Derek Prince - Let Us Run With Endurance
Then the next principle which we haven't seen before, P.15, which is the last one in our list: our response to God's representatives is reckoned as our response to God. The spies were God's representatives. The way she treated them was reckoned by God as the way she related to Him Himself. Look at one of the three Scriptures given there, the other two we don't have time, you can look at them for yourself. Luke 10:16. Jesus is sending out disciples and He says this: "The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me". That's solemn words. Be careful how you treat God's servants. Most of them are not perfect but they're still His representatives. Your attitude to them will be reckoned as your attitude to God. Continuing at Hebrews 11:32: And what can I yet say? For the time would run out on me as I went through the record of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel and the prophets... I think he had the same problem I did: time ran out on him!
There's some further examples of faith and he says at this point, "I don't have time to go into all of these in detail," but he mentions them. Then in the next six verses he gives a whole summation of the many achievements of their faith. I'll just read it, translate. It says of them: Who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice... You can say "worked righteousness" but I think the meaning is "administered justice". ...obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made powerful, became strong in battle, repulsed the invasion of the aliens. Women received their dead restored to them through resurrection; others were tortured, not receiving their release, in order that they might obtain a better resurrection; still others endured mockings and scourgings, and also bonds and imprisonment.
They were stoned, they were tempted, they were sawn in two, they perished by the sword; they went around in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill treated (of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in desert places and mountains and caves and holes of the earth. That's quite a list, isn't it? I'm not going to dwell on that at length, I'll just read through the list of their achievements and I'm going to suggest to you that it's a good way for you to go further is to check those records for yourselves. As I say, in the New American Standard almost every one of those things that they did has a reference somewhere to the Old Testament. Reading the accomplishments, reading from the note outline at the bottom of Page 11/5. They conquered kingdoms. I've put examples of specific ones: Barak, Gideon, Jephthah and David. They administered justice. Essentially that's true of all the judges and of David. They obtained promises.
That's probably true of most of them. I think particularly of Gideon and David. They shut the mouths of lions. There's one obvious example of that which is Daniel. They quenched the power of fire. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego. Escaped the sword. The examples I gave were Elijah and Daniel, and you could add David. Dead children restored to life. Elijah and Elisha. Then this terrific list: endured torture, mockery, scourging, chains, imprisonment, stoning, being sawn in two, massacre, exile, destitution, ill treatment, the life of refugees. I put there find your own examples. You can find most of those in the Old Testament mainly in the historical books. Sawn in two you won't find in the Old Testament but an ancient tradition relates that that was what happened to the prophet Isaiah through King Manasseh the son of Hezekiah. He was put in a hollow tree trunk and then the tree trunk was sawn in two.
So when you're thinking about what you're going to accomplish by faith, don't leave that out. Some people have got a very limited view of what faith will enable you to do. The principle there is P.16: Faith is manifested in many different ways It's very important we don't get a limited tunnel vision of what faith will do. Corresponding to the ways that God allots faith. Let's look for a moment in Romans 12:3. Romans 12:3. Paul says: For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Paul brings out three important points there about true faith and there's a kind of false religious faith which doesn't produce the same results.
Faith essentially goes with humility. The people whom Jesus in the gospels praised most for their faith were the humblest. The Syro-Phoenecian woman who said, "Lord, I'm just a dog but all I need is a crumb," got the greatest commendation for faith of anybody in the entire gospels. "Oh woman, great is thy faith. Be it unto thee even as thy will. , Help yourself, just tell Me what you want". The other was the Roman centurion who said, "I'm not worthy that You should come under my roof, but You just have to say the word, and my servant will be healed". Jesus said of him, "I haven't found such great faith anywhere in Israel". It's rather interesting, isn't it? There's two outstanding examples of faith. Neither of them were Israelites. It's almost as if excessive familiarity with religion deadens its impact. I think that's true of multitudes of Christians today.
