Summary: This is the last sermon in the series and focuses on Jesus' ability to endure to the end and finish the race by focusing on the prize.
A. Last Sunday was New Year’s Day, and I was on vacation.
1. I really appreciate everyone allowing me to take a vacation, and especially Alan and Mike, and the other elders for picking up the slack.
2. Since we did a “stay-cation,” I took the opportunity to visit Southside and Oswego on the Wednesday and Sunday that I was stay-cationing.
3. It was wonderful to spend some time with our brothers and sisters in those congregations.
4. They, of course, send their love and greetings to the church here at Wetzel Road – they appreciate our partnership, and know that they owe their existence to the efforts of this congregation.
B. Well, we are only one week into the new year – how is it going for you so far?
1. I thought we might start with a few new year’s resolution cartoons.
2. In this first cartoon, the man puts “being more decisive” as resolution #1, then he can’t seem to decide on any other resolutions after that one. I don’t think he’s going to make much progress.
3. In cartoon the second cartoon, you have man speaking to his dog, “You chewed up my list of new year’s resolutions…good dog!”
a. If you’ve got a dog, you might try that way of dealing with your new year’s resolutions.
4. This next cartoon really conveys how it often goes – Day #1 everyone keeps their resolutions, and by Day #2 they have already returned to their old habits.
5. How about one more cartoon – “When it came to new year’s resolutions, Gerald, the sheep, was a realist – resolution #1 – eat grass.” I think he can handle that goal.
C. Today’s sermon is the last in our series on Cultivating a Heart Like Jesus, and I want to talk about having an enduring heart.
1. Today I want to talk about preserving to the end.
2. Today I hope we can learn something about endurance.
3. I want us to realize that it is more important to finish well than to start well.
4. Getting started can be a challenge, but finishing is even harder than starting.
5. That’s not only the case with New Year’s resolutions, it also the case with the Christian life.
D. How many of us are guilty of not finishing what we start?
1. How many times have you started a project and not finished it?
2. How many times have you started a program and not finished it?
3. Diets, exercise, study, reading – we all know it’s one thing to start something, and it’s something else entirely to finish it.
E. Some people believe the motto: “Don’t start what you cannot finish.” And so they never start something for fear that they won’t be able to finish.
1. That’s not the impression that I want to suggest.
2. If it is something good and right, then we need to get started on it even if we are not sure we can finish.
3. And to be honest, I don’t believe you should finish everything you start.
4. But there are times we need to stop what we have started - if it’s not working, or if we have taken a wrong route, then we should stop.
5. There is no reason to beat or ride a dead horse.
6. In that case, we should re-assess and start anew.
F. So the purpose of the sermon today is not to convince us to finish everything.
1. Rather, the purpose of today’s sermon is to challenge us to finish the RIGHT thing.
2. The right thing that I’m referring to is the Christian life.
3. I want to use the analogy of a race – the Christian race. We are called to finish the race.
4. Look again at the Scripture Reading from Hebrews 12:1-3: Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
G. The Christian’s race, as the Hebrew writer describes, is not a jog but rather a demanding and sometimes agonizing race.
1. It’s a picture of a marathon. It will take a lot of effort to finish strong. So the author calls us to persevere and to endure.
2. This reminds me of Jesus’ response to a man who said, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” (Luke 9:57)