Living Like a Champion
Hebrews 12: 1, 2
Today I'm going to talk about the characteristic of endurance - being able to make it to the end, being able to finish the race and to stay refreshed all along the way.
How many of you are feeling tired this morning? You assumed that I meant - did you put in a hard week at work or did you have some physical exertion that left you feeling spent? This morning what I want to talk about a fatigue of the heart - getting to a place in life where you no longer have the energy to lift up your beliefs or hold on to your values or live the life God wants you to live or to live the life that you want to live.
When we get in situations like that rather than going for the right answers we tend to look for simple solutions to what is really a complex issue. Have you ever known people who jump to the simple solution for a complex problem? Like the guy who calls 911. “My wife has fallen into a coma and I need an ambulance to come and pick her up.” The operator says, “Where do you live?” “I live at 278 Eucalyptus Street.” “Could you spell that for me?” Silence for a long time - then he said, “Could I just drag her over to Oak Street and you pick her up there?” It’s a simple answer for a complex problem.
How do I know if I'm this kind of tired?
If you feel frequently or constantly rushed. You have the sense of feeling rushed all the time. The only thing that’s increasing in your life is the speed of your life.
If you have difficulty making decisions. There are more choices that bombard us every day, and it wears us out. Remember when we only had 3 channels on TV. Today we have hundreds of channels and nothing to watch. Because of choice overload we’ve become indecisive and we’ve become very weary.
If you just feel overwhelmed with a surplus of information. We’re the most informed people in history of the world - yet we live with a deficit of wisdom. Don’t make the mistake of believing that information and wisdom are the same.
If you’re living with a stale or superficial state in your relationship with God. Your prayers feel empty - If you’re praying. You feel lethargic when you come to worship. You have no real desire to hear what God has to say on a particular issue.
If you have a decreased ability to love. You find yourself running from people because you have no room for care giving. Your friends need a shoulder to lean on and you don’t have the strength. Your spouse wants some conversation. You don’t have the time. Your children want some attention and you don’t feel like you can.
What are you supposed to do when you’re that kind of tired? How do you stay refreshed all through your life? The Bible offers strategies to stay refreshed. Hebrews 12: 1, 2 tells us how -
1. Run - forgiven and unencumbered.
Talking about an extra weight that you shouldn’t have to carry. The way you run the fastest and stay the freshest is to shed all the extra weight. How foolish marathon runners would look if all of them were carrying bags of rubbish on their backs? But some of you are feeling depressed and depleted because you’re carrying unnecessary baggage. If you look in that bag you’ll find its rubbish that God never intended for you to carry.
How many of you have ever carried a grudge? Maybe you’re carrying around a bag filled with regrets. Anybody ever carry guilt? Guilt: it’s where we beat ourselves up, other people beat us up. Even if God has forgiven us for our past, some of us have a hard time forgiving ourselves.
One more: Sin. We’ve all sinned. Sin isn’t just the bad stuff you do. Sin is all the good stuff you’re supposed to do yet you refuse to do. It’s all the failures in life in this bag. It’s probably the heaviest bag of all.
For deep help, spiritual help, you should turn to God. Look at the help that God will provide. Look at the refreshment that’s offered at the hand of God. Walk with me through Romans 8.
He offers a clear conscience - Would that help anybody if you could have a clear conscience? Romans 8: 1“For now, there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.”
God offers you life and peace - Romans 8: 6 “If your sinful nature controls your mind there’s death [You talk about heaviness!] But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind there is life and peace.”
He offers to help you with weakness - Romans 8: 26 reminds us that the Holy Spirit helps us in our distress. God will help you when you’re weak.
God gives you purpose for life - Would that help along the way? Romans 8: 28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”
God also provides confidence for living - Romans 8: 31 “If God is for us who can ever be against us.” That’s confidence.
Then there’s a sense of security – living daily with the security of God’s love. Romans 8: 39 “Whether high above the sky or the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Would any of these refresh you? Would any of these be helpful to you as you live your life? Let God forgive you and take away the extra weight. Hebrews 1 “Strip off every weight that slows you down.” How do you stay refreshed through life?
2. Run - for eternal purposes.
I think most of us feel like we’re in a race, but are we running the right race? Bumper sticker: I’m winning the rat race. Hebrews 12: 1 “Run the race that God has set before us.” Not just what you want to do, not what the world is crying for you to do but run God’s purpose for your life. Run God’s race for your life.
Some of you have already discovered that the greatest adventure in life comes from following Jesus Christ and living His purposes out in this world. The highest levels of joy you can have, the deepest levels of satisfaction you can know comes from living Christ’s purposes out in this world. You say, “How can I align my life with that? How can I get on the track of God’s race? How can I live His purposes?”
You have to know what His purposes are. He purposes that you would come to know Him as the forgiver of sin and the leader of life. Have you done that? Have you asked Him to help you drop all the rubbish bags? Have you allowed Him to take leadership in your life? Once you do that then you can start being on His team, being part of His purposes in the world, helping other people come to know what He’s about and the new life that He offers.
