Today is a new day, and we have brand-new opportunities before us filled with uncharted potential. And on Insight for Living, Chuck Swindoll presents a message designed to help us get ready. He's teaching from Hebrews chapter 12, where the writer used a metaphor to make his point, a foot race.
He said, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, and let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. Chuck titled today's message, Looking Ahead, Let's Prepare for the Race, and he begins with prayer. We begin the relationship we have with one another, and we're reminded that we are not alone in this journey called life. We begin it not knowing what is before us.
In fact, we do not know what a day will bring forth. Many of our fellow Americans suffer today from the loss of their homes, their belongings. Those things that they claimed as precious to them are now gone through fire, through tornado.
High-velocity winds that swept through and took away all that they held dear accept their faith. We pray that you will sustain them and give them the strength needed, the hope that must be there for them to press on. May their family and friends stand close to them, be near them, minister to them deeply in these months ahead, meet their needs, and in doing so, remind them, Lord, that you have sustained their lives.
Therefore, there must be a purpose that you have for each one of them. We thank you, Lord, that we have been protected thus far and we are grateful. Though there is not a person today hearing my voice who hasn't known pain, heartache, disappointment, sorrow, grief, loss, anguish, therefore we are in this family of heartache together, and we need you now more than ever. We enter this year confident that you will lead us, that nothing that will happen to us will surprise you.
You have prearranged the affairs of our lives, and each of those courses you have set forth is unique to each one of us. Remind us, Lord, that you care for us in such a way that you plan for us individually and for our future. We trust you. We lean hard on you.
We rely on you. Thank you for your word that lives and abides forever. Heaven and earth will pass away, but your words will never pass away.
Speak to us today through this ancient writing from Hebrews 12. May we see just how relevant these words are in light of our day, and may they go with us in the weeks and months ahead as this year unfolds. We're grateful that you saw us through the past year, and we are pleased to know that we have made it thus far by your grace. Now we pray for a refreshment as we begin this journey together through these uncharted waters.
We lean on you. We enter into these days and weeks with a sense of excitement, knowing that your plan is always good, perfect, with a great goal in mind for your glory and for your purposes. Meet the needs of our church as we serve the community, the body of Christ, here locally, across the streets as well, across the states, and across the seas. Now we commit to you the time we have left as we spend it together. Open our hearts that the seed of your word might be sown on good soil that it might produce soon and as well in the days ahead. We commit the days to you with confidence in the name of Christ, our Savior. Everyone said, amen. And now the message from Chuck titled, Looking Ahead, Let's Prepare for the Race.
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. Remember, God has prearranged the course we are to 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. He sets the course. We run the race. That's his plan for us. Here's the second guideline I want you to write down. Preparing for your race is your responsibility.
One of the signs of adulthood is taking responsibility for one's own life. He says, Let us strip off every weight that slows us down. 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 a gone. We get our word agony from 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 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. Becomes 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. Kenneth Wiest writes of this term. It means to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something or someone. The word also means to turn one's mind to a certain thing.
Both meanings are applicable here. The spiritual vision turned away from all else. And together with the mind concentrated on.
Jesus. Doubt and discouragement begin. To fade away. When we are no longer distracted by other things.
Wishing life for better, wishing we were able to live like another person seems to be able to live her life or his life. And focusing that technique is so valuable, 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.
You know, when you're running, you can be distracted by others running the race. By your situation, what you're going through. By things yourself that you're concerned about, worried about. But here it says, looking only unto Jesus. He has gone before us and he remains the model worth remembering and following and honoring.
Let me do a quick review here so we make sure we're staying on track. God has prearranged our course, each person's course. That's yours and that's mine.
Each individual course prearranged by our God. Second, preparing for our race is each person's responsibility. Yours is your responsibility.
Mine is my responsibility. And third, stay focused on Jesus throughout the race. The fourth one now ties in with the third and I get it from this third verse. Think of all that he, all the hostility he endured from sinful people. Then you won't become weary and give up.
Here's the fourth. When discouraged, think of all Christ endured in his life. It'll help you stay at it. It'll help you endure. It'll strengthen you.
When I said that to myself while studying, the words of Dennis Jernigan came to mind. You are my strength when I am weak. You are the treasure that I seek. You are my all in all, seeking you as a precious jewel.
To do anything else, I'd be a fool. You are my all in all. He goes on. When I fall down, you pick me up. When I am dry, you fill my cup. You're my all in all.
Jesus, Lamb of God. Worthy is your name. You know, a technique I've used throughout life, I guess because I I love music and and it's often in the back of my mind. I will get a chorus of worship on my mind. I'll sing it to myself through the day. I'll hum the tune. I go over the words. I'll marinate them. I'll think about them.
I'll turn them over in my mind. Often when our choir or when someone has sung a piece of music that really ministered to me during the time, I'll have that on my mind, the balance of the day. When I do that, I am thinking about all that he endured on my behalf. And it it strengthens me. It gives me that extra oomph to make it through the day when night falls. And that's the hardest part of my day is the evening. Now, this 12 month journey will have some hard, very difficult times, I repeat. I don't want that to catch you unaware, to surprise you.
As though something has gotten out of line. No, it's all part of a plan, but you can get discouraged when they occur. And one of the helpful techniques is that you think of all he endured on your behalf. Sometime it helps to have memorized verses of scripture that remind you of what he endured, a man of sorrows, and he was acquainted with grief.
