Turn Life’s Challenges Into Positive Life Lessons
Pastor Ray comes from the back of the church down the aisle with a back pack and carrying a number items including: small TV, tennis racquet, cell phone, etc.
I’m sorry I’m late but I am slowed down by the weights I carrying. I appreciation this congregation being my witness encouraging me to finish the race of being more and more like Jesus. My problem is I sometimes get hindered in my race by things: television and tennis racquet represent leisure and entertainment. They are not bad things, unless we spend too much time at them so we don’t have time to follow Christ. The Day timer represents work. We can spend so much energy in secular work we have no energy to work for the Lord. Car keys represent materials possessions. These things are not evil in themselves, but we must guard against anything that would hinder our progress in the spiritual race of a life running with Jesus.
I. To Finish the Race put off everything that hinders you.
Hebrews 12:1 calls us to lay aside every weight and strip off every hindrance that slows us down… We are to remove any hindrance or encumbrance that keeps us from finishing the race. We must get rid of any excess we are carrying in our life.
Kip Kandae from Kenya has a unique way of training. Kip is single, no wife and no kids. He is a dedicated runner and nature lover. He has a number of pets. He is especially fond of a boa constrictor. He raised it from a small snake. He kept the snake in his jacket while running. Over the years it has grown and now he trains with a six feet long boa constrictor on his shoulders. Because of the snake I imagine he runs alone. He hopes for a gold metal when he runs in the Olympics without the weight of his boa constrictor on his shoulders.
Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us.”
There are a number of sins that can trip you up on your race for Christ-like holy living. Whatever the weight or hindrance – anger, bitterness, lying, envy, sexual sins, throw them off.
What is your besetting sin? _____________ is my sin slowing down my progress on the highway of holiness. (Fill in the blank of your besetting sin)
If you are going to run cross country you don’t put on the heaviest hiking boots you can find. You don’t wear a football uniform for protection if your fall. You don’t carry a back pack of snacks with a gallon of water.
Don’t let any weights or sins entangle you as you run. Hebrew 12:1 is a picture of a runner tying to run with twine or weeds wrapped around his/her feet.
It could be sins you refuse to give up.
It could be burdens or grudges that you refuse to lay down.
It could be the entanglements of this world that you give a greater priority than your spiritual race.
The Christian race is more of a marathon than a 100 yard dash.
You may have had failures in running the race of holiness. You need to throw off the weight of failure and achieve victory. Whatever your besetting sin – number one sin – you need to conquer. Remember commiting sin is a choice.
#Ben Johnson is an example of a winner and a loser. In 1987 he set a world record of 9.83 seconds in the 100 meter dash in Rome defeating US runner Carl Lewis. A year and half later they raced in Zurich, Switzerland and Lewis won in 9.93 seconds.
Both Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis raced in the South Korea 24th Olympiad in 1988. Lewis ran his personal best, 9.92 seconds but Ben Johnson set another winning time of 9.79 seconds setting a new record for the 100 meter race. This made Johnson the fastest human ever.
It was a proud moment in Canadian athletic history that quickly turned into a nightmare. Only 62 hours later Olympic officials entered Johnson’s room and walked out with his gold medal. Ben Johnson had tested positive for steroid use. The Canadian sports establishment was scandalized. Johnson lost millions in endorsements and sponsorship fees and he was suspended from competition for two years.
By an act of your will you choose to say “no” to unrighteousness and look to Jesus the author and finisher of your faith. When properly motivated you run for your life.
# Two attorneys took a safari vacation to African backcountry. One day they took a rest, removed their back packs, and leaned their rifles against a tree. They were startled with a large, hungry-looking lion emerged from the jungle and began eyeing them with anticipation.
It was clear the attorney’s rifles were too far away to do them any good. One attorney began to remove his shoes and his fellow attorney asked him why he was doing that. He replied, “Because I can run faster without them.” “I don’t care how fast you can run you, never outrace that lion.” The now barefoot attorney said, “I don’t have to outrun the lion. I just have to outrun you.”
I Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
As Satan tries to defeat you he will remind you of your past failures, over and over again. You can turn your failures into life lessons. Defeat the temptations of Satan by putting on the whole armor of God. You don’t have to be fearful of the attacks from Satan because greater is He, the risen Lord, who is in you than he, Satan, who is in the world
As you run the race of life face temptation head on.
• The battle is usually won or lost in the first 5-10 seconds you’re tempted. The longer you consider the temptation the more likely you will loose.
• There is greater pleasure to overcoming temptation than there is in giving in to it.
• An entire week of victories can do wonders for your walk of faith.
# Ann Landers used to receive an average of ten thousand letters each month-nearly all of them from people with problems. She was asked if there wan one predominant theme in the letters she receives. She said, “The one problem above all others seems to be fear. People are afraid of losing their health, their wealth, and their loved ones. People are afraid of life itself.”
As Christians you have the assurance that God is with you. God’s love in your life casts out fear.
# Early American Indians had a unique practice of training young braves. On the night of a boy’s thirteenth birthday, after learning hunting, scouting, and fishing skills, he was put to one final test. He was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night alone. Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and tribe. But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away. When he took off the blindfold, he was in the middle of thick woods, and he was terrified. Every time a twig snapped, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce on him. After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest. Looking around, the boy saw flowers, trees and the outline of a path. Then to his utter astonishment, he saw the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with bow and arrow. It was his father. He had been there all night.
Jesus gives you the promise that He will never leave you or forsake you.
With faith in God you go forward with -
Hands that work, Feet that travel to God’s appointed place. A mouth that confess Jesus to others. Ears that will listen. A brain that thinks and dwells on things above. Go with maturity, adulthood and sacrifice. Go and stretch the limits of service. Go with a dream and a vision for God’s church.