Matthew 24: 14 - Jesus said “And the good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all nations. And then the end will come.” This is God’s eternal purpose and you can be a part of speeding up the day when Jesus will come back and gather together His family. That’s a cause that matters.
It’s not just about endless running where one day is frighteningly like the day before. A lot of people are waking up to the fact that life is not to be about mere success. Life is to be about significance - found when you hook your life up with God’s eternal purposes in this world.
Here’s what you do: Live for Jesus. Live the life He wants you to live. Have His attitude, have His actions and as you have a chance to influence people in your world take advantage of that. That’s why God made you. That’s His purpose in your life. Opportunities to live your life for God are all around you.
3. Run - stopping when needed to find Sabbath rest and to drink deeply beside still waters.
God offers this kind of rest stop for you. He offers this kind of replenishment for you. Psalm 23 “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. [That’s where we’re supposed to rest.] He leads me beside the still waters. [That’s where He replenishes us.]” This kind of life begins with “The Lord is my Shepherd.” With integrity and honesty can you say that you’ve asked God to be your shepherd leader? “God, I need You to direct the pace of my life. You let me know where I need to rest. You replenish and restore me.” If you don’t put your life in the hands of the Shepherd, life with all its complexities, all of its care, all of its hurts, will be yours to face alone. But if you do put your life in the hand of the Shepherd - “He leads me through green pastures and beside still waters.”
Here’s something you’ll discover in life if you live for the Lord: You have to say no to some things so you can say yes to God’s things. If you say yes to everything, you crowd out God. You don’t hear His voice. You don’t drink from still waters. You don't have time for a Sabbath rest. God has designed one day of the week for you to rest. It’s not just physical rest but its also spiritual and emotional renewal. It’s called the Sabbath, the 7th day. It’s 1 of the 10 Commandments. It’s a day that God has designed for you and I to say no to everything else so we can say a big yes to God’s will and God’s way and God’s renewing in our life.
6 days a week you plot strategy and you seek to be more productive. 6 days a week the world screams “Run!” and people run until they’re exhausted. 6 days a week you labour by the sweat of your brow and you try to wring out a living from the earth.
But on the 7th day, the Bible says, go for what counts. On the 7th day remember what matters. On the 7th day remember who you are. On the 7th day for God’s sake and for your sake remember why you were put on this earth. On the 7th day remember God who made you and who loves you. On the 7th day remember what counts. God says “6 days a week you run and labour and work but the 7th day is Mine.”
So how are you doing in the pace of your life? Are you allowing God to bring you through green pastures and to still waters? “He restores my soul.” Only God can do that for you.
4. Run - counting the cost, but knowing the worth.
There’s a big difference between what something costs and what its worth. It might cost something and be worth something entirely different. Farmers know the cost of farming and they know the worth of farming. The athlete knows the cost of competing because he knows the worth of victory. Women endure the pain of labour - that’s the cost because they know the joy and worth of holding their newborn in their arms.
There’s always a cost. But also consider the worth. Hebrews 12 “We run with endurance the race that God has set before us keeping our eyes on Jesus on whom our faith depends from start to finish. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew that would be His afterwards.” He knew the cost of the cross. He knew the pain of carrying all the sins for all the world upon Himself. He was willing to endure the cost because He knew it would be worth it for the joy.
One aspect of growing in your life with Christ, maturing as a follower of Jesus is that you learn to courageously face the future knowing that God has never failed His people. The cost seems great but then you remember: God never fails and it will be worth it as I make my way through.
You say, “You don’t know my pain. You don’t know my situation. You don’t know my circumstances.” No. I don’t. But if you ever thought it was hopeless - just take a look at the dark sight of Jesus - stripped, beaten, humiliated, forsaken and ultimately He died. Even at the worst Jesus never gave up hope. He fully expected that there was more beyond His pain. Hope is expectation and expectation will change your life.
That’s not to deny your hurt along the way. But it is to believe that at the end of the day, when your life is summed up, you’ll discover that you will not be disappointed by God. Keep your eyes on Jesus - He’s the one who’s going to pull you through.
Hebrews 12 says it so much better than I ever could - The Message - “Do you see what all this means? All these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we better get on with this. Strip down, start running and never quit. No extra spiritual fat. No extra parasitic sin. Keep your eyes on Jesus who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it because He never lost sight of where He was headed, that exhilarating finish in and with God. He could put up with anything along the way. The cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourself flagging in your faith, go over that story again item by item. That long litany of hostility he plowed through, and that will shoot adrenaline into your soul.”
Prayer: Father God, as men and women we sit here aware that life has a way of beating us up and bringing us down. God, we understand that You specialise in lifting us up, helping us move forward, being champions in the deepest sense of that word. Lord, some days the end of the race looks so far away. We wonder if we can make it. But then we look to You and You provide adequate places of rest and those still waters replenish and restore. God, it was You who made us. Lord, beating within the heart of every man or woman here is a desire to go the distance and I pray, Father, that You’ll teach us how. In Jesus’ name. Amen.