Calvary Road Baptist Church


Hebrews 12.1-3 

How many of you have discovered that discouragements sometimes come into the Christian’s life? How many of you have, from time to time, just let out a spiritual sigh?

For those of you who are not saved, let me be the first to tell you that the life Christ has for His Own is sometimes quite challenging. It can be both painful and exhausting. That’s why Paul encouraged Timothy to “endure hardness, as good soldier of Jesus Christ.”[1] That is why Simon Peter writes and tells us that we shouldn’t think it so strange that we sometimes experience fiery trials.[2]

The Christian is a warrior. The Christian is supposed to be a fighter. The Christian is supposed to be a soldier of the cross. And as Von Clausewitz declared in his seminal work on the military arts entitled “On War,” the single most significant factor affecting the person engaged in combat is fatigue.[3]

Let me give you some facts: Do you realize that in churches all over America, there are kids, just like our children, who have adults that stand in front of them in some spiritual capacity as an example who quit? What excuse is there for quitting when the single requirement the Lord Jesus Christ has charged us with is faithfulness?[4] Christians need to be faithful to the Savior and not quit the ministries they serve Him in.

But whatever you do to try and stop it from occurring, people do quit. And quitters impose devastating discouragements on those who are affected by their selfishness. What should be done in light of these spiritual realities, people quitting their service to Christ, abandoning their posts, and frequently causing others to want to do the same by their poor example?

What should always be done whenever there is a problem? You resort to the Word of God. And if you are spiritually immature, which many Christians are, whether they are willing to admit it or not, you seek your pastor’s counsel on where to turn in the Word of God. The passage the Lord laid on my heart several weeks before preparing this message to bring to you today is Hebrews 12.1-3. Let us stand out of respect for God’s Word and read that passage together. I will read verses 1 and 3 aloud while you read verse 2 aloud: 

1  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,

2  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.

3  For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. 

This passage is about encouragement and has a great deal to do with what Christians gather to engage in every Sunday, so I thought it might help us begin the new year. There are four particulars that I would like to draw your attention to in these three verses:

First, your motivation. What should motivate you to do right, keep on, and remain faithful to the Lord Jesus Christ when even your closest friends are abandoning their stations? 

“Wherefore, seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses.” 

A great many people are watching you. Witnesses. Your mom. Your dad. Your son or daughter. A friend. People who will testify to what God is doing in your life, as others learn from watching you that He can work in their life, might someday give testimony of how your life affected and influenced their lives, for good or for ill.

I have been in the ministry for almost fifty years now. I do not doubt that I’ve thought about and almost quit many more times than you have. I have no doubt that I have many more reasons I could use to justify quitting than you do. But I’ve never quit. Not that I’m a hero. Quite the opposite. I am a coward. You see, I always think of those who are watching. Who is watching you? The Father, the Lord Jesus, the martyrs faithful to death, and your children. Should not those watching inspire you to continue in your service to Christ, doing what He wants you to do, where He wants you to do it?

Next, we see your preparation. Some people try to serve God without being prepared to serve God. Impossible. You have to prepare to perform: 

“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us.” 

Notice that two things need to be shucked off to be properly prepared to perform for Jesus.

First, you lay aside every weight. Imagine a guy preparing to run. If he wants to win, he will shed that jacket. He will then shed those pants in favor of running shorts. He will dump the steel-toed boots in favor of track shoes. In short, he will strip down to the minimum clothing to retain modesty without interfering with performance. What weights do you need to lay aside? A habit that isn’t really sinful but is in the way? A friend who is less than helpful in motivating you to be faithful to Christ?

And how about the sins which so easily beset us? I am convinced every Christian has at least one besetting sin. Perhaps you have a collection. This is a sin you cannot seem to get rid of. When you were saved, you stopped carousing. You stopped the happy smoke. But maybe you had a real problem peeking at one issue a year of Sports Illustrated or lingering too long at a random pic that shows up in an Internet advertisement. Perhaps you have great difficulty overcoming the pride that hinders you from witnessing to someone or the lack of trusting God enough to give Him His tithes and offerings. Some men are utterly terrified of meeting and getting to know even Christian women.

