Welcome to the In Touch Podcast with Charles Stanley for Thursday, January 5th. Christians have the blessing of knowing what comes after the finish line, but how you are running until then matters. Let's evaluate your progress in the ultimate race. There are all kind of races today. There are horse races and car races and boat races and races that people run. And when I think about the ultimate race is the race that you and I have to run every single day.
That's the race of life. And I want you to turn, if you will, to Hebrews chapter 12. And in this 12th chapter, this is exactly what the writer is doing.
Taking an idea from the sports arena of his day and applying it as a spiritual principle in your life and mine. And it is so very applicable. And there's one word in this particular passage I want us to look at because it is the key to running well this race of life that you and I run. And not only beginning well, but ending well. And apart from this particular word, it won't happen.
In fact, apart from this particular word, life just really won't match up to your expectations. So look, if you will, beginning in this first verse. He says, Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Now when the writer says, Therefore, what he's referring to is in this eleventh chapter, he's giving us a brief little biographical glimpses of the Old Testament saints beginning up here with Noah and Enoch and down with Abraham. And as he goes through all this list of great saints of God, then he ends by saying, Therefore, that is on the basis of how they lived, on the basis of their encouragement, on the basis of how they were able to survive life and accomplish God's purpose in their life. He says, Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses. Now, what he's probably referring to is probably a couple of things. Number one, it could be, look at this array of encouragement we have. All these saints who have gone before us, lived godly lives, they've had their failures, their successes, they trusted God.
Look at all the things that they were able to accomplish. On the other hand, somebody says, Well, does that mean that all of these saints of God in the past, plus all of our loved ones who've gone on before us, are in heaven looking down and seeing what's going on? So once in a while somebody says to me, Well, do you think everybody in heaven can see what's going on down here? And my first response is, I certainly hope not. Because I don't know how it could be heaven if they're looking down and seeing all the things that are going on. The truth is, nobody knows the answer to that.
We'd all like to believe that somehow they're up there or out there somewhere, but in heaven encouraging us along. But that's not even the issue. The issue is this. The issue is how are we going to live our life? And you'll notice what he says in this passage. He speaks of the race that is set before us. That is, the writer has likened your life and mine to a race.
And there are certain things that are absolutely essential if we're going to run this race and run it well. And there is a key word in this passage of Scripture that I want us to look at. And that word is endure. Well, the Scripture translates that word endure also as patience and also as to persevere. Depends on which translation you're using. The New American Standard, which is the one we use here, translates it to endure. Once in a while it's translated to suffer.
But what I want you to notice is this. That endurance does not mean to sit back, take it easy, look for an easy way out. Doesn't mean that you decide you're just going to put up with something. But it means that you're going to take the initiative to endure. That you're going to exercise your energy. That you're not going to take it sitting down. That you're not going to give in and you're not going to give up.
You're not going to walk away and you're not going to quit. Endurance says that you're going to hang in there in trials and difficulties and hardship and suffering and pain. That you're looking for victory. That you want to overcome that. That you're going to triumph over that. You're not going to be defeated by these things that are a natural part of life. And yet that is exactly what defeats people.
Some people are defeated by the very thing that stirs someone else on. Some people just want to give up and quit by the very thing that starts someone else to moving in the right direction for the first time in their life. What you have to ask is this, are the goals that you have set for your life, the goals that God has set for your life, are they worth striving for? Are they worth living for? You may have had a good beginning, but the issue is how you're going to end your life. Unless you learn to endure hardship, suffering, pain, difficulty, disappointment and failure, you're not going to make it in life.
You may get the world's approval, but you know what? You'll know the difference. You'll know whether you're there or not. You'll know whether you achieved, accomplished or became or not.
You'll know all about that. And the truth is, only as you and I learn to endure will we be able to end our life well. And we'll be able to look back and say, thank you, dear Father. Thank you for the love and the grace and the goodness and the mercy that you poured out upon me. Thank you for picking me up when I fell down. Thank you for getting me back on the right track when I strayed away.
Thank you, dear God, that you enabled me to end well. And so I want us to look at this passage of Scripture and just think about it for a moment that there are numbers of times in the Bible when we are cautioned, admonished, or when we find the Scriptures referring to this whole idea of enduring. Go back, if you will, to First Corinthians chapter four, and you'll recall that here Paul is speaking about his own life. And listen to what he says about the situation that he was in. And you'll recall what an awesome man the apostle Paul was. Godly man, statesman, missionary, who's written these epistles under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, still blessing all of us today. Did he have a good time in life?
Probably not. Did he have a difficult time in life? Oh, yes, he did.