The second point about faith there in Romans 12:3 is that it enables us to have sound judgment. I'm impressed by the people who have real faith, they're very realistic. They don't use big language, they don't indulge in fantasy. They tell it like it is. And you know who else does that? The Holy Spirit. When I get people coming up for prayer who have big words, my heart sinks. I think, "Lord, this isn't going to work". I remember a man came up for healing years ago. I said, "Do you have faith"? He said, "I've got all the faith in the world". From that moment on I knew he wouldn't be healed. And he wasn't. You don't need all the faith in the world, you just need a little bit of faith. Then the third principle there in that verse is that God has allotted to each a measure or a proportion of faith. We don't all have the same amount of faith; we don't all have the same kind of faith.
There's great variety in the body, I'm glad there is. I don't like being with people who all talk the same religious language and all dress alike. You know, when you've seen one of them you've seen them all! Let me take examples outside the body of Christ. You see one Mormon, basically you've seen all Mormons. They all look alike. I respect many things about the Mormons but they have stamped people out in one mold. God doesn't deal with people like that. If you're going to be in the body of Christ you've got to learn to put up with some rather strange people. They aren't all just the way we think they ought to be. The principle is this: God has allotted to you the measure of faith that's needed for what He has for you to do. See?
If you're going to have to wander around in a goatskin, God will allot you that kind of faith. But if He wants you to raise the dead, it may be a different kind of faith. You'll only find what your faith is for when you find your place in the body because Paul goes on in this chapter to say, "We have many members but it's one body". Not all the members have the same function. So, your function goes with your faith. If you are always struggling for faith, you may be almost sure that you're not in the right place in the body. You are probably a toe trying to act like a finger. It never really works. If you're not thinking about faith, if your life isn't a continual effort to have faith, you're probably in the right place in the body. See, my hand has no problem acting like a hand. I don't even have to think about what I want to do with my hand. But if I wanted to pick my Bible up with my toes, I'd be struggling.
So I say that because there's a real harmony in the life in God between your faith and your function. We're going, can you believe it? We've got to the last two verses! This is a kind of summation of all these great heroes of the Old Testament. Verses 39–40. These all, having been attested through their faith, did not obtain the promise... Notice, they obtained promises, but they didn't obtain "the promise". What was "the promise"? I would say it's the Messiah. If we're talking in the old testament terms. Nothing was ever going to be really complete without the Messiah. Everything revolved around Him. He is the answer. God doesn't have a lot of answers, He has one answer and it's Jesus. Why didn't they obtain the promise?
Verse 40: ...because God had provided [or seen in advance] something better for us... The root meaning of the word is to see something in advance and hence, to provide it. ...that without us they should not be made perfect. Let's look at the comments on that briefly. All those listed above obtained God's commendation by their faith, but not the final consummation. Perfection could come only through the death and resurrection of Jesus. There are really two kinds of salvation. There's Old Testament salvation and New Testament salvation. Old Testament salvation looks ahead to something not yet accomplished through figures, types, prophecies. It never saw clearly; it just saw indistinctly there was something there, they got some impressions of it but what it was actually going to be they couldn't see.
New Testament salvation looks back to a historical event: the crucifixion, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. Until that had taken place, people were only saved by God's forbearance because the final provision for forgiveness for sins had not yet been made. The writer of Hebrews says earlier all the Old Testament sacrifices were a remembrance again made of sins every year. For instance, the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement covered sin for one year only till the next sacrifice was due the next Day of Atonement. But when Jesus had risen from the dead, immediately a new kind of salvation, a perfect salvation, was made available. Yet, even that salvation is not perfect really until the resurrection of the body. Though we look back to the event that made perfect salvation possible, we're still looking forward to its consummation. This is always put before us every time we partake of the communion, the Lord's Supper. Because, we do it in remembrance of His death, that's looking back, until He comes, looking forward.
