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The Rules Of The Race – Part 2 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer
The Truth Network Radio
October 31, 2023 1:00 am

The Rules Of The Race – Part 2 of 2

Running to Win / Erwin Lutzer

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October 31, 2023 1:00 am

Many people lead lives without direction, going nowhere at full speed. In setting forth the Christian’s high calling, the Apostle Paul uses the illustration of the games or the race. In this message, Pastor Lutzer lays out five rules for winning in the Christian life. Are we focused on the crown that will endure, or just temporary rewards?

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Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.

Someone has said, He that aims at nothing usually hits it. Many people lead lives without direction, going nowhere at full speed. In setting forth the rules for winners in the race of life, the apostle Paul first spoke of discipline and then direction.

Today, what a focused life is all about. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, it seems keeping the goal line in view is crucial for any believer who is serious about serving the Lord.

Dave, you're right. We all need a clear vision of the end. And that doesn't mean that you know all of the steps that God is going to lead you on as you walk through life, but it does mean your desire to please the Lord is paramount.

Well, it actually is October 31st, and whenever it is that date, I think back to 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the Castle Church door there in Wittenberg, Germany, a place where I have been on many occasions. One thing about Luther, he had a very clear vision of what he wanted to do, namely to uncover the gospel of justification by faith alone and to have that spread throughout the world. I want to emphasize that we are almost at the end of this series of messages entitled Your Eternal Reward.

And at the end of this message, I'm going to be giving you info as to how you can have these messages in permanent form. For now, let us listen, and let us ask ourselves the question, do we have a clear goal to which we are running? You look at a crooked life, a crooked life, and see whether or not it is because there was no credible, fixed point to which the person was aiming. You know what the Apostle Paul says?

He says that I want to be apprehended. I want to have my hands laid on that for which Jesus Christ laid his hands on me. And he says, I strive toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

That is my life. It is my breath. It is my inner being. I strive for the prize of the high calling of God. Now that's direction.

That's direction, not 40 things I dabble in, but this one, one thing I do. Jesus said to Martha, Martha, Martha, you are careful and troubled about many things, but one thing, life is a lot simpler than we make it. One thing is needful. And Mary has chosen that good part, the one thing, the one thing that integrates all the others. And as we look at the life of Jesus Christ and we look at the life of Moses, let's take him first. It says that he endured as seeing him who is invisible. He looked beyond the problems. He looked beyond the Pharaoh. He looked beyond the desert with all of its waste and its thirst. And he looked beyond all the grumbling people around him and all the agony that they brought to his life. He looked beyond all that and he saw God and he saw God. A young man said to me once, you know, my goal is to be a millionaire by the age of 30.

Well, I don't know whether or not he's a millionaire, but he's divorced by the age of 26. Somebody else says, my goal is to be married no matter what. Look out, look out. Don't ever, don't ever have a goal that is not wrapped up in the centrality of Christ. I do not run in such a way without aim.

Scattered shot. I don't box as somebody who is just wasting all that energy and not making any blows. No, I have direction. There's a third rule for winners and that is determination.

Determination. Now for this, you have to turn to the book of Hebrews, but keep your finger in the ninth chapter of Corinthians. You know that the author of the book of Hebrews really wrote a similar passage of scripture. The imagery of running the race occurs many times in the Bible. This is what he said in chapter 12 verse 1. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us and run with endurance.

There is the word, you see, determination. Let us run with endurance the race set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus. Just an interpretive comment. Many people think that this means that in heaven, up in the balconies, they are watching us run the race and we better do well because they're cheering us on in glory. That's how they interpret the cloud of witnesses. Actually, in context, you have to always remember that there were no chapter breaks in the original writings.

These were made by men and sometimes they come in very unfortunate places. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses, the witnesses are the heroes of the 11th chapter of Hebrews. And it's not a matter of them looking at us, but we are looking back at them. We glance at them and we gaze on Jesus and we say to ourselves, Joseph was an overcomer and Joshua was an overcomer and Abraham was an overcomer.

If they can do it, we can do it too. But you know now that it takes determination. It takes endurance because if you run the Olympics, the most difficult part, of course, are the last five miles.

I think that's true in any race. How do you make it to the end? How do you run to win?

To use a good phrase that could be used, I think, for a radio program. How, how do you do that? Well, notice the rules here. Keep your weight down. One of the first things you do is you enroll in spiritual Weight Watchers.

That's what it says. You know, it says, lay aside every encumbrance. I like the King James here where it says every weight. The encumbrances aren't necessarily a sin. They're just a weight. People with lives cluttered, filled with, with trivial things that may not in themselves be sinful, but they are not really helpful.

And you get rid of them. There was a time in my life, as my children know, when I always wanted to try whenever possible to watch the 5.30 news. Somehow that was so important to me and it was a weight. It was an encumbrance, not a sin, but so I have an agreement now with the world. It can go on whether I know what's happening or not.

