Running the Race

On Sunday, we are discussing the "P" word... In difficult times, believers can struggle with temptation, doubt, trusting God and especially Perseverance.  This Sunday we will discuss the "3Rs" to perseverance as we examine practical advice found in Hebrews 12: Remember. Remove. Refocus.

 

Passage(s): 
Hebrews 12:1-2
Image: 

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2016-10-16 BB
 
10:33 Let’s give the worship team a round of applause.
    God has a sense of humor. One of my greatest fears is public speaking. 
    My name is Byron Bradshaw, I’m youth pastor. If you’re new here, we’d love to meet you.
    Before I begin, thanks to Michael for the privilege to speak. Lauren and I appreciate your care over the last year.
    And thank you to all of you for the many cards and prayers and concerns over the last years. It’s been the most challenging year in the loss of our son. Nothing replaces him in our hearts. But God has given us new life in August. Bryn Iris Bradshaw is a bundle of joy.
    We didn’t come up with her name. Lauren and I were ping-ponging with names and couldn’t come up with one. We got a text with Bryn in honor of Byron. And her middle name is Iris, after the Greek word for rainbow. She’s 9.5 weeks. She’s doubled in size since leaving the hospital.
    [Laurel brings her out.]
 
As we begin this morning, I have a question for us to think about: what’s the most difficult part of the Christian race? What’s the toughest thing about being a Christian?
    Some would say “Trusting God”. That’s tough because we can rely on our own flesh.
    Temptation? That’s tough. Sin nature, the world, the devil.
    Practicing what the Bible says? Doing what the Bibe says, not just hearing it.
 
One that tops them all. It doesn’t happen all the time, but when we go through difficult times.
 
Here’s a typical Sunday am. I remember getting up and tiptoeing around the house without waking the family. I remember getting in the car half-asleep. Trying to review the lesson. I start SS late, waiting for students to trickle in.
    This typical Sunday turned away. I received a phone call. Who calls a pastor on Sunday am. I let it go once. Then it rang again. I picked up the phone. It’s Laurel. she said, “Your son has passed away.” Instantly my heart was crushed. My soul caved. My faith was questioned. “How could a good loving God to cause this to happen? On a Sunday am?” September 20, 2015.
    As the year has passed, and my Christian race has pressed on through rainy, sun, dry, aches, pains, seasons, times through the last year. I found out the most difficult thing in the Christian life.
 
Perseverance.
 
When life gives you potholes. When you get aches, pains, bruises, bumps. That’s when it’s difficult to persevere.
 
Before we dive in, I want everyone to take off the shades, the facade. We all struggle to persevere.
 
And the question isn’t “when will I”, but “how do I persevere?” How do I finish this race?
 
There are three R’s of perseverance.
 
Hebrews 12:1-2
 
 12:1* ¶ Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
 2* fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
 
1. REMEMBER those before.
 
Any time you see a “therefore”, circle it. An old preacher told me, “A ‘therefore’ is there for a reason.”
    Based on what I just told you, this is what I want you to do. Lay aside every encumbrance.
    So what DID previously come in the book of Hebrews?
    Hey 11 is the “Hall of Faith”, it lists famous Biblical people who persevered despite the worst of tragedies. Despite huge, mountainous, extremely difficult circumstances.
    And these people in Heb 11 are meant to inspire us. If they can persevere, so can we. If Abraham can wait 100 years, so can we. If Enoch can walk intimately with God, so can you. IF Abel can be killed, you can preserver under persecution. If Moses can overcome insecurities, leading the people out of Egypt, you and I can lead.
    Think of someone like Rahab. A prostitute. She could overcome her immoral background and mistakes and issues. God can use you. You can overcome your issues and still be used by God.
    If David can lose a child and persevere, I can.
    If you’re struggling to persevere, pick a hero. Abraham, Abel, Rahab.
 
2. REMOVE all obstacles.
    In v. 1 - go ahead and circle that “therefore” if you haven’t already. And “let us lay aside every encumbrance”. That word is a little vague. This is the only time the Greek word is used in the whole NT. It doesn’t mean obstacle, it means a mass. An undefined mass. It doesn’t matter if it’s large or small. A little sin or an addiction. Just like a runner cannot win the race if he has a heavy backpack on, just like he can’t win the race w/ a little rock in his shoe.
    How can we expect to finish well if we have even the smallest thing hindering us? If we’re running on spiritual Empty?
    We must use others as inspiration - REMEMBER— and we must REMOVE obstacles.
 
    How do I remove obstacles—sins,addictions—getting them off of me?
 
