Understanding The Bible
"Running The Race of Life"
Dr. Glen Clifton
Hebrews 12:1-2

Running The Race of Life?
By Dr. Glen Clifton 1.

“Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about by a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which does so easily beset us, and let us run with patience, the race that is set before us. 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.”

 Hebrews 12: 1,2

In 1929, one of the most startling plays in football history occurred during the great Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Thousands of spectators witnessed what is still considered probably the most unbelievable blunder in the great game of football. The excellent player and captain of the California team, Roy Riegels, grabbed a Georgia Tech fumble at the line of scrimmage. And, after being spun around, he broke out into the clear, but headed for his own goal line seventy-five yards away.

The great roar of the crowd made it impossible for Roy to hear the shouts of his teammates.  But then, one of them caught him and stopped him less than a yard from his own goal line. California was forced to kick out of its own end-zone. The kick was blocked by a hard charging Tech team and Tech now had two more points on the safety. That was the ball game. Instead of losing 7 to 6, Georgia Tech won 8 to 7, all because Roy Riegels ran the wrong way!

Each one of us is in a game called "Life." How important it is that we understand the fundamentals of the greatest of all races, "The Race of Life." Give me your earnest attention for the next few minutes, that you may learn to run and win the race you’ve already begun?

First,, let us consider:

    Unlike all other races or contests, our opponents are NOT each other. Many in the game of life make this sad mistake of hindering instead of helping one another. This is because of our nature; which is not naturally trained to combat our only opponent, Satan. This race, like any other race, Requires several things:

    1. Running the race requires training: “let us lay aside every weight,” the author of Hebrews says.

      Did you ever see a Football player running the ball, with a ball-and-chain on one foot? Did you ever see a Basketball player with weights tied about his chest? NO! They are dressed in only the necessities that would make them more proficient in their game. The weights in the training room are now left behind.

      To be a really good athlete one must undertake a certain amount of training. The training is not always easy. Many times it becomes rough and tiresome. But the athlete knows that "work brings success, and victory." And, may I add, for you who are musicians, only constant practice brings the skills you need to succeed in music.

      Likewise, the successful Christian will work for the Master of his life while it is yet day, for he knows that the “night is coming when no one can work.” John 9:4

      By living a self-disciplined life is the only way a Christian a find total happiness. Prayer, Bible study and witnessing will be the main works of his life. These are natural traits placed in the Christian at conversion, but they must be practiced and cultivated into full production for the Glory of God.

    2. Running the race requires temperance: “and the sin that does so easily beset us.”

      It is what you do with SIN that will determine whether you are a success or failure in your race. Oh, Yes, I know that sin has come in for very light treatment these days. I know that calling sin by its real name is unpopular today in our society. I know that most modern preachers of our day will not preach against sin. I also know that this is the reason we have lost sight of the "exceeding sinfulness of sin." (Romans 7:13).

      Here are three sins that most often drag our young people down.

      1. SMOKING:
        A young man came forward during the invitation in one of my Youth Revival services. With tears in his eyes, he asked me, “Brother Clifton, is it really wrong to smoke? Everybody’s doing it.”

        I want to shoot straight with you for a few minutes on the subject of the “WEED” habit.

        Personally, I do not smoke because of several reasons.

        FIRST, because of my Daddy. He did not smoke, and he warned me about this wasteful habit. In my early “teens” he told me in no uncertain terms, that when I was old enough to start “burning up” his hard-earned money, I was old enough to find another table to put my knees under. There are allot of things I did without while growing up, but eating was not one of them. My daddy’s table was always full.

        Let me give you a more practical approach to get your FINANCIAL attention. It may be materialistic to some, but you’ll get the point. If I were to offer each of you $60,000 to pledge that you’ll never smoke, how many of you would sign it? OR, if I would offer you a new $60,000 Mercedes or Jaguar convertible, would you make that pledge?

        Did you know that if you smoke a pack a day, in 10 years you would have burned up about $60,000? Does that get your attention?

        SECONDLY, I do not smoke because of the influence of my coaches. I have always participated in athletics and I never had a coach recommend that I smoke. If it is wrong for an athlete (a person who is physically fit), to smoke, then it is wrong for the rest of us. I have also coached in schools and other sports forums, and I have never seen a great athlete smoke. Why?

        From a medical standpoint smoking takes years off your life, and it kills!

        The American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association and the U.S. Surgeon General tell us to “put it out, and live.” And, because of their health problems, Many in this Worship Center today would urge you NOT to start.