You may have heard me say this, but it's very clear and vivid. At the Communion, everything else of secondary importance fades into insignificance. We have no past but the cross and no future but the coming. So that's a kind of principle of God. We're all kept looking for something. In 1 Thessalonians it says "God's people are waiting". We're a waiting people. Which takes more faith? To be active or to be waiting? Believe me, waiting takes more faith. That's one of the ways we have to demonstrate our faith. We have to wait for the coming of the Lord. Going on here, "only together with us", God deliberately makes His servants dependent on each other. So, all these great heroes of the Old Testament couldn't have what they were really looking forward to till we had entered into our portion. I think, this is just a personal opinion, the church will never enter into its full inheritance until Israel enters into theirs.
So, we are also dependent on what God is committed to do for Israel. Then, finally, just to close the outline on that chapter. Note the emphasis through this chapter on inheritance and perfection. You remember they go together. There's one other key concept which goes with inheritance and perfection. Rest, that's right. It goes to the top of the class. We find in our inheritance rest, and in that we come to perfection. The whole thrust of Hebrews, as I pointed out many times, is onward, forward and upward. It's not a book about people looking back, its whole message is don't stay where you are, move on. You haven't arrived, you're not perfect, your inheritance is ahead of you, and you'll not find true rest until you enter into your inheritance. Now, with a deep sigh of accomplishment we move into chapter 12. Let me just translate verse 1 and then we'll make some comments on it. Therefore, we also having so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, having laid aside every burden [everything that's bulky] and also the sin which so besets us, I think besetting is probably the best English word. Let us run with endurance [or perseverance] the race which is marked out before us.
The word is actually "a contest or a conflict," but we know it's a race because it's "run". So it combines two ideas which you can't combine in English. One is the idea of running a race and the other is the idea of fighting a fight or going through a conflict. So you cannot put them both together. Now, turning to your outline I point out that this is the ninth "let us" passage. "Let us" do what? Let us run with endurance. It's a very conspicuous feature of Hebrews, this repetition of "let us". It's kind of the way we have to respond to the challenge to go on. As I pointed out, it represents a decision, and it's a corporate decision. This is where the body has to get it together because we're either going to go on together or we're not going to make much progress. The ninth "let us" passage is there at the beginning of chapter 12. Let us run with endurance.
In chapter 12 we will also be coming to the tenth "let us" passage, Let us show gratitude or have grace. Now, verse 1 also opens up what I call the sixth passage of practical application. There are altogether seven of them. We have been through five, we're now coming to the sixth, which is also introduced by the phrase "let us". The practical application here is press on, endure discipline, be strong, pursue peace and holiness. I think I'll say them once again. That's just my summary. Press on, endure discipline, be strong, pursue peace and holiness. Let's comment for a moment on verse 1 which is a very challenging verse. Like so many chapters in the writings of the New Testament, this one begins with a therefore. It depends what translation you have, this one says, I'm in Romans 12. Incidentally Romans 12 is just the same. "I urge you therefore bretheren" But let's go back to Hebrews 12. "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us".
I've said so many times, and some of you can say it better than I can, when you find a therefore in the Bible, you want to find out what it's there for, because it always connects with something that's gone before. It's the practical outworking or application of something previously stated. I think the therefore at the beginning of chapter 12 looks back to the whole list of the achievements of faith in chapter 11. In the light of the record of all these achievements of faith, what do we do? The answer is "we run with endurance the race set before us". However, it refers also to these witnesses when it says that we have "so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us". "Surrounding us" I understand to mean above us and all around us.
That's my picture. "Witnesses" has two implications which are stated there. First of all, those who attest the victories of faith, they are witnesses to what faith can do. Secondly, it gives us a picture of spectators at a race. Remember that the ancient world, both Roman and Greek, was full of athletic contests which were run in big stadium in the middle of big cities and they had seating for thousands of people all around. So the picture is we are running the race but in the stands all around are the witnesses watching us, cheering us on. Every time we get discouraged we look up and we see Moses there. Moses said, "I did it, you can do it. You can make it. Just keep your eye on the invisible, don't look away".
