Summary: A short end-of-the-year message encouraging us to go into the coming year running strongly.
Finish Stong and Run the Race
Looking ahead to the next year.
1 Cor. 9:24-27.
As we come to the close of another year, one’s mind turns to a few things:
Memories of the past year or years.
What’s in store for next year.
Now, don’t raise your hands, but how many of you have broken a New Year’s resolutions? There is a quote that says that many good plans die in the land of good intentions.
We’re going to talk a bit tonight about finishing strongly this year, and next. You see, it’s not too late to finish this year well.
Let’s look at our passage of Scripture for tonight – 1 Cor. 9:24-27.
Do you not know that in a race al the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
II. Run the Race.
A. First, notice that all the runners run, but only one gets the prize. The issue here is not that we win in everything, but that we run to win – run with purpose, not aimlessly, as mentioned in v. 26.
B. Everyone who competes goes into strict training. We are going to talk mainly about spiritual disciplines here in a bit, but let me give you an illustration about physical readiness with a look at an episode from that highly theological television series, Sanford and Son. (story)
C. We need to beat our body to make it our slaves. I realize some translations say “buffet.” This is not “buffet,” although I am not opposed to that every now and again, as some of my co-workers can tell you. The idea here is that we want to avoid the hypocrisy that the world uses as an excuse to not follow Christ.
Let’s look at some specific ways we can go into the New Year running as to get the prize.
A. First, RE-EVALUATE everything you do for spiritual disciplines.
1. Ask yourself, “WHY do I do this?” Do you do it because you were told to do it, or because you have an honest desire to deepen your relationship with God?
2. Ask your self, “Why do I do it THIS way?” The way you pray, read through the Bible, do Bible study, etc.?
B. Secondly, REARRANGE your patterns and habits in these areas.
1. If you have prayed the same way for a number of years (maybe using a certain formula), try something new.
2. If you have been reading through the Bible in a certain fashion, look for other reading programs.
3. If you have not memorized Scripture in a systematic fashion, start!
C. Thirdly, RENEW your commitment to doing those things that truly expose you to more of His wisdom and love more and more.
D. There is a sense of excitement with starting something new. It can open your heart and mind to new and wonderful things in Scripture you never saw before – and THAT will give you new glimpses of the Savior – how exciting!!
Lastly, I said we would look at how we could finish THIS year well.
A. The main way we can do this is to spend these last weeks in earnest prayer, asking God to show us areas we still need to consecrate to Him.
B. Ask Him to show you specific areas you can reevaluate, rearrange, and renew. If you are serious about strengthening your walk with Him, you can be sure He will answer – because HE wants that even more than you do!
C. Contact someone who will be an accountability partner for you. And I suggest that someone be outside your family. Not that your family is not important in helping you in these things, but there’s something about having someone outside your immediate family praying for you and encouraging you to keep running as to get the prize.
D. One last passage of Scripture – Heb. 12:1-2
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 God.