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Looking Ahead, Let's Prepare for the Race, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll
The Truth Network Radio
January 2, 2023 7:05 am

Looking Ahead, Let's Prepare for the Race, Part 1

Insight for Living / Chuck Swindoll

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Today, on Insight for Living from Chuck Swindoll. How great it would be if this would be the year you perfect on your own a trust in God, a confidence that He knows what He's doing.

He's arranged this course for you, for me, to run and we lean hard on Him even when we can't see where it's going. Remember what it was like to be hunkered down at home during the COVID pandemic? For many of us, those days provided a welcome oasis. It resulted in an unexpected season of reflection and it inspired some dreams about the future. Well, today on Insight for Living, we're featuring part two of a miniseries that Chuck Swindoll delivered during that period.

The first portion of Chuck's presentation was looking back at the past. Today, however, we'll be staring into the opportunities that are ahead of us. He titled part two of this miniseries, Looking Ahead, Let's Prepare for the Race. I'm reading for you from Hebrews chapter 12, the first three verses. In some ways familiar to us, but perhaps as we shall see today, we've not really dug deeply into them sufficiently to hear what they are really saying to us. Hebrews 12, one through three, as we think about preparing for the race that has been set before us, we're going to consider these verses together. I'm reading from the New Living Translation. 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 honor beside God's throne.

Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people. Then you won't become weary and give up. You're listening to Insight for Living.

To study the Bible with Chuck Swindoll, be sure to download his Searching the Scriptures studies by going to slash studies. And now the message from Chuck titled, Looking Ahead, Let's Prepare for the Race. Whenever a new year rolls around, I often remember the words of Ella Wheeler Wilcox, who wrote, one ship sails east, another sails west, regardless of how the wind blows. Tis the setting of the sails and not the gales that determines the way that we go.

On this first Sunday of the year, we find ourselves at that precarious place of not knowing what is ahead of us. In many ways, this year is like a solo sail across an ocean. It isn't as simple as skipping down a pier and jumping into a boat and casting off and waving goodbye and saying, wish me well. If you've done much sailing, you know that you better know what you're doing, especially as it relates to the sails. If you hope to reach the destination that you have in mind, especially if it's going to be a lengthy voyage in deep water, because you know the wind will blow and it will blow hard. And in order for you to maintain the direction you want to go, you must concentrate and be diligent about the setting of those sails or you won't reach where you plan to go.

You may not even make it across. Interestingly, the Bible doesn't use this word picture of a sailboat and setting sails as it describes life and how we prepare for it. That's not the word picture chosen. Various word pictures are chosen and the one that is often used is the one of a race. As we find here in Hebrews chapter 12, it is a course that we run. Referring to the future, we set out on that course and we run the race. I want you to find an open space somewhere near these verses in your Bible and have a pen handy so that you can write down some guidelines I want to give you about a successful race that we run together.

There will be five of them. They are not complicated, but you won't remember them if you don't write them down. Remember my little saying that I've given you from time to time, thoughts disentangle themselves over the lips and through the fingertips. As you write down your thoughts, you'll have them. You'll want to have them in the days ahead, especially when the velocity of the wind called trials, disappointments, heartaches, loss hit us full force and we find ourselves surprised, but we must work our way through them. I'll talk about that more as we get into this.

I find five helpful guidelines for running this race. Please notice in the very first verse that it is God who sets the course ahead of time. So let's put that down first. Remember, God has prearranged the course we are to take. He has prearranged the course we take.

Look at what it says. Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that easily trips us up and let us run with endurance, now look closely, the race that is set before us. You don't set your course. You run the course he sets for you. If you question that, all you need to do is to look back and realize that, let's just take last year, that course was not the one you would have chosen and it wasn't the one you chose. It was chosen for you and by the way, no two courses are the same. Mine is not the same as my wife's course. Her course is not the same as your course and the one you're sitting next to has a different course than you do. So it's foolish. It's a waste of time to compare lives with one another. It's not about how much my course matches yours.