        THIRDLY, and most importantly, I do not smoke because of the conviction of God and the teachings of the Bible, God's Word. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I challenge you therefore brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service" (Romans 12:1). This is only one of many scriptures that lead me to believe that Christians should forsake all filthy habits, while following the Lord Jesus.

      2. DRINKING:
        I can hear one of you saying, “Come on preacher, everybody else drinks beer, etc. Why shouldn’t I?” My daddy used to say, “Son, if everybody jumped off a cliff to their death would you?” Any little punk can suck on a beer can. I know, because I tried it. Oh, I know that some preachers have extolled their own virtues by telling you that alcohol and cigarettes have never touched their lips, but I can’t say that! I’m just a sinner saved by the grace of God, and I've done things that I'm not proud of!

        Today, alcoholism is rife among adults and on the rise among teens. I know it’s “cool” to attend Keg Parties. I know “binge drinking” is the party favorite for many. I also know that more teens are dying from this type of activity than ever before.

        If you really want to see how strong you are, don’t smoke or drink. Go AGAINST the rest of the crowd. “any old fish" can float down-stream, but it takes a LIVE one to swim upstream, against the current.” Drinking and smoking does not make you a man or a woman!

      3. ILLICIT SEX:
        Every time I preach on purity or holiness of the body I can hear some old busy body saying, “Every young fellow and every young lady, has to sow a certain amount of wild oats.” Who said that? Who passed that law? Just remember: “that whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap."  (Galatians 6:7)

        Sex is like a fire: a fire is useful, serving a purpose, when it is harnessed and under control. But it becomes a raging, consuming fury when it is kindled by the sparks of lust. It is not to be played around with, without the high price of getting a severe burn, physically and spiritually. And when we play with sex, heartbreak and ruin are just around the corner.

        During an invitation, a 15 year old High school girl came forward with tears in her eyes. Her face was full of torment and agony as she told me, “I’m going to have a baby.” She was afraid to tell her mother and father, and afraid to tell her pastor. She revealed a story in this order: A dance, a drink, a dark room. Now, she cried, “What shall I do, what shall I do?”

        The Bible says:  “Flee (run from) youthful lusts, follow righteousness, faith, love, peace with them that call on the lord out of a pure heart.”  (II Timothy 2:22)

        The Apostle James wrote, “When lust has conceived, it brings forth sin, and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death.” (James 1:15)

        Some 2,500 years ago King David spent a dark night in the pleasures of sin with Bathsheba. How soon the thrill turned into tragedy. Sin surely pays off with incredibly high demands at the Devil’s tollgate!

        Paul told his young friend Timothy to “keep yourself pure.” Don’t be deceived by the devil's mis-translation: "keep yourself popular."

        Sin never reveals itself for what it really is: downright, rotten sin, but always sneaks around in a disguise. Why is it that over 50 percent of our marriages end in divorce? Why is it that over70 percent of births to teens are illegitimate? It is because of SIN in the heart of mankind instead of the Lord.

        Sex is wonderful, beautiful and exciting! God created sex for procreation and pleasure. But, He also gave us some guidelines. Sex is to be between two people pledged to each other in the "Bonds of Marriage."

        “One night stands” and “shacking up” are SINS in the eyes of God.

        My Doctorial Thesis was on: “A Christian Pastor’s Response to the AIDS Plague.” This researched 262 page hardback book was published by the University of Oklahoma. AIDS is still growing in America. We get upset with the 2500+ Americans killed in Iraq, as well we should, but we fail to recognize that over 500,000 Americans have died of AIDS, and over 1,000,000 more are infected. And even more scary is the fact that: “over 250,000 Americans have HIV/AIDS - and don't even know it."

        According to recent News Reports, STD’s (Sexually Transmitted Diseases), are also on the rise. Because of the mutation of certain virus and bacteria. Even modern DRUGS are unable to stop the STD rampage.

        SIN fascinates then it assassinates. Sin thrills and then it kills. Play with fire and you’ll get burned. May God help you to keep your bodies pure from defilement of the world.

    “... looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith... ”

    This fight of faith is not done in your own strength! You must learn to fix your eyes on Jesus. The "Race of Life" is a marathon, not just a little joy run, where you meander, or just coast along. In this race you must learn to persevere, run and endure while ”looking unto Jesus.” You cannot truly do justice to any event in which you are participating until you realize the true objective or goal.