To finish the race God has called you to run, throw off anything that hinders you or slows you down.
II. To Finish the Race Look to Jesus
Hebrews 12:1-3 is a significant portion of scripture in the Bible. Verse 3 says: “Think about all he (Jesus) endured when sinful people did such terrible things to him, so that you don’t become weary and give up.” (NLT) The NIV translates verse 3: “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
How do we run the race of life and keep on running regardless of pain or heart ache? We look to Jesus who endured the Cross on our behalf. Jesus rose from the dead and ascended to heaven and not sits at the Right Hand of God. As you run the race of life and consider giving up, look to Jesus. The greatest suffering and pain you might face are nothing compared to all that Jesus endured for you.
One thing is common to Olympic Champions. They don’t give up.
American Micki King competed in springboard diving in the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. On her 9th dive she hit the springboard and broke her left arm. She finished 4th place. Four years later she was back on the springboard and in the 1972 Olympics she got her gold.
In the 1976 Olympics in Montreal Japanese gymnast Shun Fujimoto broke his knee cap during the floor exercises. He didn’t say anything to his coach or team-mates. He performed on the side-horse and rings and on his dismount from the rings dislocated his already injured knee. His heroic effort was rewarded when his country won the gold medal in the team competition.
In 1980 at the Moscow Olympics, just two days before the small-bore rifle competition, Karoly Varga broke his shooting hand. Even so, he stuck it out and went ahead to earn the gold medal anyway.
Carl Lopes ran in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. Lopes, from the country of Portugal was a favorite to win the marathon. Two weeks prior to the race he was struck by an automobile and thrown through its windshield. He survived the accident and went on to compete and won the gold medal and set a new Olympic record.
In your Christian walk the Hebrew writer encourages you to look to Jesus and consider his love and all His suffering He did for you and don’t become weary and give up.
Accidents happen but they don’t keep you from pressing forward.
# I recently read about a small country church where the choir traditionally processed down the center aisle from the back. On one Sunday the robed soprano got her high heel stuck in the grate on the floor that let in the warm air. Rather than make a scene, she just slipped her foot out of the shoe and continued singing and processing as she limped forward without her one high heeled shoe. After her came the alto singer who athletically side-stepped the shoe while pointing out the problem to the man behind her. The tenor bent over and still in stride picked up the shoe – however, the whole grate came up with it. Nevertheless he kept going and singing as best as he could while casually holding the shoe and grate next to his side so as not to call attention to it. Last came the unfortunate bass, he wasn’t really all aware of what had just gone on---and he fell, singing, into the hole!
You may step in a hole from time to time, but keep on singing. Don’t give up. Keep going forward. Satan will do all he can to trip you and try to get you to fall. Keep looking to Jesus and don’t give up.
The Apostle Paul gives us these encouraging words in 2 Cor. 4:8-9, RSV “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; stuck down, but not destroyed.”
2 Cor. 4:8-9 Barclay, “We are sore pressed at every point, but not hemmed in; we are at our wit’s end, but never at our hope’s end; we are persecuted by men, but never abandoned by God; we are knocked down, but not knocked out.”
Whatever comes your way – remain faithful – don’t give up. You are never abandoned or forsaken by God.
I remember watching the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The US women gymnasts trailed the favored Russian team. The last member of the US team was 18 year old Kerri Strug who weighed all of 85 pounds. He words were, “I cold feel the gold slipping away.”
On her first vault attend she did a 1 ½ turn and landed short and fell backwards. The moment her feet hit the floor she heard a pop. She scrambled to her feet and a fiery pain shot up her left leg. When she walked her left angle felt loose, as if it would fall off. She limped down the runway.
She felt something had happened to her left leg and ankle. As she prepared for her final vault she thought, “Everyone is counting on me. I owe it to them to try.“ Then she said a little prayer, “Please God help me out here.” Amazingly, the pain eased. She sprinted pain-free to the springboard. After a quick twisting blur, she landed and both feet and then heard another snap. She lifted the throbbing ankle, balanced on one foot to salute the judges, then collapsed to her knees.”
The crowd erupted in a great applause. She scored 9.712 enough to win the gold medal for the US team.
Kerri Strug’s ankle was wrapped and paramedics prepared to take her to the hospital. She pleaded to stay for the award ceremony and the U.S. coach Bela Karolyi carried Kerri Strug in his arms up to the winner’s stand for the gold medal ceremony.
You can turn life’s challenges and painful experiences into life lessons. You can apply principles learned from Olympic champions to your own life.
1. Living a spiritual disciplined life is not easy.
2. Victorious living demands great discipline.
3. You are to have the mindset of putting the team ahead of your personal gain or pain.
4. Faith must be exercised at all times.
To be a winner for Jesus you “Run with endurance the race that God has set before you.”
Does perseverance mark you life? What is your first step in throwing off every weight hat slows you down? What is your besetting sin that you have identified to conquer?
Here are some practical steps to take in making sure your finish the race God has called you to run:
1. Identify and overcome with the Lord’s help your besetting sin.
2. Find a prayer partner or prayer group.
3. Get involved in a small group
4. Plan to be baptized and take a public stand for Christ is you haven’t done so.
5. Participate in the Pastor’s “Welcome Class” and join the church.
6. Practice daily devotions of reading scripture and prayer. Use the Daily Bread as a guide.
The Academy of Family Physicians say that it takes 21 days to begin new habits. Begin a 21 day plan. To break old habits and begin new spiritual habits practice spiritual disciplines for 21 days. After 21 days you will have a new godly habit in place of old. You can then say with the Apostle Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8)