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The Race

 

 

Schedule

Week 1 (September 25)

On Your Marks: Running Toward Christ

Week 2 (October 2)

Running By Grace

Week 3 (October 9)

Running to Win

Week 4 (October 16)

When the Race Gets Hard

Week 5 (October 23)

Hurdling Temptation

Week 6 (October 30)

After We Hit the Ground

Week 7 (November 6)

Running in Front of an Audience

Week 8 (November 13)

Finishing the Race

 

This summer, my oldest daughter surprised me by saying she wanted to go to the track and work on her mile time. I never pegged her as a runner. Then again, maybe she takes after me a bit. I love to run. In college, I ran 5.5 – 7 miles a day, five times a week, year round. Not only did running that much get me into really good shape, it helped me relieve stress and gave me time to think. Though I didn’t always look forward to running, I never regretted it. So what seemed like torture to some was an incredible experience for me.

Turns out that running also makes a pretty good metaphor for the Christian life. The apostle Paul, in particular, frequently compares following Christ to running a race in his epistles. As someone steeped in Greek culture, Paul was well acquainted with the Isthmian games and other early Olympic style contests. These athletes were not running recreationally, they were throwing their all into these races so they could win the ultimate prize. Paul saw lines of convergence between how rigorous and competitive these races were and the kind of life God has called us to in Christ Jesus.

This fall, we will be examining “The Race: Understanding the Christian Life as a Marathon”. The purpose of this study is to apply a different lens to our Christian lives so we’ll take on challenges, overcome obstacles and become the people God has called us to be in Christ Jesus. Each week, Pastor Torrey or I will preach on a topic which we’ll discuss in more detail during our small group sessions. We recommend participating in a small group so that you’ll get the most out of this study. If you have any questions on small groups and how to join them, please contact me ([email protected]).

 

 

Week 1 (September 25)

On Your Marks: Running for Christ

[*2 Timothy 4:6-8; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; *]

Philippians 3:12-14

  1. What are some different metaphors/analogies people might use to describe the Christian life? What do these different metaphors communicate about what the Christian life is like?

 

 

  1. Paul compares the Christian life to a race – what are your initial feelings about this comparison? Do you relate to it or not? Why or why not?
  1. Read through some of the passages where Paul invokes the race metaphor (2 Timothy 4:6-8; 1 Corinthians 9:24-27; Philippians 3:12-14). What aspects of the Christian life does he seem to have in mind when he thinks about it as a race?
  1. Why do you think Paul chose to compare the Christian life to a race? Why was that a fitting metaphor in his mind?

 

 

  1. Both running and following Christ take a tremendous amount of effort. What aspects of the Christian life require effort?

 

  1. Some Christians are uncomfortable with the idea of exerting effort in their spiritual lives. Why do you think that is?

 

 

  1. The purpose of running is crossing the finish line and winning. What is the purpose of the Christian life?

 

 

 

  1. How does thinking of the Christian life as a race impact the various decisions we might make in our lives?

 

 

 

  1. Do you think of the Christian life as a race? Why or why not? What would change in your life is you did?

 

 

Week 2 (October 2)

*Running by Grace *

Galatians 2:15-21

 

  1. What are some impressive feats of self-exertion you recall witnessing in athletic competition?

 

 

  1. What are some “impressive spiritual feats” you’ve seen other Christians accomplish? What is the danger of a preoccupation with such accomplishments?
  1. What principal problem does Paul address in his letter to the Galatians?
  1. Why does Paul feel compelled to spell out his testimony to the Galatians (Gal. 1:11-2:16)? What does Paul’s testimony have to do with the problem in the Galatian church?
  1. Why was he concerned that he might have run his race in vain?

 

 

  1. Does God’s grace in our lives mean that we don’t have to exert ourselves spiritually to please Him or become the people He wants us to be?

 

 

  1. How does understanding the grace of God affect the way we run as Christians?

 

 

  1. What does Paul mean when he says, “I have been crucified with Christ?” (Galatians 2:20)

 

 

  1. According to Galatians 2:20, what is the source of our power in living the Christian life? How is that power accessed?

 

 

 

  1. As we run the race, how can we rely on the power of Christ through His Spirit? What would this look like practically in our lives?