      It is best to know or to see where we are going, to be sure we get to the right place. And then, sometimes our eyes deceive us. Just because Roy Riegels saw a goal-line, and ran to it, does not mean that he was in the right. Just racing seventy-five yards to a goal-line did not make him a hero. He ran to the wrong goal line!

      I’m afraid many today are headed to the wrong goal line. How easy it is in this world in which we live to be spun around to go the wrong way. With all the religions, doctrines, teachings, and "isms" prevalent today, it is no wonder that man is outside the salvation offered in Christ. We must be “looking unto Jesus,” as the writer of Hebrews warns. Jesus “is the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE, and no one gets to God without going His way.” (see John 14:6)

      I can hear someone say, “Oh, but they are so sincere in their belief.” So was Roy Reigels, but, he was sincerely wrong! Sincerity does not bring salvation. Faith in that which is wrong does not bring forgiveness. And, I add "without fear or favor," that unless you are headed to God’s goal line by way of Jesus Christ, you are headed in the opposite direction toward the place the Bible calls Hell, where you must face “eternal destruction from the presence of the Lord.” (I Thessalonians 1:9)

      Let me add a word of caution before I proceed. Knowledge alone is not salvation. Just knowing that putting the ball through the hoop gives you two points is not enough. One must dribble down the court and lay the ball up with accuracy before he can score. Head knowledge or intellectual agreement to the historical facts of the Bible is not salvation. Most all believe that Jesus lived, but all have not received Him as the personal Lord and Savior.

      Just being the Captain is not enough. Just having the ball is not enough. Just knowing the direction TO the goal is not enough. You must RUN. You must do your best to work that ball to its intended destination for your team.

      You must respond to the gospel FIRST by receiving Christ as your personal Savior.
      But, when this is done, you are not through. A wonderful, continued service is necessary for a real joyous victory!

    Running TO the goal is fun, but REACHING it is sheer joy. One may know about it, and even run to it, but until it has been reached, there will be no score.

      Before success can be attained in any field of endeavor, you must be obedient to the fundamentals and laws of that vocation. Whether you are learning football, music, electronics or agriculture you must obey the laws of the field. Before you can reach the goal, you must master the essentials.

      Many times I wondered why my coach worked me so hard trying to teach me to block and tackle, but when the game time approached, I never doubted his wisdom. I knew that these tried and proven methods were best!

      Likewise, I remember being disgusted and disappointed after my Violin teacher drilled me on the scales, on different positions on the violin, over, and over again. More than once I walked home from her lessons in tears. But her proven methods were what I needed to play solo and in the orchestra.

      OBEDIENCE is one of many great themes prevalent in God’s Word! All mankind has been found disobedient before God, Yet in spite of this, God - in the form of His Son Jesus - “became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:8)

      Why did He do this? So that you might have life. HE died, that you might have real life!

      At the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris, Bill Havens was chosen as one of a 4-man team in canoe racing. Bill's wife was expecting to give birth to their first child. In 1924, there were no jetliners, only slow-moving ships. Bill found himself in a dilemma. Should he go to Paris and miss the birth of his first child or withdraw from the games? He had worked for years for this event. It was the culmination of a life-long dream.

      After much soul searching, Bill withdrew from the competition. His team went to Paris without him and won the Gold Medal. People said, “What a shame,” but, Bill had no regrets. After all, Bill's commitment, and now, they had a little boy. He paid a high price to fulfill a commitment to someone he loved.

      Have you been refusing GOD’S CALL into full-time Christian service? Don’t worry about the present or future circumstances, IF GOD IS CALLING YOU, he will take care of them. God will NEVER ask any of His children to do anything that is not for their own good or for the good of the kingdom. And, He will ALWAYS PROVIDE A WAY.

      One reason there are so many people in the church out of the will of God, OR so many lost people in the church - the demands of the gospel are not preached. You have not made Jesus Lord (Boss, Master) of your life.

      Do you desire to be successful? Indeed, we all earnestly do. Well, success has its price. It can never be attained by a flippant, half-hearted, wavering dedication. Real success is reserved for those who are in earnest.

      The successful Christian will love the Lord Jesus more than all. He will be faithful to worship at God’s house. He will learn to pray and depend on God for help. He will study his Bible. He will love to fellowship with other Christians more than anyone else. He will try to lead others to the Savior that he knows and loves.

    How wonderful it must have been before the throngs of people in the Olympic Stadium in 1968, when Bob Beamon received his Gold Medals for first place in the Long Jump.