Listen to what he says. Verse eleven, to this present hour we are both hungry and thirsty and are poorly clothed and are roughly treated and are homeless. I didn't realize, though I was reading this passage again, Paul was a homeless fellow. Listen, homeless, we toil, working with our own hands. When we revile, we bless. When we are persecuted, we endure. We hang in there. We stay in there. We don't give up. We don't quit. We don't give in. We don't walk away. We exercise our energy.
We take a stand and we move on. When Paul was writing to young Timothy, in second Timothy, look if you will at that third chapter. Second Timothy, the third chapter, just back from Hebrews there.
And notice what he said. Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance. Persecutions and sufferings such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, and Lystra.
What persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me. And when you look at this passage, and you see what he says. He says, run with endurance the race that is set before us.
Now, there are a lot of things that means. For example, if God has set the race, that is if He set the path for your life, and He says let us run this race with endurance, you have to acknowledge the fact that God does allow difficulty, hardship, pain, suffering, and disappointments and failures in life. He allows these things to come across our path. He allows us at times to be tripped up.
I didn't say He tripped us up, but He allows these things to happen. And all that He allows, He allows for purpose. In the life of a child of God, walking the pathway of God, no matter how many times you may fail or have difficulty or hardship, it doesn't mean you have to quit. And it doesn't mean that God's given up on you. And it doesn't mean that God doesn't care and He doesn't love you anymore, because He does. But there's a very specific reason He allows these things.
So what we have to ask is this. Why is it that God says so much in His Word about endurance? Why did He allow the Apostle Paul and Peter and all the rest to go through such hardship and trials when these men were serving God, pouring out their lives for their gospel, establishing churches, absolutely changing the world of their day? But look at the hardship and the pain and the suffering. And Paul's own biographical sketch of that in Second Corinthians, when you think about all the things that he went through, you think, how many times did he think this is it, can't handle anymore? God, if you love me, you wouldn't allow this on me.
God, why are you allowing these things? But no, the Apostle Paul knew that there was a very specific reason. So what we have to ask is this. In order to run this race well, why is it we need endurance? Remember endurance says I don't quit, I don't give up, I don't step out, I don't lie down, I just don't take it and as if I can't do anything about it, I stand up, exercise whatever energy and determination is necessary and keep moving no matter what. Well, it's very evident from this passage of Scripture how important endurance is and that it's the key, listen, it's the key to not starting life, but listen, living your life and ending well.
We all want to end well. So look at this passage. He says, for example, let's begin in verse one, Therefore, that is based on all these saints who've gone on before us, since we have so red a cloud of witnesses or encouragers surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance. Now, what he's simply saying is this, to run this race, that is to live this life that God has set before you.
And he says the race that is set before us, set before us by God. In order to run it well, he says we must do what? We must lay aside every encumbrance. Now the word encumbrance there means weight or anything that is excess. For example, if a man's going to run a race or a woman and they're set to run, one thing they're not going to do is have excess weight on them, fat for example, nor are they going to drape themselves or clothe themselves in anything that is weighty.
They want their shoes and what little clothes they have on to be as light as possible, nothing to weight them down, nothing that in any way slows them down. Now what is he referring to? He's not talking about sin at this point. But he's talking about those things that are, for example, that could be innocent things and things, for example, that are not necessarily wrong. But there are things in life that somebody else could maybe enjoy in life or participate in that you and I cannot. But the simple reason, it would hinder what God has for your life. And so He doesn't allow you to spend your time doing this or your time doing that and so all the people can spend their time in this and their time in that or their money here and there and they don't feel bad about it. It's not necessarily a sin. What you have to ask is this, what is it in your life?
Whether you possess it, what relationship, what are you thinking, how do you think? What is it in your life that will slow you down? What is in your life that will keep you from, listen, from running this race and running it well? Maximizing every single day of and every mile of it. Maximizing your potential.
Becoming the person God wants you to be. Now He says not only every encumbrance, but He says also notice what He says. He says every encumbrance and He says the sin.
Look at that. The sin which so easily entangles us. Now why did He say these sins that have just sinned? Why didn't He say lay aside all sin? He said lay aside the sin which so easily besets us. And if you'll think about the word He uses, so easily entangles us. What does He mean by these sins?
Here's what He means. Every single one of us has one or more weaknesses in our life. And more than likely we could all say, well, if I had to name one weakness, that's it. And we all maybe have some particular sin that we have to deal with more than others. Or it may be something that keeps harassing you continually.