I've just simply made my peace with the whole thing. What a, what a sense of freedom to get rid of encumbrances that, that, that sap your time and they sap your energy and long term they may not be what you are really about in your relationship with God. And then it says, and the sin which does so easily entangle us. Did you ever notice that sin has that characteristic of entanglement?

People who want to become wealthy real fast, mortgage their homes, entwined in a, in a financial mass, talk about entanglement, addictions, entanglement. People have looked at this and said, well, what is the sin? And so they've said it's pride, it's lust, it's unbelief. I think that deliberately the author did not tell us because you put into it whatever your sin is, whatever your sin is that entangles you. That's the sin for you and for me. You say, well, pastor, I don't know what my sin is. Well, the good advice of course is to get on your knees and guess at it. Just guess at it.

What do you think it might be? And we're to keep our way down. We are to keep our feet free so that we don't get entangled and we are to fix our eyes on Jesus. Let me tell you, if you fix your eyes on other people when they stumble, you're going down too. I may be talking to people here today who are stumbling.

In fact, they're, they're on the racetrack, they're bleeding, they're wounded. And it's because of someone else who's running close to them who perhaps stumbled or they looked at instead of looking at Jesus. And God has a way of always reminding us that the temptation is there to look at others. But when we do, we will be disappointed because even those in whom we had hoped and believed will not come through the way we think they should. And, and, and therefore you have all these people along the road, along the track who have stumbled. And so what we need to do is to keep our eyes on Christ.

Now along the way, we have to be picking people up and helping them to wipe the blood off of them. You know, there is an interesting story of Derek Redmond in 1992 in the Olympics. He was running in a 400 meter trial heat. And as he was running, he snapped a tendon. He snapped a hamstring muscle and was in excruciating pain and agony. And his father ran through the stands across the field, getting past the security detail that tried to, to stop him.

And he ran to his son and he helped them. And they did what the newspapers called a three legged wobble to the finish line because the boys said there was no way that I was not going to finish the race. Now he was disqualified for the Olympics, of course, but spiritually speaking, you can do that and you can make it and receive the wreath.

You can receive the wreath. And you know what my responsibility is and yours? It's to come alongside of people who have tripped and fallen and to help them up and to do a three legged wobble to the finish line. You run with endurance. You run with determination, determination, discipline, direction, determination. Now, as you might guess, my fourth rule also begins with a letter D and for that we go back to first Corinthians chapter 10, first Corinthians nine and 10.

And that is you run with discretion, discretion. What do I mean by that? Did you know that chapter 10 is an illustration of some who have run the race unsuccessfully and will not be rewarded? Again, the chapter division is unfortunate because Paul says, I have preached to others.

I myself could be disqualified. He said, I might miss the crown and I might miss the crown and members of the staff might miss the crown and the leadership here could miss the crown. We all have the potential of incredible failure. And then it says, for I do not want you to be unaware brethren. And now it begins to talk about the nation Israel and may I summarize this by simply saying that there is a contrast in the first few verses between the marvelous blessings which God poured out upon the nation and the wonderful start that they got in the race and the disaster at the finish line.

The blessings are many. Our fathers were all under the cloud and passed through the sea. They were baptized into Moses in the cloud in the sea. They saw the miracles of the spiritual food, the manna. They saw God bring out water from the rock. Verse five, nevertheless, with most of them God was not well pleased for they were laid low in the wilderness and this happened unto them for examples for us.

Wow. What a story. Idolatry, immorality, ingratitude. You see, not all those who died in the desert who never made it to Canaan, they were not lost. Some of these people may be lost forever and in the lake of fire someday, but most of them, most of them were people who are going to be in heaven, but they just didn't get into Canaan. They were out of the red sea. They were saved by the blood of the lamb in Egypt. They came through the red sea and they began. Well, the gun went off, the race started and lo and behold, they were sidetracked and they were judged by God.

They displeased him and as a result, lost the crown, lost the crown. And what the apostle Paul is saying is that that can happen to us. Remember it says in Timothy, you compete.

It's according to the rules. Ben, tell us it ain't so. That's the way the newscaster began an evening newscast in Canada back in 1988 when Ben Johnson was disqualified. Most of Canada stayed up almost all night to see him win the race and to win the gold. Canada was ecstatic, but he was found to have illegal drugs in him and the gold medal was taken away.

What a tragedy and what a humiliation for Canada, for him and really for the whole sport. You know, there are people today and we applaud them and we say, you know, they've crossed the finish line. They have won. That's why Paul says, judge nothing before the time because we're not sure that they have won yet because it's not up to us to give the crown. It's not up to us. You never know what hidden flaw, what hidden problem there may be that might at the end cause disqualification. I do not want to say that with a great deal of emphasis lest it be misunderstood. All of us have our faults.

