11.13.2017

Inspiration and Strength!

Our Sunday sermon was a great encouragement to me.
I share my notes and personal reflections here with the hope they will encourage others as well.

The text:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1, 2

✲ The Encouragement Recorded
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,..."

- The author encourages the saints to run hard and run fast - BY FAITH - after reminding them of the faithful saints of the past.
By faith Abel
By faith Enoch
By faith Noah
By faith Abraham
By faith Sarah
By faith Isaac
By faith Jacob
By faith Joseph
By faith Moses
By faith Rahab
(Hebrews 11)

Remember them! And follow their example! Not because they were perfect, but because they pressed on in their imperfection - BY FAITH.

✲ The Encumbrance Rejected
"...let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,..."

As believers, we are challenged to remove every encumbrance, hindrance, and distraction so we can focus on what is important. Jesus Christ.
A sprinter does not race down the track wearing a jean jacket and cowboy boots, just as a marathon runner does not run 26.2 miles in a wetsuit and SCUBA gear. The weight would drag them down and exhaust them. As does the sin strapped to the back of the believer as she covers mile after mile in the race toward the prize of heaven.

Weight = Things that are not 'bad' but also not Best. Things that slow you down and distract you.
Believers must choose between what is good and what is best.
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, Philippians 1:9, 10

Just because something isn't sin doesn't mean you should do it.
Can vs. Should
Which one pushes you to Christ?
Which one serves the Kingdom?
Which one minister to others?
What do we NEED to do in order to run the race with excellence?

It may not be 'evil' - but - is it ESSENTIAL?

Sin = Forbidden things. No need to discern what is good or best - because it is all sin!
Sin needs to be completely eliminated from the life of a believer.
-Are you aware of the sins that constantly ensnare you?
-Do you guard against those sins?

✲ The Endurance Required
"...and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,..."

- The Christian life is a MARATHON, not a sprint!
- It is a grueling, agonizing trek through the world and all of the sin which dwells within it.
- It is a long, long race requiring daily running.

→ Endurance requires strenuous effort.
- Neglecting the disciplines of reading the Bible, praying, and meeting with the church body is NOT AN OPTION for the believer.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. I Corinthians 9: 24-27

Endurance is a singular effort. Though we run as a body, we are also run an individual race.
- Each of us has a specific calling that is to be pursued and obeyed.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10
- Each of us was given specific spiritual gifts to be used within the body of believers.
There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. I Corinthians 12:4-7

We must not fall into the temptation to Compare and Despair. God sovereignly chose the details of your life, for a purpose, and for His glory. Be content with WHO YOU ARE. Obey your calling and exercise your gifts and you will find the race much easier to endure!

✲ The Example Recommended
"...looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."

- The author points to Jesus as the ultimate example of faith.
- Keep your eyes FIXED ON JESUS! HE is the prize! Not the world.
- He endured. He did not quit. He ran willingly. He ran obediently. He ran alone.

The Old Testament saints INSPIRE us, but Jesus STRENGTHENS us so we can run - all the way - without quitting - until the day we cross the finish line and are ushered into glory forevermore!

Lord, thank You for this fantastic passage in Scripture that reminds us that You have used weak, sinful men and women to accomplish Your will. You choose the weak so Your strength is more evident. What an encouragement this is to Your children when we look in the mirror and see flaw upon flaw, wondering if You can do ANYthing through us, or if You even want to. You never ask us to do something for You without giving us what we need to walk in faithful obedience, but like Moses, it is our focus on the flesh that keeps us from seeing the bigger picture. BUT GOD. We know You can do anything, but we allow the weaknesses and failings and disappointments of men distract us from this truth. You do not need us to accomplish Your will, but You choose to use us - as we are - because it is Your power that works within us to achieve Your purposes and plans. Thank You for this truth, Lord! Thank You for pouring new mercies on us each morning, showing us grace day by day, and strengthening us so we can be obedient to the calling You place on us. We obey because we love You, and we can only do so because You loved us first. And best.

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