    You see, after winning 22 of 23 track meets, he almost became a failure. He fouled on his first two jumps. In other words, he had failed. He only had one left to qualify for the finals. A friend came and gave him a little advice. He told him just to move his guidelines back just a little, so he wouldn’t step over the jump board. He did, and his third jump qualified him for the finals. The world record was just over 27 feet. On his first jump he jumped for a personal record and a WORLD RECORD of over 29 feet, that’s almost 10 yards.

    As a representative of America, he had competed against the very best athletes of the world. As he received his medals of gold, he was placed upon the pedestal in the NUMBER ONE position, proclaiming him as the GREATEST ATHLETE in the world. As joy and congratulations came to him from all over the world, only he knew THE WORK that had made victory possible.

      Yes, but victory in the world and victory in the Christian life are different. As Paul wrote,  “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate (under self-control) in all things. Now they do it to obtain a PERISHABLE crown, but WE for an IMPERISHABLE crown” (I Corinthians 9:24, 25).

      MARK SPITZ entered 7 events in the 1968 Olympics, and WON 7 Gold Medals and set new World Records in swimming. What work it took to do this!

      MICHAEL JOHNSON won 5 Gold Medals in the 1996 Olympics in track. He won in 54 straight finals over a period of 7 years, without a defeat. What dedication!

      There is a sequel to the story of Bill Havens. The baby boy's name was Frank. Twenty-eight years later, in 1952, Bill received a cablegram from his son Frank. It was sent from Helsinki, Finland, where the Olympics were being held. The cablegram read : “Dad, I won. I bringing home the GOLD MEDAL you lost while waiting for me to be born.” Frank had won the medal his dad worked for, and dreamed of winning. Frank came home and gave the gold medal to his dad.

      There is also a sequel to our Acts of Commitment as well.
      Our commitment TO GOD! Our commitments to EACH OTHER. We will reap the abundant harvest of joy and peace that endures forever!

      The difference between THE VICTORY in WORLDLY events and events for GOD - IS ETERNITY! I see nothing wrong in clean wholesome athletic competition, but oh, the folly of giving yourself to anything at the expense or neglect of God. Today in every walk of life I see many individuals giving themselves so fully to their businesses, to hobbies, to recreation, that they neglect all else.

      Nothing should have a demand over your life more than God. GOD MUST have first place. Remember, that someday the trophies and ribbons of reward will vanish back into the dust from which they came. Remember, that you too will someday FACE THE JUDGE OF ETERNITY. Your achievements and rewards of this life will be worth nothing, if it has been only for self.

      Can you say with the greatest man ever to walk across the arena of competition and service in this world, the Apostle Paul, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course; I have kept the faith; Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day; and not to me only but unto all them also that love his appearing.“ (II Timothy 4:7,8)

      In the Christian life here and hereafter, all can be victors through Jesus Christ. Is He your Lord and Savior? If not, would you come to Him today and let Him coach and lead you through the crisis of this world?

      In Matthew 7:13,14, JESUS SAID, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Jesus said in these verses that only a few were really going to be victors. Which master do you serve? Which road are you traveling? Will you receive the GIFT of eternal life right now?

      THE DECISION IS YOURS. Right Now, WILL YOU commit yourself FOR the Lord Jesus. Everyone is committed to something or someone. May this be the day you GO ON RECORD FOR GOD.

      It is MY PRAYER FOR YOU today, that you will make Jesus LORD OF YOUR LIFE!


Copyright 2006, Dr. Glen Clifton
Used by permission

"Running The Race of  Life"
by Dr. Glen E. Clifton

1.  Dr. Clifton preached this sermon at King's Baptist church in Vero Beach, Florida in Preached at King's Baptist Church in Vero Beach, FL, August 27, 2006 where he as been serving as Interim Preacher for about 6 months.  Dr. Clifton and his wife Dee, have been retired to Florida for 4 years. He has been kept busy preaching up and down the Treasure coast since he moved here.  He can be contacted for speaking engagements at (772) 336-3992.

This sermon outline you have just read has been delivered (with variations) over 30 times in at least 7 states. It was first preached in a Youth Revival in 1963 in Mississippi. It was delivered in Conferences, Youth Camps and Assemblies, Revivals, Associational Youth Meetings, and in Churches. Many young people have responded to the challenge of following Jesus. Will you be one who will TRUST HIM TODAY…and dedicate your life to FOLLOWING HIM? I urge you to do it NOW!

Brother Glen

Clifton, Dr. Glen E., Brief Biography