I've written there a little story which I read recently in a book that really touched me. I've put the example of a boy cricketer. You have to bear in mind cricket is my background, baseball I really don't understand. They've got certain things in common, they're both summer games, they're both very slow. More time is spent standing around doing things than in actual play. It's amazing to me that the English- speaking world tolerates either of them. But anyhow! I grew up playing cricket. My parents used to say they always knew what season of the year it was by how I reacted to stones. If I kicked them with my foot it was winter. If I picked them up and bowled them they knew it was summer! This is the story about a man who was a very successful and famous cricketer. Believe me, before World War II in Britain, to be a successful cricketer was to be famous. The people who represented England at cricket were in the newspapers every day.
Do you know that there was one great cricketer that became a great missionary, you know what his name was? C. T. Studd. He played cricket for Cambridge and for England. In the eyes of all the little boys, I mean, that was the highest achievement. Anyhow, this cricketer later in life became completely blind but he had a son who followed in his footsteps and also became a very skillful cricketer. Then the father died and there was a cricket match just a day or two later and all the people expected the son wouldn't be playing because of his father's recent death. But instead, he turned up and he played better than he'd ever played before. His friends said to him, "How come you played so well just after your father's death"? He said, "Of course, that was the first time my father ever saw me play".
I think that really sums this picture of the witnesses. I really believe that those who have gone before have some awareness of what's going on. How they have it I'm not going to try to relate to you. In fact, I can't because I don't understand it. To me it's tremendously encouraging to think of all the prophets. There's Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel and they're all praising us, clapping their hands and setting us an example. In order to run this race successfully there are two things we have to lay aside. One is unnecessary burdens and the other is entangling sins. I think if you're thinking in terms now of a runner, the entangling sins would be like things that were wound around his limbs, especially his legs, that prevented free movement. Obviously he couldn't run successfully. But the unnecessary burdens would be things that he had stuffed in his pocket. He might take his Boy Scout knife out in his pocket or he might carry money or who knows what.
I think when we watch really expert runners we realize that they strip themselves down to the absolute minimum, they don't carry one single ounce of unnecessary weight because it'll spoil their achievement. So the writer of Hebrews says it isn't just giving up sins, we've got to give those up. They'll entangle us, they'll bind us, they'll hold us back. But also we've got to lay aside unprofitable burdens. And I wrote there "think of examples". I'll just share with you a little. One of the areas that I'm most careful about is my mind. I do not burden my mind with anything unnecessary. I don't let other people put their junk in my attic. I'm not saying this as an example but I would not be able to watch a television program, and then come out and preach. I would not be able to do it. Because I watch television so seldom that it makes the most tremendous impact on me. I can't even sleep at night after it.
I'm different from you and I'm not saying you should be like me, but that's one of the conditions in my life for being a successful teacher. I have to keep my mind pruned, no excessive burdens of any kind. What about excessive talkativeness? It's not exactly sinful, but it can completely deaden your spirituality. Some people hang all day on the telephone. I happen to hate the telephone so it's no temptation for me. I'm certainly not saying everybody should be like me. If you ever get to speak to me on the phone it's something of a miracle because I have a system of protection against phone calls! Now I am not saying everybody should be like me because lots of people couldn't do that. But I'm wondering if you were to sit down and think, Am I trying to carry something in my pocket and run a race? who knows what it might be. See, it's not necessarily a sin; it just doesn't enable you to run your best.
I suggest those of you that are concerned, you take a little while with the Lord and ask Him if you're carrying something bulging in your pocket which prevents you from running the way you ought to run. Let's look at two passages which also speak about the Christian life as a race. It's one of the commonest examples. First Corinthians 9:24–27. Dear Paul, notice how he begins. Do you not know... You can be sure when he says that most people don't know. At least they act as if they didn't know. Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Now the conditions for winning a race are pretty specific. We either meet them or we don't. Everyone who competes in the game exercises self-control in all things. How true that is of modern athletics. And the self-control relates to every area: entertainment, reading. A proficient athlete has to go into his contest with the right mental attitude.