 

 

 

 

Week 3 (October 9)

Running to Win

I Corinthians 9:1-23

 

  1. Do you enjoy the Olympics? Did you watch any of the Olympic Games this summer in Rio? Which events are your favorites?

 

 

  1. In I Corinthians 9:24-27, the Apostle Paul uses the image of an Olympic runner. Why was this an appropriate illustration for people living in first century Corinth? What point does Paul make about this runner?

 

 

  1. Paul uses the image of an Olympic runner in the context of “winning people” (cf. I Cor. 9:19-23). What does he mean by this phrase?
  1. Why do most of us find it hard to share our faith? What are the fears that we associate with speaking out for Jesus? What keeps us from being more persistent or more focused in sharing our faith?

 

 

  1. What rights does Paul mention in the first 14 verses of this chapter? Why does he refuse to demand these rights for himself as an apostle?

 

 

  1. What did Paul mean when he said, “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.” (v. 19) How did he do that? How might we approach sharing our faith in a similar fashion?

 

 

  1. Did Paul use the same approach with everyone in sharing the gospel? What does this mean for how we present the gospel?

 

 

 

  1. What do you think Paul means by the “blessings” of the gospel that he mentions in v. 23? How did these blessings motivate Paul? How can the blessings of the gospel motivate us?
  1. Paul’s passion might be stated this way. “I will do anything, short of sinning, to win people to Jesus Christ.” What are we willing to do to share Christ with those around us? What rights might we need to give up to share our faith more effectively?

 

 

 

Week 4 (October 16)

When the Race Gets Hard

Isaiah 40:27-31

 

  1. What is the longest distance you have ever run? What did it feel like to run that far? Has there been an experience in your life that felt like a long distance run? If so, what was it?

 

 

  1. What is the complaint of the Jews in Isaiah 40:27? Why did they feel that way? Describe a time when you were tempted to feel forgotten or disregarded by God.

 

 

  1. What does Isaiah remind the Jews about God in verse 28? Why do you think he does so? How does verse 28 respond to the complaint of God’s people in verse 27?

 

 

  1. According to verse 28, the real problem was with God’s people, not with God. What was their problem? How can challenging circumstances in our lives tempt us to question God?

 

 

  1. Isaiah asserts that “even youths grow tired and weary.” (v. 30). Why might young people be tempted to think that they can make it without God’s help? When are you most tempted to think that you don’t need God?
  1. According to verse 31, to whom does God promise to give strength? What does hope in God or waiting upon the Lord look like? Tell about a time when you had to hope in the Lord?

 

 

 

  1. God doesn’t always meet our needs the same way.

[*● *]Sometimes we “mount up with wings” – Describe this image in your own words as it applies to a difficult circumstance in your life?

 

[*● *]Sometimes we “run and not grow weary” – Describe this image in your own words as it applies to a difficult circumstance in your life?

 

 

[*● *]Sometimes we “walk and [do] not faint” – Describe this image in your own words as it applies to a difficult circumstance in your life?

  1. There’s a familiar statement, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Based on this passage, is there a better way to finish this statement?

 

 

Week 5 (October 23)

Hurdling Temptation

1 Corinthians 10:1-13; Exodus 32:1-6

 

  1. What temptations does a runner face? What are the major temptations we face as Christians? What makes these temptations so tempting?
  1. How have the temptations Christians face changed over the years? Do you think we face fewer temptations or more temptations today than in previous generations? Why?

 

 

  1. Why do you think Paul reminds the church in Corinth about the failure of the Israelite people in 1 Cor 10?

 

 

  1. What specific temptations does Paul reference in v. 6-10? Why does he mention these temptations?

 

 

  1. Is idolatry still a temptation for us as Christians? How might idolatry manifest itself in our lives?
  1. What does testing God mean? How might we do that in our lives? (For a little background on this incident, read Numbers 21:4-9.)
  1. What about grumbling? How might we grumble against God? Why does grumbling displease God?
  1. What do you think v. 13 means? Does God ever allow us to be tempted with more than we can bear? How might He provide a way for us stand firm while we’re facing temptation?

 

 

  1. How do we overcome temptation so we better run the race Christ has called us to? What internal, mental steps can we take to resist temptation? What external, physical steps can we take?

