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Strip off and run the race

The title of my message today is, “Strip off and run the race”. Don’t worry about the title, it will make sense as we go on…hopefully!

Every year God gives me a passage or a verse as a theme. This usually comes in the last week of December or the first week of January. The theme sometimes makes sense straight away and at other times it takes a few months to fully understand.

In 2017 the theme was Stand and was from Ephesians 6 that talks about the armour of God. In 2018 the theme was Dwell and John 15:5-7 that talks about the vines and the branches and remaining in Christ was key. Last year was Restore and looked at 1 Peter 5:10. It says, “In his kindness God called you to share in his eternal glory by means of Christ Jesus. So after you have suffered a little while, he will restore, support, and strengthen you, and he will place you on a firm foundation”. After the two previous years we had, this was a great comfort.

This year Hebrews 12:1-3 has been bubbling up in my spirit. Upon reading it I knew this was my theme for 2020.

My message today is in two parts. In the first part I will look at the passage, and in the second I will give us some tips to help us stay on track this year.

Bible reading

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honour beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.”
‭‭Hebrews‬ ‭12:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Message points

Several things jumped out at me as I read. Some things to strip off and some things that will motivate us.

1.Things to strip off…

There are two things that we need to strip off to run with endurance…

A. Strip off every weight that slows us down – we all have things that slow us down of make us put our hands to the plow and look back (Luke 9:62). It might be fear, anxiety, bad habits, wrong relationships or bad attitudes. It is different for all of us.

B. Strip off the sin – all of us sin at times. Romans 3:23 tells us that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. 1 John 1:8 tells us that we are deceiving ourselves (and others) if we say we don’t sin. But the good news is the next verse tells us if we do confess it to God, he cleanses and purifies us. Then we ask for strength to stay pure.

As I was preparing I had the image of a hot air balloon. The pilot cuts away the sandbags to rise high into the air. They need to do this to allow the wind to take it where it needs to go. It is the same for us. If we cut away our “sandbags” we can let the Spirit take us to where we need to be.

Once we have stripped off the things that hold us back and slow us down, we can then run with endurance as the text says.

When I think of running with endurance and I think of a marathon runner. A marathon runner wears light clothing and they carry nothing, not even water. And they are usually very slim so they don’t have to carry extra bulk. This helps them to run with endurance.

A marathon runner also needs to pace themselves to last the whole journey. They can’t sprint off like Ussain Bolt, they have to run the right speed to last the distance. Just as a matter of interest Bolt ran at 44.72 kph during the 60-80 metre point of the 100m race. The average elite marathon runner runs at 20-21kph to complete the 42.6 km marathon. It is much slower and more conservative at last the distance and not hit the wall as runners often say.

2.Things to motivate us…

In this passage there are three things to motivate us

A. The great cloud of witnesses - These are the heroes of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11. They have run and won their raises. And their names are recorded in the Bible as an inspiration to us.

B. Jesus as the author and champion of our faith - He is always working on us and is never finished (Philippians 1:6). This gives me comfort knowing He loves me as I am, but doesn’t want me to stay this way.

C. The suffering of Jesus - Jesus left the glories of heaven to die on the cross for our sin. He moved heaven and earth for us and suffered greatly. When I think that He gave up His life for me, it makes me want to give my life back to Him and not grow weary in doing good.

For us as Christians, we need to keep our hand on the plough and keep moving forward. We need to keep motivated to be all we can been for Christ and His Kingdom. To do this we need to keep our eyes on Christ and strip off the things that hold us back.

Four things to keep us on track this year

Now for the second part of my message. Just before I finish I want to give you four things to help us all keep on track in 2020.

Those who know my preaching know that I like to use acronyms to help get my message across. Today I have another one – W.A.S.P. I want is all to be a W.A.S.P. in 2020.

W – Word

Be a person of the Word this year. Be found in the Bible. Read it every day. Studies tell us that Christians who read their Bible four or more times a week have the strongest faith and trust in God.

Why do we need to read the Word? Because…

“All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realise what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”
‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Blessed is the man...[when] his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.
Psalm 1:2-3 NIV

A – Action

Be a person of action this year. By this I mean use your gifts to serve God by serving others. We are all uniquely gifted to do what God wants and needs us to do. So focus in on God’s race for you and run well.

“God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.”
‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭4:10-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

S – Spirit

Be a person of the Spirit. Allow God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to fill, equip and empower you. Lean on His leading and ask for His wisdom and guidance in all you do. He knows what He needs and He knows how it is to be done. Trust Him.

And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
Romans 8:11 NIV

But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.
John 14:26 NIV

P – Prayer

Be a person of prayer. My day works out best when I pray in the morning before the day starts. It ends well when I finish my day with prayer. It goes super well when I pray right throughout the day! Prayer is how we keep connect to God throughout the day, so pray.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

Closing Summary

So today we have read Hebrews 12:1-3 and we saw two things.

1. We need to strip away the things that hold us back from being all we can for Christ.

2. We saw that we have the great cloud of witnesses, the thought that Jesus keeps working on us, and the suffering of Jesus to motivate us.

We also saw that should try to be a W.A.S.P. this year.

  • Be a person of the Word
  • Be a person of Action
  • Be a person of the Spirit
  • Be a person of Prayer.

Let’s pray.

By Dave Quinn
Founder of PASSIONAustralia.org

 

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