In fact, some say it's more important than the physical training. I always give the example of a ballet dancer because that was so familiar to me. If you are going to be a proficient ballet dancer you take care of what you eat, you take care of your associations, your reading, you cultivate a certain outlook, you make certain friends and you don't permit yourself certain exercise. You don't go swimming, because swimming develops the wrong muscles. There's nothing wrong with swimming, it just doesn't go together with your chosen career. I know, believe me. I've known ballet dancers who are far more dedicated to their ballet than most Christians are to their Christianity. They have to start when they're four or five years old, that's the latest. And from then on, for the next thirty years it's a life of rigorous self-discipline.
Christians don't succeed in any other way. The conditions are simple. Paul says: They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. The word wreath is often translated "crown," but it's a laurel wreath, which was placed on the brows of victors in the Olympic Games. Of course, the laurel wreath withered after a day or two. Paul says we are running for a wreath that will never wither. Then he goes on, this is the application: Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim... One of the things you can't afford to do when running is turn around and look behind you too often. That's fatal. And how many Christians don't perform their best because they keep turning around to look at something behind them? ...I box in such a way, as not beating the air... I know what I'm aiming at.
Oh, for so many years when I dealt with the forces of evil I was like a boxer blindfolded just lashing out with my fists, hoping that somehow I might land on my opponent. Very rarely did I. Then God opened my eyes to the spiritual, unseen world. Today I have a pretty good knowledge of what I'm aiming at and generally, I succeed in hitting it. ...I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. Let me make this observation. The body is a wonderful servant but a terrible master. You have to make up your mind who's the master and who's the servant. Then in Philippians 3, a very similar picture but Paul here speaks in the present of himself.
Verses 13–14: Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Notice again the whole trend is onward and upward. Notice how careful he is to say he doesn't look back, he forgets that which is behind. Then, still going through the outline, our race is a marathon, not a dash. The primary requirement is endurance or perseverance. Let's look at the one Scripture quoted there, Romans 5:3–4. Romans 5:3–4. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations... Is that true of you? "Praise the Lord, I'm in tribulation"! Do you say that? Why did he exult in his tribulations? Because he knew what it was doing. ...knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance... Shall I tell you how to learn perseverance? By persevering, there's no other way.
We were talking to some Christian friends of ours about what we went through at the house this summer when the inner wall had to be torn down and rebuilt and the whole house was upside down and filled with noise and dust for two months. They said, "What did you learn"? I stopped for a moment and I thought and said, "Patience". There is no other way to learn patience, that's all, you just have to go through something. Going on, Romans 5:4. ...and perseverance [produces] proven character... That's the best translation, there's a number of different translations. There's a difference between people who believe and people who've proved they believe. It's easy to say, "I believe in healing," until you get sick. That's when you know whether you really do believe in healing or not. ...and proven character, hope... People who've been through the test and come out victorious are optimistic people.
So bear that in mind. We'll look at one more verse, I think we can just squeeze it in. Verse 2: This is how we must conduct ourselves in this race. Looking away to the beginner and the completer of our faith, Jesus, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right of the throne of God. So, the key to success is in those words. "Looking away from ourselves to Jesus". I've given the reference there. Moses endured as seeing him who was invisible. Jesus provides two things. The example, the cross is the way to the throne. And inspiration, He is as competent to perfect our faith as He was to initiate it.
Why don't you look those Scripture references up for yourself? Ephesians 2:4–6, which says we died with Him, we were made alive with Him, resurrected with Him, enthroned with Him. Remember, the cross is the way to the throne. No other way leads to the throne. And 2 Timothy 2:11–12 says if we died with Him we shall also live with Him. Then the other reference, Revelation 22:13, Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and Omega, beginning and ending, the first and the last". The emphasis is He begins everything and everything is perfected and completed in Him. That's true of our Christian experience. It begins with Him and it ends with Him. We're successful while we're looking away from ourselves to Him.