All of us struggle with our sins, but I mean there are those that may not be competing with God's rules according to God's rules, even though to us it may appear as if they do discretion. You know where the potholes are. You know where other people have stumbled. You see the path littered, littered with a wreckage of other lives who have fallen into the ditch even though they have been a part of the race. Watch it. Live with discretion.

Finally, we have discipline, direction, determination, discretion, and of course if you want another rule for the winner, it's going to end with delight. Notice the apostle Paul says they do it to receive a corruptible crown. They received a laurel wreath, flowers. How long do you think those flowers were fresh and looked beautiful in a culture that had no refrigeration? A couple of hours, a few days, and they would wither. Maybe they would just keep the withered flowers with them.

Yeah, but that's all. They received the applause of men, but it's a perishable crown and think of how hard they worked for it and it is gone. It is gone. It is gone when they are gone. Oh, in the minds of some people they may remember the past, but it's of no great moment. But, says Paul, we do it for an imperishable crown, a crown that will last forever, a crown that will endure, and not only that, it isn't presented to us by the Olympic Committee.

Bless them. It's presented to us by Christ, by Christ, and at the end of the day, it's his approval that really makes the difference. Today, I speak to a number of different people. I may be speaking to those who are not in this race. You're in the human race. The only requirement to be in the human race is to be born. But to be in the race that we have talked about today, you must be reborn by the Holy Spirit so that you can be enlisted and you will be enlisted in this race the moment you come to the end of your own attempts at salvation and trust Christ as Savior. And I urge you to do that. Remember, you can't enter this race unless you're a citizen of heaven. But I speak to others.

Some of you have been bruised and bloodied because when one runner goes down he usually takes another runner down. If I fall, some people fall with me. You've been looking maybe at other people and that has caused you to stumble or you have been ensnared by sins and your whole life is one of flumbling and stumbling. Will you let us help pick you up? It's one of the reasons we exist as a church, you know. A lot of wounded people walking around, disappointed in others, disappointed in experiences, frustrated. We desire to help pick you up. We want to do that three-legged wobble to the finish line. We want you to do well and we need you to help us do well through your prayers and through your support and through picking us up when needed. And so together we want to win. We want to win.

I have an assignment for you. You have 168 hours this week. I want you to take out one. Maybe even it's your prayer wall hour. Here's what you do.

Get a loan for an hour and ask yourself this question. What would you do? What would you do if you were told and you absolutely knew that you had three years to live? Now the reason that's a good assignment is because it has been pointed out that nothing focuses the mind like the knowledge that one is to be hanged.

There's something about the knowledge that you're going to die that helps you cut away all of the riffraff and the clutter and get down to what's essential. What would you and I do if we knew we had three years? What changes would we make? What do we need to do to run in order to win?

A businessman has this on his desk. In 20 years, what will you wish you had done today? And then underneath in bold letters, do it now.

Do it now. Will you remember that whatever it takes to be a good athlete and it's a tremendous price, tremendous price, it is that that is necessary to be a winning Christian, focused energy, discipline, direction, determination, a commitment to say with God's grace, I want to do well. I told the Lord last night as I was praying about this message that I really do want to do well. I want to do well. But I need to take the warning also, lest possibly after I preach to others, I could be disqualified.

You could be disqualified. At this moment, let us ask God to build into our lives whatever it takes to capture the imperishable wreath. And will you pray? Thank you, Father, for your love and mercy, for the grace of Christ, and pray that every one of us at this moment, we really, really do, Father, want to do well.

But oftentimes we do stumble. And sometimes we cause others to stumble, enable us, Lord, to commit that we might hear your well done. And now before I close this prayer, what is it that you need to say to the Lord right now?

If he's talked to you, you talk back to him. Hear the prayer of your people, Father, for we are needy. In Jesus' name, amen. Here's what you can do for a gift of any amount. You go to That's or call us at 1-888-218-9337. If you're like me, you frequently hear part of a message and then you may hear another related message, but you'd like to be able to listen to the entire series. That's why we're making it available to you in permanent form. So once again, here's the info.

Go to or call us at 1-888-218-9337. And I want to thank you in advance for helping us with this ministry. It's because of people just like you that Running to Win is heard by millions of people, and we're so thankful that we continue to expand. Thanks in advance, and always remember we can take it with us if we invest it for God's glory.

You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60614. You've just heard the five rules of the race as outlined by the Apostle Paul and presented by Pastor Erwin Lutzer. He's been speaking on the rules of the race, another message in his series, Your Eternal Reward. Tune in next time for our last message in this series where you'll learn how to become an overcomer. Thanks for listening. For Pastor Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-31 05:53:53 / 2023-10-31 06:02:14 / 8

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