Let me tell you something, my friend. Whether it’s a friend or a hobby, something anyone knows about, or something you think is a secret known only to you, God knows what interferes with your complete commitment to His service. And He’s a jealous God, remember.[5] Whatever it is, it has to go, either by being removed or relegated to a less important position in your life. Why? Because you cannot perform until you first prepare. Preparing includes choosing which is more important.

After preparation comes participation. This is running with patience the race that is set before us. Isn’t that amazing? It isn’t running your race. It isn’t choosing which event you will enter. You run the race that is set before you. In others words, God decides what you are to do. And remember, hurt feelings, offended sensitivities, unfaithfulness on the part of others, uncomfortable seating, carpet colors that you can’t stand, and music that isn’t to your liking are ludicrous reasons for not running the race that is set before you.

Look at verse 2. What we do is run the race. That’s the imagery the writer of Hebrews uses to describe the Christian life. How we do it is with patience. Remember, this race is a marathon, not a sprint. The important thing is that you finish without dropping by the wayside. But this verse tells us who we are to look to. Like the tape at the finish line, we are to look to Jesus. We are to keep our eyes on Him. We are to focus on Him. What are we told about Him?

First, He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He is the Initiator and the Concluder. He is the Object and the Objective of our faith. Jesus is the One we trust. Jesus is the One we look to. What did Jesus do? We are told, “Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross.” Jesus had all the delights of heaven at His feet, yet He still suffered and bled and died on Calvary’s cross.

It was a curse to hang on the tree.[6] He was cursed for us. He took upon Himself all our sins, the Bible tells us.[7] But He despised the shame. In other words, the Lord Jesus Christ did not allow the shame, indignity, or horror associated with the cross to divert Him from His chosen course of action. He became sin for us, He Who knew no sin and suffered the punishment for your sins and mine. This is after Jesus suffered every reaction for us. Yet there are lost people who will not consider responding to the Gospel for fear of the reactions of others.

Now look at the end of verse 2: 

“And is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” 

Consider what this phrase suggests. This phrase requires that Jesus is alive! Jesus is in heaven at His Father’s right hand! But that can only mean that Jesus rose from the dead! I think we ought to commemorate that, don’t you? I think we ought to celebrate the resurrection of Christ from the dead even more than we celebrate our Lord’s birth. And if we ever get around to celebrating Christ’s resurrection on a special day, let’s make sure we don’t allow anything or anyone to keep us from faithfully attending Church, morning and evening, because that would be allowing weights and besetting sins to hold us back. Does that sound good?

We conclude the exposition with verse 3: 

“For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.” 

God wants you and me to think. This is our consideration. You might want to call it contemplation or meditation. But don’t let your mind run astray. Be disciplined in your thought life. And if you will place your mind on Jesus, considering “Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself,” meditating on what Jesus did and allowed to be done to Him for you, then you won’t be wearied and faint in your minds.

I am persuaded that quitters are often just lost and quit when they get tired of pretending to be Christians, often ending up at casual ‘churches’ where they can kick back and engage in social club ‘Christianity.’ But some who quit for a time are genuinely saved people who have made critical mistakes that led to their abandoning their place of service.

Perhaps there is no motivation. They consider not the great cloud of witnesses and think only of themselves. Perhaps there is no preparation. They are ignorant of the need to or are unwilling to lay aside those weights and those besetting sins that hinder their efforts and make hard things even harder. But it always boils down to taking your eyes off of Jesus. Amid their participation, they fail to look to Him, Who is the Author and the Finisher of our faith, for one reason or another. And what is the tragic result? They become wearied and faint in their minds. They grow weary of serving God. Their spiritual legs get tired. Then they are in a position to consider quitting. If they go ahead and quit, they will teach and train others to quit by their example, especially their children. And because they have not looked unto Jesus to sustain and strengthen them, they will, in turn, not train those who look up to them to look unto Jesus.