You've not learned how to deal with it. And so He says we have to lay aside those innocent things that may be legitimate for other people, but don't fit who we are. He says we're also to lay aside that sin, that weakness, that one thing that Satan keeps throwing in your path. He keeps bringing it to your mind. He knows how to distract you with it. He knows how to divide your mind. He knows how to drain your energy. He knows how to get you off track, get you off of God's plan, His will, His purpose for your life. And He keeps throwing it at you over and over and over again. What does the writer say?
Here's what the Bible says. He says lay it aside. He says, like I lay it aside, it keeps hanging in there. Because until you acknowledge that it's there and until you deal with it personally, listen, until you learn to deal with it personally, learning there's some places you can't go, learning there's some things you don't want to start thinking about, learning some things you don't want to look at, learning some things you don't want to read, some things you don't want to see on television, some things that absolutely you know will trigger something in your life that you know in your heart doesn't fit who you are. And for example, it may be that you just can't stay out of the malls. You've just got to spin, spin, spin. Listen, if you don't intend to go there, don't get in the parking lot and park and cut off ignition.
Because if you do, you're going inside and more than likely you're not going to shop, you're going to spend money. I'm simply saying this, there are aspects, there are weaknesses, there are frailties, there are sins. There is a particular sin probably that every single one of us could say, well if I had to name something that bugs me at times, this is it. He says if you're going to run this race and you're going to run it well, lay it down. Put it aside. Deal with it.
Because unless you do, it'll keep tripping you up. Then I want you to notice what He says. He says, "...fixing our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, He sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Now what does He mean when He says the joy that was set before Him? What's this joy set before Jesus?
Well, it certainly wasn't the cross. There's nothing joyous about having nails driven into your palms of your hands or your wrists or in your ankles. In other words, nothing joyous about that. Nothing joyous about suffering.
But what was the joy? The joy set before Jesus was this fact. He was going to the cross to give His life, to listen, to bring about forgiveness of sin for the entire world from Adam all the way to the last person who'll ever be born. That is, God's redemptive plan said that the death of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who bore our sin debt in full as the atoning death, paid the sin debt of all humanity, and every single person who places their trust in Him as their personal Savior, that person's sins are forgiven, their name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life, the Holy Spirit anoints them. Listen, with His presence and power and heaven is their home. Why did Jesus look at this as joyous? Because He would be the Lamb that would redeem all of my mankind.
But notice what He said. He had to endure the cross, despising the shame. What is the Scripture saying to us? The Christian life's not easy. You have to learn to endure. You have to learn to stand no matter what.
You have to learn not to give in, don't give up, don't walk out, don't walk away. You exercise the strength that God has given you to triumph, to be victorious over whatever lies before you. And so Jesus, He says, is an example. Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. Then He says, look at this, not only that, we have to lay aside those things that are innocent, legitimate, lay aside, for example, that sin and that weakness that besets us.
Look at the Lord Jesus Christ. He had to endure the cross. Then He says in verse three, for consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. What is He saying?
He says, here's what happens. When we grow weary in the difficulty and hardship, now listen, I understand this. I understand there's some situations and circumstances that you find yourself in, you didn't choose to go there.
You've prayed and prayed and prayed, doesn't go away. And no matter what you do, you can't walk out of the circumstance. You can't just pray and God just flip you out of the circumstance. You're in the circumstance. You're in the situation. You can't get out. You can't work your way out. You can't talk your way out. You're just there.
And so one of two things happens. Either you grow weary and you grow fainthearted and want to give up and want to quit and just throw in the towel, as we say, or you stand firm and endure in the grace and the power of the living God. He says, don't faint and don't grow weary. When you learn to endure, you won't grow faint and you will not grow weary and you will not give up.
Then notice what He says. You've not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood and you're striving against sin. There are times when we have to strive against sin. What is He simply saying to us?
That a Christian life's not an easy life. And what is the right response to endure? Don't give up. Don't give in. Don't quit.
Stand up and determine in your heart you're going to be victorious and triumph over it no matter what. You say, but I don't feel like that you can't go by your feelings. What you have to ask is what does God want me to think?
What's the truth? Does my Heavenly Father understand what I'm going through? Yes. Did He put a limit on my trials and difficulties, hardship and pain and suffering?
Yes. If He put a limit on it and He loves me unconditionally, He will see me through. I don't have to give up. Don't have to quit.
Don't have to give in. Those are the people who achieve and accomplish and become. Those are the people, listen, who end their life well. It's one thing to start it well, but how are you going to end it? Those who learn to endure learn to end it well. Thank you for listening to The Ultimate Race. If you'd like to know more about Charles Stanley or InTouch Ministries, stop by InTouch.org. This podcast is a presentation of InTouch Ministries, Atlanta, Georgia.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-05 03:35:31 / 2023-01-05 03:44:18 / 9