As a matter of fact, it won't be quite likely anything at all like the one you are to run. He sets the course before us. The journey pleases him and since that's true, it would be an awfully good idea for us this year to learn to adjust our lives to his plan. To be frank about it and to be a little blunt, isn't it about time that you gave in and stopped the pushback, the fighting, the resisting of his plan for your life. How good it is when we can simply say, Lord, this is obviously your will for me. I wouldn't have chosen it but I accept it and I ask for strength to go through it. You have chosen it for me ahead of time and now that I run this race, may I learn in the process to accept it and to yield to it. So we remember that it is God who prearranges our course.

And remember again, no two are the same. So this replaces the grind of life with gratitude. We are thankful, we are grateful for his care over us. He cares so much for us that he arranges the events of the weeks and the months that stretch out ahead of us. He doesn't even give us a hint as to what they include.

We think that would be helpful, I'm not sure it would. I'm not sure I need to know ahead of time the trial that will come in April. Because between now and April, I'll worry myself sick over that trial. I wonder how I'm going to make it through it or whatever.

I don't need to know it. I need only to accept it when it occurs or if it is a particular blessing that I didn't anticipate, how great it is to enjoy that as well. He sets the course, we run the race. That's his plan for us.

So let's stop fighting God, let's yield to his will and let's make this year a year of cooperation between his plan for us and our accepting the plan. Here's the second guideline I want you to write down. Preparing for your race is your responsibility. Preparing for your race is your responsibility.

One of the signs of adulthood is taking responsibility for one's own life. So let's examine this first verse a little closer and notice a few things about what it will include, which would be our responsibility. He says, let us strip off every weight that slows us down. You know, if you're going to run a race, you can run it if you weigh 350, 400 pounds.

It's not against the rules. You'll have a hard time enduring the race with that kind of weight, that kind of extra bulk. In fact, that's the Greek word used here in this verse, strip off every weight. There's the word. It's the word for baggage or bulk.

Those things that weigh us down and slow us down, that hinder our endurance. One of the great goals in following God's plan through a year is that we endure. You'll be interested to know that the term used for race in this first verse is agone. We might spell it A-G-O-N-E, agone. We get our word agony from it.

That's encouraging, isn't it? He has set before us an agony. It is a crucible. Life is no playground. In many ways, it's a battleground.

It's a training field. It's an operation of learning and adapting. So we must endure some examples of things that hold us back. These that must be stripped off, says strip off every weight, which is your responsibility for the things in your life and mine and the things in mine would be such things as a negative attitude that slows you down, that makes endurance difficult. Second would be the habit of worry mixed also with fears, all kinds of fears. Another would be the baggage of procrastination, just putting this off, putting that off, shoving that back. It's baggage that needs to be removed if you hope to endure. Another would be indifference toward the challenges of life. Yet another would be rationalization. Strip off every weight, whether it's attitude or worry or fear, procrastination, indifference or rationalization or a dozen other things we could name. You have your baggage and I have mine. They are things we fall back on by way of habit that we've not broken, things that work against running a good solid race.

Can I add this thought? Never are we told to run it fast. This isn't a speed race. This is an endurance race. It isn't a short sprint.

In this case, it lasts this year, all year long. So we must, what runners often refer to, we must pace ourselves through it, pace ourselves first by stripping off excess baggage that makes endurance difficult and also notice in the verse, especially we should strip off the sin that so easily trips us up. Your Bible probably reads that besets us.

I've heard this referred to as a besetting sin and it's been applied by others that every person has his or her own besetting sin, whatever that may be. I'm not sure that's what this is referring to. In the context of Hebrews 11 and 12, they go together, the great highlight, the main word that I would pull out is faith. Chapter 11 begins early on with, without faith it is impossible to please God. So here are some examples of faith and then there are these people named for us, Abel and Abraham and Jacob and Isaac and Joseph and then it gets to Moses and to others, people of faith who ran the race before us. And they could quite likely be what the writer has in mind when he refers to our being surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. We are in this vast arena called life and we are surrounded by these who have run the race by faith and they are there testifying to the fact you can do it, you can make it, you can endure, stay at it. But to run a good race, you have to strip away those things that are excess baggage, those things that easily beset us. Or I would suggest that would be the sin of unbelief, lack of faith.