He went through an agone all together his own. As I've often said, we come to live, but his purpose in coming was to die. In addition to that, to suffer and die.
And because of that, when we suffer, remembering that he has gone through it, we're able to handle the agone and the agony of the journey a lot better. There will be times when we will get weary. Happens to everyone who runs a lengthy race. At those times, you can be disillusioned and lose your focus. You get distracted, and you'll be tempted to make the worst decision that you could possibly make, and that's just quit the race. Just stop. There are some who have done that.
You can name some, and I could too. They gave up. My final point is what I want to camp on a little longer than the others, because it is a decision that some make, and it has dreadful consequences. God has prearranged the course for us to run.
Preparing for that course is your responsibility. Staying focused on Jesus throughout the race is essential. When discouraged, thinking of all he endured is a technique that will help you. And the fifth I want you to write down, and then I want to spend some time on, no matter how difficult life may become, don't ever give up. Don't ever give up.
That has become a mantra for me in my life. Never quit running the race. Years ago, it was my privilege to know an Olympic athlete who trained at the same track where I would often run out in California, and it was around a track at a local, what we called back then, a junior college. And it was a track that wasn't that used, and so he founded a good place, and I knew him from the church where we were, and on one occasion he was out there training, and I thought, I'm going to go to some other place and run today, because I don't want to do it.
I mean, the guy was incredible. And of all things, he walked over and said, hello, so my cover was blown, and he said, can I run with you? And I thought, oh, let's put run in quotes. He said, no, I really would like to, and I really would. And I said, you know, I'm not in your league at all. He said, no, we're not competing.
And I thought, good, good. And so we ran, and of course he outran me. What I haven't told you is that he ran it backwards.
All the way around, faster than you can imagine. Interesting thing happened. When he did enter the Olympics, he entered the decathlon, which as you know is the ultimate in the Olympics.
It's ten events in the contest, and your points are added up along the way, and you can tell on the way as you keep involved in whether it's the high jump or the long jump or whether it's the sprint or the long run or whatever the event, there's the discus, the javelin, ten of them. And interestingly, he realized, true story, he realized that the further he was going into it, he could not possibly win. The points against him were so many more than he could ever make up in the balance of the other events that he couldn't. So he quit. He went in the locker room and changed clothes and threw his stuff in his athletic bag and hopped in his car and totally discouraged. He was driving home. And on his way home, he remembered his father's words, whatever you do in life, son, never quit. Never quit.
Remember, you'll always have your children to tell your stories to, and they'll want to know about the races you won or ran. And he thought as he drove along, coming back toward Fullerton where we lived, he realized, I'm going to have to tell my children that I quit. So literally, he turned his car around and went back. The Olympics were still going on. He got back into his sweaty gear and put it all back on, got back into it, and he didn't win, but he finished.
Isn't that a great story? He finished. And he said, when he talked to me later, he said, the good thing about that is not that I could tell them that I won the decathlon, but that I finished what I'd started.
Winning isn't the ultimate goal. Finishing and never quitting, that is our goal. You're listening to Insight for Living and the Bible teaching of Chuck Swindoll. This is message number two in a two-part miniseries that concludes on the next episode.
It's called Pressing on in Faith. If you'd like to learn more about Chuck and this ministry, visit us online at insightworld.org. Now, coming up in our next series, we're going to be taking a deep dive into some of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. It's a teaching series called Growing Deep in the Christian Life.
You might recognize that title because it's one of Chuck's hallmark books. In this no-nonsense study, Chuck blows the dust off dull doctrines and breathes life into the practical side of theology. And right now, his book called Growing Deep in the Christian Life is our featured resource.
There's hardly a better way to prepare for what lies ahead, and getting grounded in key theological truths will provide a strong foundation for your life. You'll find Chuck's book, Growing Deep in the Christian Life, at insight.org slash store. You can also purchase a copy right now by calling us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888. In closing, let me say a word of thanks to our monthly companions and all who give generously. We are deeply grateful to you.
Through your generosity, you've empowered Insight for Living to move ahead without interruption. If you'd like to join the team of regular monthly givers, you can easily become a monthly companion right now. One of our ministry reps will walk you through the process when you call us. If you're listening in the United States, call 800-772-8888.
Or you can become a monthly companion by following the simple instructions at insight.org slash monthly companion. In March 2023, Insight for Living Ministries is hosting an unforgettable journey to Israel. Carefully plan to deepen your understanding of the Bible and draw you closer to God.
Here's Chuck Swindoll. For thousands of years, no place has been more meaningful to God's children than the land of Israel. The rugged landscape reminds us to find refuge in God alone. The fertile valleys invite us to follow our shepherd. Jerusalem's position at the very center of the world announces the good news of Christ to every nation. And now you can see Israel with Chuck Swindoll and Insight for Living Ministries, March 5th through the 16th, 2023. Every time I visited the Holy Land, I returned home with a refreshed heart for God and a renewed vision for the world.
Really, I mean it every time. And so I want you to have the same life-changing experience. To learn more, go to insight.org slash events or call this number 1-888-447-0444. Insight for Living Ministries Tour to Israel is paid for and made possible by only those who choose to attend. I'm Bill Meyer inviting you to join us when Chuck Swindoll concludes his mini-series called Pressing On in Faith. That's tomorrow on Insight for Living.
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