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Summary: The Gold in life’s marathon is pleasing God. Too often we burden ourselves with a different focus which asks, "What’s in it for me?¨ Sometimes it’s not even about that but focuses on what everyone else expects or how he or she believes I should perfor

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“When the odds are stacked against you”

Scripture reading/text: Hebrews 12:1-3

VIDEO CLIP - ALIEN

Last week Glenys spoke on “Clearing the Hurdles”

- Perdita Felician: “I won’t quit until the final hour.”

- Elyse Hopfner-Hibbs medalist raised by a single mom (two Olympians in this story)

We learned that we can clear our hurdles by:

- Remembering that God is looking out for our best interests

- Relying on God’s all sufficiency

- Resolving to conquer

- Rejoicing that nothing can separate us from his love

I felt so inspired by Glenys that at the end of the sermon God gave me today’s text. I felt impressed that we should continue with the theme of clearing hurdles because it is not easy to stick with it. Discouragement cramps our momentum; the heat-stroke of opposition can drain our stamina and motivation. Running into obstacles that drive our faces in the asphalt of reality make it hard to get back up. Our stories are not unlike Felician’s Hopfner-Hibb’s or Simon Whitfield’s. Last Monday (Aug 18/08 Beijing Olympics) – Simon Whitfield took silver in the Men’s Triathlon. CBC sports coverage said he “mounted a furious rally to briefly take the lead late in the closing sprint before being overtaken over the final stretch by Germany’s Jan Frodeno.

"I kind of fought my way on there, and I thought there’s no time like the present," Whitfield said. "I tried to make it a battle of pure willpower. I gave it everything I had." There was a point in a television interview where Whitfiled admitted he wasn’t sure he could make it. Many of us know what it’s like to give life or a situation everything we’ve got but sometimes it’s just not enough and we have to accept coming in second or third – or last.

One Olympian was competing with a hernia. Another was running with twelve stitches in her foot. A third wanted to continue with a broken elbow but couldn’t because she needed two arms for her heat. How do people stick with it? When the odds are stacked against them they rise to the occasion and instead of quitting they excel. Jesus’ anxiety at facing his death was so extreme that blood vessels ruptured and he sweat blood – it’s a physical condition called “he-ma-to-hid-ro-sis” which is brought on by extreme stress.

I need that type of grit. I need determination that takes my hurdles by the throat and decides you’re not taking me down!

Hebrews provides some meaningful insights for facing life when the odds are stacked against you.

Remember:

1. THE PRIZE – PLEASING GOD (Heb. 11:5)

In our quest to survive and thrive when the odds are stacked against us, our story begins with faith and our earliest fathers of creation. One of those mentioned is Enoch:

- The son of Cain (who killed his brother Abel – author of Hebrews mentions this family stain in verse 4)

- Nothing like his dad (pleased God)

- Lived to be 365 years old!

The Book of Wisdom “has the idea that God took Enoch to himself when he was still young to save him from the infection of the world.”

The Gold in life’s marathon is pleasing God. Too often we burden ourselves with a different focus which asks, “What’s in it for me?” Sometimes it’s not even about that but focuses on what everyone else expects or how he or she believes I should perform. Imagine every day your first impression and only impression is “the only thing that I will pursue today is what pleases God.” We lift the pressure of others’ expectations, the demand for success and the temptation to perform! There is no higher prize than pleasing God. When he is the goal of our pursuits and activity, we cannot fail.

When the odds are stacked against you, remember:

2. THE FOCUS – THE FUTURE (Heb. 11:10, 14-15)

There is mounting pressure pushed on our young people. Magazines like Glamour, Teen, Cosmo Girl and Teen People are presenting images of perfection, success and fame. Buy-in tactics don’t only target teens though. Advertisers are now targeting audiences through major Motion Pictures. The Lotto 649 tag line is “Imagine the Freedom” and the list continues.

We can understand this obsession in some respects. Twelve-time awarder winner, Philip Yancey writes in Rumors of Another World, “Those who believe only in the visible world have a single proving ground of worth, and for this reason they celebrate beauty, success, wealth, talent – the values on prominent display at the magazine rack. The winners who excel get an ample reward in our celebrity culture.” Yancey continues however and notes, “On the other hand, if I believe in two worlds I will look on the same values differently.” He continues to evaluate a certain problem we are facing. “All too often, the attractions of the visible world simply overwhelm those of the invisible. Three centuries after Jesus, when the church had already spread throughout the Roman Empire, John Chrysostom, archbishop of Constantinople (407 A.D.) complained, “We admire wealth equally with them [non-Christians], and even more. We have the same horror of death, the same dread of poverty, the same impatience of disease; we are equally fond of glory and of rule…How can they believe?” The problem that plagued us 1600 years ago will continue to plague us as long as we live.

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