The Christian Race

Hebrews 12:1-2.

(This is, as far as possible, a verbatim report of a lecture given by our beloved brother [who has recently departed to be with Christ] in 1888. Our readers will he much interested in it at the present moment.)

Anyone who has carefully read the Epistle to the Hebrews will remark that Christ is connected with the throne in three different ways. Turn to chapter 1; it is in the end of verse 3 we read, "when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high." Here sins are purged. Another phase is opened out in the eighth chapter, verse 1: "We have such an High Priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." Then we have the third phase in the scripture that I have read. I have read this that we may see what is our peculiar course here on earth; it is a race! What a character it gives us! What a style to be running a race! Looking out unto Jesus!

Now I will trace how we come to it. It is a race to heaven, no matter what the difficulties are. In Ephesians you are in heaven, but here you are racers, and you are racing to heaven. Plenty of difficulties along the road, but I am "looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of faith." He gives us the power to carry on the race. In chapter 4:11 it says: "Let us labour therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." Now I have to start here; I am out of Egypt, now where am I going to? It is this which determines a great deal more than we think. The "rest" is future, of course. He was warning those Hebrew saints; they were Jews, and he was warning them not to get frightened at the difficulties. We are like them often; we are out of Egypt, but many of us have got as far as Og, king of Bashan, and Sihon, king of the Amorites. What stops you? The apostle warns them of the day of temptation in the wilderness. I would not believe a man who said he did not like a nice prospect and a nice place on the earth; but we are going on, and we get three great experiences along the way. The first is infirmity. Infirmity is not sin. You might be too poor, or you might be too rich, and either would be a pressure. An infirmity may lead to a sin. Sarah was afraid, and she laughed; then she told a lie. Fear or timidity is weakness, infirmity; telling a lie is sin. So we read, "whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement." If you are afraid you are overcome. Infirmity is weakness, and a man is weak when he cannot rise over a thing; a great contrast to a man who is a racer - he leaps over all the obstacles. It is trying, not trial. The first great hindrance is your circumstances; the second is your health. Ill-health is a terrible pressure; you are like a ship waterlogged. The third is sorrow; and this is the worst of all. Now I want to point out to you how you are to go on in the infirmities. We are going on to heaven, and we first are met with infirmities. What will help me in them? We have both the Word and the sympathy of the Lord. Every believer is addressed by the Word, but very few enjoy the sympathy. The Word penetrates the motives, and I am found out. The point is actually to press you to get on the right road. There may be a hundred roads, and ninety-nine are wrong. The Lord uses the Word to bring me on to the right one. The Word has done its work when it puts me on the right road, the road to heaven. The Lord has gone that one road, and He will help me along that road. Every believer has a sense that the Lord has spoken to him. But does he mind His words? If Peter had minded the words of the Lord he would not have gone into danger.

Next to the Word is the sympathy of the Lord, and I find in Canticles the bride coming from the wilderness, leaning on the arm of her Beloved. I have a wonderful thing on the road; I have the company of the Lord, and His sympathy! He is out of the weakness of man, and right up from the top He can look down and say, "I went along the same path, and I never diverged from it." Now turn to John 11 for an example of sympathy. Here we have two sisters, both suffering from the same cause - the death of their brother. How differently He deals with each! Martha gets no sympathy. She gets instruction, and in a way passes Him over to Mary. And see Mary! You find the Lord walking beside her, and she can say, "Here is a heart that cares for me, and if I have lost a brother, I have someone greater than a brother." She gets the sense of grace in His company. The grace is how I bear the trial, the mercy is the relief. If I take the storm easily as He did, that is the grace; when He rebukes the wind, that is mercy. When Paul was in prison, then he had the grace, and grace made him sing in the prison; but it was the mercy that let him out. I have not only mercy in my infirmities, but having sympathy I am supported, and I turn to the Supporter. I am not occupied with the trouble, but with the Person who got me out of it. Turn to John 12: "Then took Mary a pound of ointment of spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus." She is occupied now with the Supporter. I am out of my infirmity now, and I am in the company of the One who got me out of it. But that is not all. I come to how I am occupied with Him, and I turn you to Hebrews 8:2, and 10:19. Now this is an entirely new experience. It is not getting relief from infirmity, but it is being in the company of the One who relieved me. The great thought of the Lord in getting you out of pressure is that you may be in company with Him. I am out of my infirmity, and now I am found in company with Him. Mary of Bethany was in company with the Lord. I get a fuller thing in Hebrews. The great point there is companionship. "Thy God hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy companions." Nothing can have the same satisfaction for a heart here on earth as the company of the Lord. You would then not be soured by infirmity and trials; you would be mellowed by them. You would feel you were so helped by Him that you would be more attracted to Him than ever.