This was the problem addressed by the writer of the epistle to the Hebrews. The Hebrews were distracted by friends and family who had abandoned the faith. They were concerned about persecution and opposition. But they were pointed by the writer of Hebrews to Jesus, the Jesus Who had suffered and bled and died for them, the Jesus Who had risen from the dead, and the Jesus Who is set down at the right hand of God.[8]

Keep your eyes on Him, my faint-hearted friend. Keep your eyes on Him. For when you are looking at Him, you will always be on track. When you’re looking at Him, you will always be on course. When you look to Him, you will always face the right direction. And when you look to Him, your strength will return, and you will become invigorated. You will mount up with wings of eagles. You will run and not be weary. You will walk and not faint.

In my text for this morning, the writer of Hebrews based everything he wrote on an unstated fact. Jesus endured the cross and is now seated at the right hand of the throne of God. The great cloud of witnesses, laying aside the hindrances, running the race, being encouraged in the face of weariness and faint-heartedness. All of that means nothing unless the resurrection of Jesus from the dead on the third day is a fact.

Throughout this new year of 2023, let us purpose to be mindful of certain things, given that Jesus Christ is alive: 


Who does the Bible say Jesus Christ is?

The Bible says that Jesus Christ is the Second Person of the Trinity Who became a man. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,” John 1.1. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory),” John 1.14. So, the Bible tells us that Jesus, referred to as the Word, was with God, was God, and became a human being. That Jesus was still God after He became a man is proven by the words of Thomas when he saw Jesus after He had risen from the dead. Thomas said to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.”[9] Further proof is given in Hebrews 1.8, where God calls Jesus, the Son of God, God.

So, Jesus Christ is the Son of God; He is God the Son. The Bible also says that Jesus Christ is the only savior of sinful men’s souls. Interestingly, I once watched a video in which the late Billy Graham stated that people could be saved by someone other than Jesus Christ.[10] But listen to what the Bible declares Jesus to be. The angel Gabriel appeared to Joseph to tell him of Mary’s role in bringing the Christ child into the world. Gabriel told Joseph that Jesus would “save his people from their sins.” Was Gabriel wrong? I don’t think so. Jesus told His apostles shortly before He was arrested and crucified, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” Was Jesus wrong? I don’t think so. After His resurrection and ascension to His Father’s right hand, Simon Peter said these words to the priests and rulers of the Jews, recorded in Acts 4.12: 

“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” 

Was Peter wrong? I don’t think so. Paul said that there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, First Timothy 2.5. Only one go-between between God and you and me. That’s what Paul wrote to Timothy. Was Paul wrong? I don’t think so. I guess, then, that Billy Graham and those who agree with him are the ones who are mistaken. So, if Jesus is alive, He is Who the Bible says He is; the Second Person of the Trinity, the Son of God, the only Savior of sinful men’s souls, the only way to get to God in heaven. To me, it seems dumb to celebrate Christmas and Easter and not believe that or to not believe that and celebrate Christmas and Easter. And not just Christmas and Easter, but Sundays. How do people claim to believe these historical events while missing Church on Sundays? Where is the logical consistency? 


But what does the Bible say Jesus Christ did? I mention five things:

First, the Apostle Paul told the Corinthians Jesus became sin for us, He who knew no sin.[11] The Prophet Isaiah predicted that on Jesus would be laid the iniquities of us all.[12] John the Baptist identified Jesus as the lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.[13] So, Jesus took upon His Own sinless body all of our sins. He became our substitute. He was our sin-bearer.

Next, Jesus suffered and bled and died on Calvary’s cross. The way Paul phrased it, Jesus died according to Scripture.[14] Why? Why did Jesus endure the cross? He endured the cross to suffer the penalty of sin on behalf of sinners. Peter uses these words, “the just for the unjust.”[15] The just, Jesus, on behalf of, or in the place of, the unjust sinners like you. Why? To bring us to God.