And don't we all struggle with that? Just trusting God. It's almost a cliché but it needs to be said again, how great it would be if this would be the year you perfect, on your own, a trust in God, a confidence that he knows what he's doing, he's arranged this course for you, for me, to run and we lean hard on him even when we can't see where it's going, even when we can't figure out why this has occurred. At that point, faith kicks in that Hebrews 11, 6 verse, I was quoting, says you must believe that God is and he is who he says he is and he will do what he says he will do. Let this be the year that you perfect that thought, that act, that mental attitude.

I will run the race stripping away my tendency to doubt God. And I will run it with an emphasis on the disciplines of life. And there's another word we don't like to hear about but I have to tell you, I don't know how you can make it through life without some of the disciplines that keep you enduring. I was reminded of Kent Hughes' wonderful book that I've often said every man should read. And if you're married, it wouldn't hurt if your wife read it over your shoulder. It's called The Disciplines of a Godly Man.

He covers the subject beautifully and I quote Kent Hughes here. We'll never get anywhere in life without discipline, be it in the arts, business, athletics, or academics. This is doubly so in the spiritual, in spiritual matters. You don't just happen to be successful in your walk with Christ. It isn't luck.

There is no such thing to start with when it comes to luck. You discipline yourself to believe what he has written and to connect it to the way you're going through life and to call it to mind at moments when you can't see your way through. That's when you endure the agon, the agony of the journey. So it calls for stripping away the extra baggage as well as the habit of unbelief and applying the discipline of endurance.

Now here's the third. Stay focused on Jesus throughout the race. Let's make this the year that Jesus comes into full focus.

Why do I say that? The second verse tells us, verse two, we do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus. Your Bible reads looking unto Jesus. Interesting Greek term, it means looking away from all other things, all other distractions, and focusing full attention on one thing or one person.

In this case, Jesus. Focusing on Christ, staying engaged in the race. Just like a runner focuses on the tape at the end of the course, we focus on the Lord Jesus.

Chuck Swindoll has given us the first three points in his five-point outline. We encourage you to keep listening as he continues to teach from Hebrews chapter 12. He titled today's message, Looking Ahead, Let's Prepare for the Race. If you'd like to learn more about Chuck or this ministry, visit us online at Well, as we look at what lies ahead, perhaps you resolve to spend more time in God's word.

Insight for Living has prepared a variety of resources that will help you along the way. First, did you know that Chuck Swindoll provides a daily devotional by email? In this way, you can either start or end your day with reading and reflecting on biblical truth. This daily devotional is free when you sign up online at slash devotional. In addition, every sermon Chuck presents here on Insight for Living is paired with interactive study notes. We call this resource Searching the Scriptures. By using this online document, you can learn to study the scriptures in the same way Chuck does. Plus, you'll be discovering what God is saying to you as you dig into his word on your own.

To access this online Bible study tool, go to slash studies. These free resources and the daily programs that feature Chuck's messages are made possible through voluntary donations from people like you. We're especially grateful to those who automate their giving as monthly companions. Their regular monthly gifts empower Insight for Living to be heard in multiple languages and on more than 2,000 radio stations around the world. And with the advent of the mobile app and the internet, anybody with a cell phone can hear the practical teaching of Chuck Swindoll.

And joining the team right now makes a lot of sense and will help us tremendously. To become a monthly companion today, give us a call. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888, or you can sign up online at slash monthly companion. I'm Bill Meyer. Join us when Chuck Swindoll talks about getting ready for 2023. His topic, Pressing On in Faith, Tuesday on Insight for Living. The preceding message, Looking Ahead, Let's Prepare for the Race, and the sound recording were copyrighted in 2022 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights are reserved worldwide. Duplication of copyrighted material for commercial use is strictly prohibited.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-01-01 14:09:06 / 2023-01-01 14:16:31 / 7

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