There are three great stages in a Christian's history, Hebrews is the second. The first is before Hebrews; it is what Jonathan knew of David. He has cleared the ground, Goliath is gone, and the One who cleared the ground occupies the ground. That is the first stage. I know that my Saviour has completely removed all the darkness, He has abolished death; now every cloud is gone! "Jonathan … loved him as his own soul." You cannot have a divine acquisition without a result. Your face will shine, it must come out. Jonathan stripped himself, and look what a sight it was! He takes off his royal habiliments and puts them on a shepherd-boy, and says he is entitled to them! He is like the woman in Luke 7; she went home, and then she says, "I will give the very best thing I have, to make much of Him at my own expense." Next I find that blessed One is indispensable to me every step of the way. That blessed One I love now for Himself, not only for His work. Now I am like Ruth, I am so attached to Him I cannot do without Him. "Where thou goest, there I will go." Now in this new stage it is not giving your property, but it is giving yourself. Peter gave up his ship and followed Him, for company is better than property. Company with Himself! The Lord would rather have us follow Him than anything, therefore He says to Peter, "Follow Me." Now, how do I begin to follow Him? I have been borne over my infirmity by Him, and I have found that my heart is only bound the more to Him as He came down to me in my infirmity, so I am now with Him in the brightest spot, the holiest of all. Like Aaron's sons in a common fragrance, He has helped me out of my trouble to be in company with Himself. I press this, because I feel a great many are praying to the Lord to get out of the pressure, and the only object in getting out of it should be that you may be more in company with the One who brought you out. You are now so attached to Him that you cannot do without Him. You cannot understand the third stage unless you know the second. The third is union, and if you do not enjoy His company, you cannot enjoy union. In Canticles you get the reciprocity of affection, in spite of fickleness of the bride, which shows what we are. Nothing can give me a greater idea of the blessedness of heaven than the company of the Lord. You get the taste of heaven then. You are in company with the Minister of the sanctuary. The Lord lead us to see what a wonderful thing it is to be entranced with His company. We read in the Psalms, "To see Thy power and Thy glory, so as I have seen Thee in the sanctuary." And again in Corinthians, To God we are beside ourselves. It is being in an ecstasy! How different our meetings would be if I felt "I am coming here to be entranced in His presence." I am not thinking of myself, but I am delighted in His company. If you do not get to this you will never understand what union is. Mary Magdalene says, as it were, "I will never stir till I get hold of Him." John was intelligent, but he went home! Some have said that a woman brought in the first trouble, and a woman got the highest privilege ever given, and was the bearer of the most wonderful truth. The Lord said, as it were, "I will reward you, Mary!"

I found He was the One who could stretch out His hand to me in the darkness, and now He is indispensable to me. "Where thou goest will I go." Turn now to chapter 12:1. There are two things that mark a person in a race. You are running and you are going to the same point where Jesus is! You have tasted of the spot where He is. Now for the race. Where are you racing to? To heaven, and the One who has drawn my heart up to Himself is there. But how did you reach to this? It is beautiful when you look into it. I have tasted of heaven in the sanctuary, and the man who has had a taste of heaven likes nothing so well as the race to get there! It is not contending with infirmities, but with difficulties, and you will find plenty of them, and it is for this the eleventh of Hebrews comes in. It is misunderstood at times, it is spoken of as examples of faith, but I think it is the traits of faith. It is like one telling me what faith can do. The Lord is the author, the source of it; He starts with telling us that without faith it is impossible to please Him. He is the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him out. I have got an idea of His nature, and He will reward me if I seek Him out, if I choose Him. What marked Enoch was that he pleased God, and I can conceive of nothing higher than to be pleasing to Him. Supposing I know a great man who could do all I want - will I go to him? No, I will go to God. I count upon Him because He is the rewarder of those who seek Him out.

In Luke 11 you learn to pray; you have no back door, and you are not going to anyone else but the One who can help you. … "Laying aside every weight." One hindrance is outside you, the other inside you. A man says, "I am fond of music, or politics." Does it help me on the race? No! Then I lay it down. Sin is what works in you, and there is opposition. You will find plenty of it, but you must be well mounted to ride over the difficulties. It is like a steeplechase, and you must be well mounted. You have the author and finisher of faith, and He has gone to the top. May the Lord interest you with His company, and in His own house. I have His power to help me on the road as I go along; Israel left the wilderness and went on to Canaan, and in between comes the Epistle to the Hebrews. You are not in heaven, but you are going on to get possession of it. The Holy Ghost is down here, and you are highly favoured. You must be captivated by Him. He is not One who will not attend to your small matters. No, He comes down to the smallest thing, and helps me out that I may be in company with Him, and now I shrink from anything that would hinder my communion with Him. People say in Christendom, "When will you get acquainted with the Lord? When He comes?" No, I am acquainted with Him now, and having got the taste of heaven, then I come out in a new way to face every obstruction between me and heaven, and the only thing I dread is myself; therefore I have to lay aside every weight and sin which doth so easily beset. I do not doubt the power. The Lord grant that we may be as attached to Him as Peter was. (Matt. 14) He left the ship, the safe place, and went to the most perilous place, the water, to go to Him. Peter had not the power, but we have, only we have not the affection. What I want to present to you is that it is no trouble to do a thing for the person I love. "If a man would give all the substance of his house for love, it would be utterly contemned." We all know what this is. May the effect of our meditation this evening be to attract our hearts more to our blessed Lord, for His name's sake! Amen. J. B. Stoney.

When the Lord becomes our absorbing object, this world is felt to be a dry and thirsty land where no water is. The reason is, that we have then learned that all our springs are in Him.