 

 

 

 

Week 6 (October 30)

After We Hit the Ground

John 21:15-25; 2 Samuel 12:1-14

  1. What are some recent examples of failure that we’ve seen by public figures? What are the most common ways we can fail in our race as Christians?

 

 

  1. How does failure affect us as people? What are the different ways people respond to failure? Why do people respond differently to failure?

 

  1. Jesus told Peter that he was going to fail. Why do you think that didn’t that stop Peter from denying Jesus? Why did Jesus tell Peter that he would fail in the first place?

 

 

  1. Why do you think David failed as spectacularly as he did?

 

 

  1. How did David and Peter initially feel about their respective failures? How do you think each one expected God to react to their failures?
  1. How did God respond to Peter’s and David’s failures? Why did He respond the way that He did? Does anything surprise you about the way God responded?

 

  1. How does failure impact our relationship with God? What happens if we keep failing?
  1. Are you more likely to deny and dismiss your failures or define yourself by and dwell on your failures? Why?
  1. Ultimately, how does God want us to respond to our failures? What can we do after we fail to start running again? How do we get up after we fall?

 

 

 

 

 

Week 7 (November 6)

Running in Front of an Audience

Hebrews 12:1-3

 

  1. Who is the biggest “cheerleader” you’ve had in your life? How did having that person in your life affect you?
  1. Who is the great cloud of witnesses in Hebrews 12:1? In what way are they witnesses?
  1. Read Hebrews 11. Which heroes of the faith does the writer of Hebrews say the most about? Do any of the heroes listed surprise you? Anyone that you think is missing?
  1. According to the passage, what did these people have in common besides faith? What were these people looking for?
  1. What flaws did the people in this list have? Does it encourage or discourage you when you consider their flaws?
  1. What blessings did some of the people in Hebrews 11 receive? How did they look at the blessings they had been given by God? How did they view their struggles and trials?
  1. Which is easier for us to see beyond – our blessings or our struggles?
  1. Who are some more modern day/personal heroes of the faith we can add to the great cloud of witnesses?
  1. How can we maximize the effect of the great cloud of witnesses in our lives?
  1. How would our lives change if we focused more on the eternal than temporal in our lives? How do we do this?

 

 

 

Week 8 (November 13)

Finishing the Race

Hebrews 12:1-3

 

  1. What was Paul’s objective as he ran the race (Phil. 3:12)? Can you think of people you know who are struggling or seem to have dropped out of “the spiritual race”? What do you think caused this?
  1. Hebrews 12:1-3 offers us help and hope when the race gets hard. How do the spectators of a marathon encourage those who run? Who are the people in the crowd (“witnesses”) in v. 1? How does this “crowd of witnesses” encourage us?
  1. We are encouraged (v. 1) to strip down for this race. What are some of the sins that often trip you up? (It’s ok if there are some sins you prefer not to write down). What can you do to “throw off” these sins? What are some non-moral things that hinder your race? What can you do to address these obstacles?
  1. Verse 1 exhorts us to run the race marked out for us. Take time to peruse the book of Hebrews as you prayerfully consider these questions – What is “the race” that you believe God wants you to finish? In other words, what purpose or purposes does God have for your life?
  1. We are challenged to run with perseverance (v. 1). As you think about your life, what things do you see yourself having to persevere through to finish your race?
  1. In verse 2, we are told to “fix our eyes on Jesus.” Since we cannot see Jesus now, what does this mean? What is the significance of Jesus being “the author and perfecter of our faith”? How can this fact encourage you as you consider the race God wants you to run?
  1. According to verse 2, what was the joy set before Jesus? What scorn and shame did Jesus endure? What is the “joy” set before us? How does this motivate and encourage you when you face hard times and even antagonism to your faith?
  1. Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (v. 2) Why do you think the writer included this piece of information? What difference does it make to us?
  1. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men.” (v. 3) Why should we contemplate how Jesus faced opposition? Jesus was the perfect Son of God. Why would people oppose him? Why might people oppose us? What kind of opposition can we expect to face?

 

 

10. After participating in this study, can you think of any changes that God might want to make in your life?

 

 


The Race

  • Author: Stephen Armstrong
  • Published: 2016-09-23 19:35:09
  • Words: 2792
The Race The Race