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Psalms 57:7

“My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” 

I have heard it often said that life is like a marathon.  But I think it’s much more challenging than that.  When track athletes line up to run a marathon race, they know that a finish line awaits them exactly twenty-six miles and 385 yards ahead or a little over 42 kilometers.  For the best runners, the finish line comes in a little over two hours.  Before they start the race, each of these professional runners know approximately how much time it will take to finish.  And though they run most of the race on the open road, they often finish the course in a stadium of cheering fans.

The race of life is very different because you never know where the finish line is until you’re crossing it.  Who knows when they are going to die?  I don’t know where or when my race will end.  You may be closer to the start, or you may be nearer to the end than me, but we are in the race.

Did you know that the Apostle Paul likened our Christian life to a race? Look at what the Bible says in the following verse:

1 Corinthians 9:24

“Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain.”

1 Corinthians 9:26

“I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air:”

Philippians 2:16

“Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”

So we are in a race.  Sometimes this race we are running seems like it goes through beautiful vistas, and sometimes it feels like we are going downhill, but other times it feels like our path leads through long dark valleys, sometimes it feels like we hit a brick wall, or sometimes it feels like we are climbing Mount Kenya.  I don’t know what part of the race you are in tonight, but I want to invite you to think a little while with me on this next verse.

Hebrews 12:1

“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,”

This verse is preceded by the Hall of Faith passage in Hebrews 11 that describes Old Testament giants: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses, and Rahab, among others who ran life’s course with great purpose and intensity.  Can you see this incredible picture? Just as Professional Basketball players, or Football players, or Baseball players are surrounded by cheering fans, you and I also have a great crowd of saints cheering us on as we run the race of life. This passage in Hebrews suggests that heaven is full of great men and women of faith who are rooting for our successful race through life.  We can see them in the stands and hear them cheering us on.

I want you to imagine this picture.  You are a professional sports player surrounded by cheering fans.  Now imagine yourself not as the professional sports player but in Hebrews Chapter 12:1. This verse tells each of us, young and old that we have a great crowd of saints cheering us on as we run this race of life.  This passage in Hebrews tells us that heaven is full of great men and women of faith who are cheering for our successful race through life.  I want you to envision seeing them in the stands cheering us on.  Imagine you and me running into a stadium filled with the giants of faith.  Unlike the Olympics, we aren’t entering the stadium to finish our race, but we are doing it mid-race or at the start of our race to receive encouragement from these great people of faith.  Do you ever wonder what Moses, Abraham, or David might tell you today.

When a crowd cheers, you can’t distinguish one voice from another.  What if one of those giants could step out of the crowd, come down and jog a lap with you. Do you wonder what those heroes of faith might be saying?   What would they say to you?  Their time would be limited, but what words would they use to encourage you in your race?

As you and I enter the stadium and begin our first circuit of the track, we see an ancient man coming out of the stands to greet us.  He is old.  In fact, he is far older than any human we have ever seen.  His face is weathered, his hands are boney, and there is a hobble to his gait.  But he falls in next to us and says:

“One person can make a difference”

He continues, “ I know because when God decided to destroy the earth with water, He made a covenant with me so that humankind might not perish”

Genesis 8:21

And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.”

This is Noah!! Wow, he is running right beside us.  Noah lived to be 950 years old, but that is nothing compared to how he lived his life.  Noah’s righteousness saved humanity, and the times he lived through were some horrible times.

Genesis 6:5-8

“5 And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

And it repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them.

But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

As we run, Noah shares five different ways we can make a difference.”

  1. You can make a difference for your family.

Living a life of obedience to God always has the potential to impact others positively.  God selected Noah to build the ark because of the way he lived.  His obedience didn’t just affect him.

Genesis 7:1

And the Lord said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.”

Those closest people to you benefit most when you do what’s right.

  1. You can make a difference for future generations.

Once a young man observed a man in his eighties planting an apple orchard. The older man lovingly and painstakingly prepared the soil, planted the tiny saplings, and watered them.  After watching for a while, the young man said, “You don’t expect to eat apples from those trees, do you?”  “No,” The old man replied, “but somebody will.”  Your actions can help those who come behind you.  What are we doing to make the path easier for those following behind us? Earth’s inhabitants are still receiving the benefit that came from one man’s life of righteousness.

  1. You can make a difference for God.

Too often, we fail to realize our importance to God

2 Chronicles  16:9

“For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to shew himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him.”

God is always looking for someone to stand in the gap for him. That was the case with Noah.

  1. You can make a difference at any age.

Some people put restrictions on themselves according to their talent, intelligence, or experience.  Others worry about their age.  But with God, one person can always make a difference.  Age means nothing to him.  When Jesus fed the 5000, a young boy provided the loaves and fishes.  In the case of Noah, he was 600 years old when he entered the ark.  You are never too young or old to make a difference for God.

As Noah leaves us, he says:

“When you see a rainbow, remember that one person can make a difference”