Race requires endurance, following Jesus’ example, to increase God’s kingdom

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When Southern Baptists chase hard after Jesus Daniel Akin said they will be able to faithfully run the race of faith, adding people of every tribe, tongue and nation to the great hall of faith.
During the 2010 Pastor’s Conference of the Southern Baptist Convention, Akin spoke to the men and women gathered in Orlando, Fla., urging them to fix their eyes on Jesus and follow his example. The president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary used the example of a marathon, echoing the author of Hebrews, to teach the necessity of focus and endurance to finish the life of faith.
Teaching from the text of Hebrews 12:1-3, Akin said, “The Christian life is not the life of a sprinter, but a long-distance race requiring steadfastness and endurance.”
The text teaches believers to find encouragement as they run the race, to focus on the essentials as they run the race and to follow the example of Christ Jesus as they run, Akin said.
The first verse of the chapter, Akin said, exhorts believers to be mindful of the great cloud of witnesses surrounding them as they run, receiving encouragement from those in the faith who have run the race. Looking back to chapter 11 of Hebrews, Akin said the believers listed were “earthly winners” and “heavenly winners.
“There is a catalog of extraordinary accomplishments done by these men and these women of faith,” Akin said. “Did they do these things because of who they were? No, they did these things because of the God they believed in. They were ordinary people like you and me, who served an extraordinary God.”
Southern Baptists, then, are modern-day believers who are called to increase the great cloud of witness, what Akin calls the “great hall of faith.
“I believe God calls us to add to this great hall of faith. I believe what we’re doing as Southern Baptists, focusing on the Great Commission, is about adding to the hall of faith people of every tribe, tongue and nation, that we might be about expanding the business of God and growing this great hall of faith.”
However, receiving encouragement from other believers is not enough to enable believers to run the race well, Akin said. They must also focus on the essentials, ridding themselves of weight and encumbrances and running confidently and with endurance.
“The Bible says to get rid of those things that can weigh you down. Things can enter into a denomination that can be weights that can slow us down,” Akin said. “Sometimes those can be sinful things, but sometimes they can be good things that we make a God kind of thing, and therefore they become a bad thing.”
Akin addressed an area in which he sees something that is a “great thing” becoming a weight to Southern Baptists, hindering them from running well.
“The Cooperative Program can step into the area of becoming a weight,” he said. “You take a good thing, even a great thing like the Cooperative Program and turn it into a God thing, and it becomes a bad thing.
“The Cooperative Program is not the ultimate thing. King Jesus is the ultimate thing. I thank God for it, but I will not turn it into an idol or a sacred calf and thereby give it a place it does not rightly deserve.”
Most importantly, Akin said believers must follow Jesus, who “for the joy set before him, endured the cross.
“God calls us to run in a race because God called his son to run in a race (to the cross),” Akin said. “Think about Jesus so that you don’t become weary in your souls.”
The race is not a new once, nor is it one believers can be exempt from.  As a denomination, Akin said Southern Baptist began running the race together in 1845 when the Convention was formed. Since then, it has made several major turns, including at last year’s Southern Baptist Convention, when the Conservative Resurgence of the 1970s and 1980s naturally led into a Great Commission Resurgence.
“The race is not over and the finish line has not been crossed. We must guide our people to fix their eyes on Jesus and to run with endurance and without hindrance that race God has put before us – that is, adding to the great hall of faith people of every tribe and every tongue, for the glory of King Jesus.
“I believe that’s what the Great Commission Resurgence is all about: being radically committed, running the race until King Jesus comes again.”

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