The Race.

Hebrews 12.

These are the ways and dealings of God with us, and encouragement to run the race set before us - the race on which we enter. Then we have the consequences of divine favour. We want encouragement. Who are they that want encouragement? Christians.

We are associated with God on the ground of grace. "We are come to mount Zion." It is not now, "If they obey my voice, they shall be my own peculiar people." After unconditional promises to the fathers, God founded them at Sinai on the people's obedience. Then failure came in worse and worse, until the ark was carried away, and Ichabod pronounced. Then David came and brought it back, and placed it on mount Zion. Zion had been nothing till then, when it was put in contrast with Sinai. Then grace came in, God giving in grace the place lost in responsibility. It is the triumph of grace over the whole failure of man. You are not come to Sinai, but to mount Zion; and if this is not seen, the starting-point is wrong, and there will be an effort to get through obedience what must be the gift of grace. We could not run as hoping to attain, if it were a question of righteousness. Why have I to run this race to get to God? Adam had no race to run; but when we have sinned, and got away from God, it is then a delusion to think it can be run in man's own strength.

In Hebrews 11 there is shown out the great principle of faith in the witnesses who, waiting for the fulfilment of the promises, had in the energy of faith run the race. Each had gone a little bit of the road; and here the apostle turns to Christ, who had run it all, with everything - the world and Satan himself - against Him. He had perfectly run His course; and His place on the throne of God is the result of victory, as well as that of having glorified God in redemption; and He sets us in that same position. We see Christ, having overcome, actually set down there. Mark how simply the apostle speaks of it, as if it were easy. Can you "lay aside every weight" so easily? That is what you are called to do. Why cannot you? The moment I feel it is a weight, it is very easy to drop it; but if it is a pleasure, it is very hard to get rid of it. The moment I have Christ as my object, all these weights become a burden, and I am very glad to throw them off. The secret of it is, the heart looking to Jesus who has run the path; the new nature finding its food in Him has no taste for the things of the world. We find the deep personal interest of Christ in us, in that if we have to go the path, He must go before; when He puts forth His sheep, He goes before them.

"Consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself" When in the path, remember you have never met with the difficulties He did; you have not been killed as He was. How sweet to have to "consider" Christ! Do you think you can have a more trying path than He had? He says, "Is my arm shortened, that it cannot save?" "The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I may speak a word in season to him that is weary." I understand words of comfort and strength; I understand the path.

"Lest ye be weary and faint in your minds." We should not faint in that path; we should renew our strength as eagles. His strength is sufficient; but if not looking to and trusting Him, we get wearied and faint in our mind. I have not strength to go through without help. (Heb. 4:12.) What makes you faint? Because your heart is off Christ. And what took it off? Something else which the word of God must find out, and pierce through as with a sword. If the flesh is at work, the manna becomes "light food," and you want something else. If you are not diligent you do not get the manna. The sun arises, and it is gone. The word of God is quick and powerful; it is the very thing we want. Then there is another hindrance - infirmity and weakness. But we have not a High Priest that cannot be touched by these - the feelings of our infirmities; only often there is an admixture of will, and the will of man is the most vigorous tree that there is. God must deal with it. Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." "He withdraweth not His eyes from the righteous."

Here is our every-day life. There is not one of us whom God does not follow in every detail of life, and bears always, never failing for a moment. What constancy! What thorough fulness of grace! He sees what is hindering us in the enjoyment of heavenly things, and deals with it. Wherever my will is working, even in little things, there is not the fear of God; that is, the sense of God's presence which keeps my will down; my eye resting on God, and holding to His will and His character. If we are walking aright, the presence of God is more real to us than man's presence. The fear of God is the character of God applied to my circumstances. The effect of God chastening is to hold God's hand on my will; where His presence is felt, self has to hold its tongue. We struggle and writhe often against the chastening till God gets His place in our hearts. Against whom was I complaining, and fighting, and struggling? Against God, who gave His own Son for me. "As His fear is, so is His wrath." He is dealing with me so as to bring me to be silent before Him. When this fear is wakened, then faith is at work, and there is a capacity for understanding His love again. I get back to see His purpose too. He is going to bring me into Canaan, and I was going back in heart to Egypt. Then my eye follows Jesus, who is set down at the right hand of the throne of God, and sees where I am to be led up to. The soul gets into the light of the favour of God, which is better than life: "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

"My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord." Suppose the Lord's hand is upon one of you, the great principle is, that He is doing it for your good. Whom He loveth He chasteneth. Love would not do it if not needed. Do not despise it. God loves you too well to punish you for nothing. You say, "Oh, I don't despise it; my heart is sinking under it!" Not so either. Do not faint; it is love that does it, and love will bring good out of it. Mark, too, we are to expect chastening; there is a great deal to correct. You may be as sincere as possible, and, as to the purpose of your heart, single-eyed; but is there nothing hindering you? You may not know what. Would you wish God to leave it there? He knows the thoughts and intents of your heart when you do not; and He is not a Physician for nothing. No child is without chastening, bringing us nearer to God. We must all know how easily we get out of God's presence; and He does it for our benefit, that we may be partakers of His holiness, that holiness which is in God Himself. Mark how thoroughly this is grace. He calls us according to His holiness, and then sets about making us partakers of it; and when all is done, there are "the peaceable fruits of righteousness." Like Paul's thorn in the flesh, our very service and devotedness may bring us into suffering for His sake, and at the same time into that which humbles the flesh. The thorn was something that met him in his service, made him despicable, and was a correction to the tendency to be puffed up. God may give it the character of a trial for Christ.

While we have courage and energy, yet as in the evil day, He says, "Walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise" Christians need not make trials for themselves by want of circumspection. If you are not careful and vigilant, be sure the devil is; and he never forgets to watch for an opportunity of injuring. "Make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way." There are lame saints, and it is the lame men who want a straight road. A man full of Christ can walk through many a difficulty without suffering for it; but all are not such; for those who are not, remove every difficulty out of the way. Be of good cheer; you are come to mount Zion, or grace.


The more springs of natural happiness there are the more things you have for death to cut the cords of. God maintains all natural relationships that He has created, but death has come in upon them all. It is wonderful how little we dwell in things unseen, because so occupied with things seen. We might test ourselves by the question, How many thoughts today have come from Christ, and how many from my own natural mind?