Summary: Today's sermon is part of our "Practical Faith" series and looks at how we are to run God's race, or better, how to live this life of faith God has called us to take.
“Running God’s Race”
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Let me ask some critical questions
• What have you felt like giving up on? Is it your dreams, goals, marriage? Do you feel like giving up on God, or do you feel like giving up period?
• What have you left undone, a commitment, project, promise, vow, or pledge.
• What’s holding you back, distracting you? Is it fear or worry, job or possessions, how about misplaced morals or values?
These are critical questions when we consider what the writer of Hebrews says,
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1 NKJV)
The Bible describes life like a race, not a hundred yard dash, mind you, but a marathon. And while everyone runs in this race, not everyone will finish well. They’ll get discouraged, distracted, hurt, or they’ll just give up. Eventually they’ll find themselves sitting on the sidelines with their dreams unrealized and giving up on God and their God given potential.
They leave a lot of things in life unfinished. They start out well, but soon they get tired, bored, and distracted. They never finish and life feels unfulfilled. They’ve strewn the rubble of uncompleted projects, unfulfilled commitments, and unrealized promises throughout the course of their lives.
The Apostle Paul talks about this life as a race saying that if we want to receive the prize of heaven at the end, we’ll need to run it according to the rules (1 Timothy 2:5).
But still people live life saying, “Life Happens.” Yet what’s also true is that life is what we make of it.
Our character is not determined by how well we start the race, but how we finish it. This is why Paul could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV)
Today, we’ll be looking at how we can finish this race, this life of faith, even when we feel like giving up. We’ll be looking at four things everyone needs to do if they want to finish well and at the end hear the Lord say, “Well done good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of the Lord.” (Matthew 25:21 NKJV)
1. Remove the Hindrances
We need to remove those things that drag us down and hold us back from being everything God has called us to be.
“Let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us.” (Hebrews 12:1b NKJV)
By using the word, “weight,” and the word “sin,” side by side, what the writer of Hebrews is saying is that there are things that we’re doing that while they may not be sin, they are definitely not in our or others best interests.
Now this word, “laying aside,” is not a gentle removal. The wording means violently taking off and throwing it away. If you were water skiing in your snowsuit and you fell in the water, you’d be violently tearing away your clothing before you sunk to the bottom. Or, as it regards running a race, an athlete never runs in their sweats, but strips down to the lightest weight clothing that will allow them to run effectively.
What we need to understand is that God has created us uniquely; therefore, God has created a unique race for each of us. The problem is the expectations that others place upon us, and that’s because they want us to run their race. We can only live the life God has given to us and to us alone, and we won’t finish the race well until we let go of these false expectations of others. If we live by any other expectations than God’s expectations then we’re not going to be living God’s best, and we’re not going to be finishing this race, this life of faith, well.
And so, the writer of Hebrews tells us that if we want to finish well we’re going to have to simplify. We need to get rid of the baggage, remove the diversions, eliminate the distractions, and whatever else that weighs us down and prevents us from running the race God has set before us.
One of the main distractions is all the stuff we acquire, that is, our possessions.