Following His crucifixion, after He poured out His life and spilled His precious blood, the Savior’s body was taken down from the cross and hastily buried because sunset and the Passover sabbath were approaching. They buried him in a rich man’s tomb that had never before been used and rolled a massive stone over the face of the tomb.[16] Soldiers were also dispatched to the tomb to seal the tomb and guard the tomb to prevent anyone from stealing the body and claiming Jesus had risen from the dead.[17]

However, three nights and three days later, when the women returned to the tomb to conclude their preparations of Jesus’ body, they discovered, because of the soldiers being present, that His body had not been stolen but that He had risen from the dead.[18] Later on, several of the apostles also came to see for themselves.[19] And finally even doubting Thomas saw the risen Savior eight days later and believed Him to be risen from the dead.[20]

Then, after a post-resurrection ministry of considerable time, the Lord Jesus Christ, in full view of His apostles and others, ascended into heaven to sit at His Father’s right hand, where He presently is, making intercession for the saints.[21] He’s alive, my friends. Jesus is alive! 


Why did Jesus become your sin-bearer? Why did He do His saving work? Why did He die on the cross?

First, because you are a sinner, being a sinner means you are not righteous. Being a sinner means that you are not good. Being a sinner means that you do not fear God. Being a sinner means you sin against God. Romans 3.10-23: 

10 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

13 Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

14 Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

15 Their feet are swift to shed blood:

16 Destruction and misery are in their ways:

17 And the way of peace have they not known:

18 There is no fear of God before their eyes.

19 Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.

20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

21 But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

23 For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. 

Being a sinner means you commit corresponding sins. Galatians 5.19-21a: 

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like ....” 

Jesus died on the cross, carrying your sins to the judgment of God, because you are a sinner.

But that’s not all. Another reason He did what He did was because your sins condemn you. Let me conclude Galatians 5.21: 

“of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” 

Now let me read Revelation 21.8: 

“But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” 

The final reason Jesus died on the cross for you; love. 

John 3.16: 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” 

Romans 5.8: 

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” 


Why would Jesus die for sinners to save them, rescue them, and deliver them from their sins, unless there was a compelling need? For Jesus, the Son of the living God, to endure the suffering and despicable treatment He endured, for the Lord of glory to suffer and bleed and die for you, you have to be in some terrible fix.

And you are in a terrible fix. Paul describes you as one dead in trespasses and sins in his letter to the Ephesians in 2.1. You need to be made alive in Christ and cleansed in His blood. Isaiah describes you as a sheep who has wandered away in sin, who will perish unless rescued.[22]

If Jesus is alive from the dead, and He is, then He must have taken extreme steps to solve some problem, to bring to bear some great remedy. That can only mean, my friend, that you are in an extremely dangerous situation as you sit there in your sin.

Not only spiritually dead in trespasses and sins, but your fragile and brief life is also said to be “a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”[23] Not only do you need to be rescued from your sins, saved through faith in Christ, but you also need to be rescued now

As the Christians around you celebrate this weekly reminder of Christ’s resurrection from the dead on the first day of the new year, I suggest you approach the resurrection of Jesus Christ somewhat differently.

I urge you to use this day to trust Jesus as your own Savior from sins.


[1] 2 Timothy 2.3

[2] 1 Peter 4.12

[3] Carl Von Clausewitz, On War, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976)

[4] 1 Corinthians 4.1-2

[5] Exodus 20.5

[6] Deuteronomy 21.23; Galatians 3.12

[7] 2 Corinthians 5.21

[8] Psalm 16.11; 110.1; Matthew 26.64; Mark 12.36; 14.62; 16.19; Luke 20.42; 22.69; John 3.13; 13.1; 14.2-4; Acts 1.9-11; 2.33, 34-35; 7.56; Romans 8.34; Ephesians 1.20; 6.9; Colossians 3.1; Second Thessalonians 1.7; Hebrews 1.3, 13; 8.1; 9.24; 10.12-13; 12.2; 1 Peter 3.22; Revelation 19.11

[9] John 20.28


[11] 2 Corinthians 5.21

[12] Isaiah 53.6

[13] John 1.29, 36

[14] 1 Corinthians 15.3

[15] 1 Peter 3.18

[16] Matthew 27.60

[17] Matthew 27.64-66

[18] Matthew 28.1-6

[19] John 20.1-10

[20] John 20.24-28

[21] Acts 1.9-11

[22] Isaiah 53.6

[23] James 4.14

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