    The key is the word “lay aside” - apotithemi - there are two interesting characteristics about this word. It’s MIDDLE voice. The action of the verb is being done BY the subject TO the subject.
    That means YOU have a choice. You can say, “I’m going to set aside this sin, this lie, this mis-identity.” It’s up to us whether we’re going to set aside the issues.
    It’s also a PARTICIPLE — it’s all the time, every day, every hour. We need to be asking, “What barrier am I dealing with? What issues am I carrying? What lies am I telling myself?” Just because you set aside a lie or an addiction a month ago, doesn’t mean you’re good to go. We have to purposely lay aside those issues.
 
3. REFOCUS on Christ
    In v2, it says, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus…”
    When we go through trials and tribulations, we need to get our eyes off of our problems and on to the person of Jesus Christ.
    It’s so easy when tough times come to focus only on the problem. When you go through an illness or lose a loved one, it’s easy to ask, “Why me, Lord?” Why must I lose a son?
    We will NEVER persevere and truly endure and run the race w/ eagerness until we get our eyes off our problems and on to Jesus.
    Get our eyes off ourselves and on to Jesus. The Author and Perfecter of our faith.
 
If you want to run the race, do the three R’s. Focus on the Person of Jesus Christ. The person who can make all things new.
    Don’t just focus on the issues, focus on the one who can actually do something about it. Not just “Why me?”
 
Reve 21:3f is a promise about Jesus making all things new:
 
 3* And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them,
 4 and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”
 5 And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”
 6 And He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost.
 7 “He who overcomes shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
 8 “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
 
If you want to run your race well, focus on Him who makes all things new. Focus on the person who can wipe away every tear. Who promises there’s a day with no more death, no more crying. 
    If you want to persevere, stop wallowing in our own misery like a pig in the mud, and remember and refocus.
    One day, we will ALL stand before the judgment seat of X. We’ll all finish the race and see how we did.
 
What would Jesus say about your race? About my race? What would he say if you say “I quit. I wouldn’t get past my masses, bitterness, self-righteousness, sin issue, etc.” You forgot your first love that you ran such a busy race that you missed the prize.
    Would he say you ran the wrong race? For yourself and not for God? Or will he say, “You ran a great race!” What will he say? Was it full of overcoming obstacles? Of persevering? Of remembering, removing, and refocusing?
 
No matter the age, the years of being a Christian, the sin of your past, let us run the race that’s ahead with vigor, passion, truth. Let us finish well.
 
You can’t change the past, but you can change the way you run in the future.
 
The question I want to leave you with this am: Not how HAVE you run so far, but how WILL you run from now?
 
11:00 Praying: Thank you for the people here who’ve showed such care to Laurel and me. I pray they’d run the race well, persevering despite any circumstance. Remembering, Refocusing.
    I pray we’d run the race well.
 
INVITATION This is a time to do business with God. Some of us are struggling—focusing on our problem, or on our sin. Give your struggle over to the Lord.
    This may be a time to repent, or a time just to receive ministry.
    I encourage you to use this time.
 
11:08 Michael: KrissAnn came up to me and asked “WHY do we have to run the race?” That is the most powerful question someone could ask.
    You know, there are a lot of people in this world going through difficult and painful struggles. And they don’t know Jesus. Or their creator. And when they’re in these difficult situations, they don’t know how to respond.
    So when they go through these things, they need to be able to see how Christians respond. So they can see there’s a God of comfort nd care who gives us the strength to stand even in the midst of storm. And they can see there’s a hope that withstands the storm. We are an example. Living epistles. God gives us certain things to walk through.
    he gives us the strength to stand, to walk, in these things. God allows them so we can be a light to others.
 
As we close, I want to pray for us. Thank you byron for being so open and vulnerable. There’s a difference between knowledge and wisdom. Wisdom is when we apply those things to our lives.
 
I know Byron is speaking from wisdom, authority, experience. I thank Byron and Laurel for their willingness to share. We’re so blessed to have you as part of our lives and church family.
 
Prayer: Father, Lord, I pray we do have ears to hear today. As Byron said, it’s easy to complain “Why me??” And we can get caught in the lie. The enemy saying, “Poor little you.” Lord Jesus, I thank you for calling us to cast all our burdens on you because you care for us. I pray for those who want to give up and quit. For those who’ve already decided to quit. I pray that today they’ll be refreshed in you by your truth.
    I pray for your great ministry and the power of your truth to penetrate the deepest lie and the deepest wound. I pray today will be one of the monumental moments where we speak to ourselves and make the choice NOT to quit but to persevere and stand in the promise of our Father’s words.
    We love and praise and ask You these things in the precious name of Jesus.
 
Amen.
 
11:14 - Will N reads the Great Commission.