

Our sufferings often begin, sadly, with poor decisions we have made on this journey.  Yes, it would be great if we could always make the right decision but we aren’t perfect.  We are infallible creatures that will mess up over time.  One thing we know for certain about life is that life is filled with consequences for poor decisions.

Trust me, I know a thing or two about making poor decisions that come back to haunt.  I used to think about all the health decisions I could have made to prevent kidney failure.  I consider how I ignored others and didn’t take preventative steps to have to learn a lesson the hard way!  However, as I pushed forward through faith, my suffering in that moment in time led to growth.  

We are fallible creatures which means that it is inevitable we are all going to have missteps along the way.  It is easy for us to be discouraged when we fail.  We may even have repeated failings that can cause us to suffer and be discouraged.  I say to you, don’t be discouraged by your missteps.   

Today you may suffer from your errors, but you can still learn and grow through them.  Proverb 24:16 tells us that one who is righteous may fall seven times but will rise again.  We rise again because the Lord lifts us up!  So, you may fall down today but that fall will help you to run this race much better!

Suffering from sin

Another cause for why we suffer is due to sin and temptation.  Those who choose not to follow Christ choose to be ignorant of disobeying God.  Yet, for one that knows the Lord, disobedience weighs heavy on the soul.  Why is that?  

Well, we know that without trust and obedience it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6)!  So, as God’s children, we desire to do our best to live in a manner that will please the Lord.  Yet, as Paul said when he spoke about this desire, “what I will to do, that I do not practice (Rom. 7:15).  There is a war within believers between the law of God and the law of the flesh (sin).  

In those times when the law of sin wins those battles, we often feel the weight of our sin in our soul.  Our sin can cause us to be discouraged since we know God is not pleased with sin.  That said, the Lord has said to make our confessions known.  God is both faithful and just to cleanse us from our unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).  Though we may error, the Lord is more pleased with the effort of faith than one who sits down on faith. 

Suffering for our faith

Another reason why many of us believers suffer today is because of our faith.  Notice in my key verse that the writer pointed out that Jesus endured hostility against Himself. Why did He have to endure hostility?

Let’s consider why Jesus was despised so despised for just a moment.  Let’s see, He healed the blind, the lame, the deaf, and those who were sick.  He taught and preached a message about loving God, loving others, and being forgiving.  How could someone be despised for doing these things?

Jesus was despised because He said, “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance (Luke 5:32).”  Jesus was despised because He chose to sit down with sinners.  Jesus was despised because He chose to help sinners.  Jesus moved against the narrative of what the Messiah was supposed to be and was hated!

You see, when one moves in sincere faith, they are moving in something the world despises.  What is that?  When you move in sincere faith, you’re moving in the divine truth.  The truth that you move in can be off putting.  To be clear, the truth I am talking about today is of the Lord and shouldn’t be confused with the conspiracies of a madman! 

There are times on this journey where you will move against the narrative of what a Christian is supposed to be in standing for the truth.  Jesus reached out to sinners, we should be doing the same!  Some “Christians” will turn their nose up at you as the religious leaders did with Jesus. You may even feel like you’re on an island all alone as you stand for what is just for the downtrodden but don’t be discouraged.

Those with a worldly view may despise your views and scoff at them as religious views.  You may even be laughed at and ridiculed for your faith.  You better believe that the devil will be there laughing at you as well.  The way the world turns all around may cause you to grow weary from doing good— don’t be discouraged..  

Suffering for God’s glory

One last reason why we suffer is for the glory of God.  When Lazarus got sick and died, Jesus said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God (John 11:4).”  Some will consider this as God using us as guinea pigs, but that thought couldn’t be further from the truth. 

As I said earlier, it is inevitable in life that you are going to have trials and tribulations.  However, by faith, we are able to glorify God in our suffering.  In his letter, James said that we should rejoice in our sufferings!  Why is that?  Because the testing of our faith increases patience (Jas. 1:2-3).  Patience, that one thing we need in order to endure the race of faith.

Yes, we are going to go through some things in life but don’t be discouraged.  Know that you are a testimony of His grace and authority! Whether in life or in death, we glorify God and carry out His will.  Let us remember that the Lord’s will is that all will come to know Him and have everlasting life (John 6:40).

Don’t Be Discouraged

Let’s again take note in my key verse the word “endured”— Him who endured such hostility.  In the past tense, the word “endured” means one was able to tolerate and overcome.  Jesus tolerated and overcame the great hostility He suffered on His journey.

As it’s said in Hebrews 12:11, “no chastening for the present seems joyful, but painful.”  Chastening:  punishment or suffering.  As God’s children, we have been warned of our suffering so that we can be prepared.  Yes, the race is going to be difficult and even painful at times, but the Lord has given us the ability to run this race with hope!

The writer said, “Afterwards, [our suffering] yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it (Heb. 12:11).”  This is a verse that brings to my mind Psalm 30:4 – “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”  Though we may suffer today, don’t be discouraged, don’t give up because will deliver us as He has promised!

So, we are encouraged to “strengthen our hanging hands and feeble knees (Heb. 12:12).”  The writer encouraged us to make straight paths for our feet so that we don’t stumble off course and injure ourselves.  So, rather than running with a weary and defeated spirit, pump those legs and arms and finish strong!  

Let us remember that Jesus said we will have tribulation but we should be of good cheer (John 16:33).  Why should we be of good cheer?  Jesus said we should be of good cheer because He overcame the world.

Let us not give in to our sufferings!  Diligently pray to God to be uplifted, encouraged, and motivated on this journey.  Catch your second breath and keep pushing forward!  “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory (2 Cor. 4:17).”  As Jesus said, “rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.”

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