Winning the Race
Posted on 02/08/2009 by Rev. Benjamin R. Faust D.D.
TRANSCRIPT: (may not contain everything found in the audio above)
*** listen to the audio for introduction and prayer ***
Public Prayer Requests:
Pray for me and my family. I am making a choice that is really hard for me to make, and that God will give me the strength to keep doing his will and be able to win souls for him and that he will keep us safe in our travels.
It has been a long time since I have written. Things around here have been stressful to say the least. My son Steven has been moved from a larger facility to a group home that has been chosen by the courts. He still has to finish his sex offender program and right now he is not wanting to do it because he says he doesn't understand the material he has to do. And he needs alot of prayer that the Lord will be with him to help him get through this program. And prayer is needed for our family as well it has been a difficult a little over 4 years now since Steven was arrested. For the last 3 months I have been suffering from extreme fatigue. It's a combination of things stress, medication I take, I have a thyroid problem, plus I suffer from three pain conditions. I am hoping and praying that my doctors have some answers for me. But my most of all that God the ultimate healer if it is His will to heal me of this fatigue so I can function better. I am trying to keep strong in my faith during this difficult time and not give in to worry and to believe that things in my life are going to be alright. Blessings to you ! Karene
Please turn around and click one of the offering plates by the doors, and give as the Lord leads.
MAKES ME WANT TO SHOUT
When I think about the Lord
how he saved me, how he raised me
How he filled me with the Holy Ghost
He healed me to the uttermost
When I think about the Lord
how he picked me up, turned me around
How he set my feet on solid ground
Makes me want to shout
Hallelujah, thank you Jesus!
Lord you're worthy
of all the glory
and all the honor
and all the praise!
IT IS YOU
As we lift up our hands
will you meet us here
As we call on your name
will you meet us here
We have come to this place
to worship you
God of mercy and grace
It is you we adore
It is you praises are for
Only you, the heavens declare
It is you, it is you
Holy holy is our God Almighty
Holy holy is his name alone (yeah)
Holy holy is our God Almighty
Holy holy is his name alone
As we lift up our hands
as we call on your name
Will you meet us in this place
by your mercy and grace
HOSANNA IN THE HIGHEST
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna in the highest
I see the King of Glory
coming down with clouds of fire
The whole earth shakes
the whole earth shakes
I see his love and mercy
washing over all our sin
The people sing
the people sing
I see a generation
rising up to take their place
With selfless faith
with selfless faith
I see a new revival
starting as we seek and pray
We're on our knees
we're on our knees
Heal my heart and make it clean
open up my eyes to the things unseen
show me how to love like you have loved me
Break my heart with what breaks yours
everything I am for your kingdom's cause
as I walk from earth into eternity
*** listen to the audio for the message introduction ***
How many of you know that we're in a race? Not a race to compete with one another. Not a race for self-glory. Not a race for an earthly prize. But a spiritual race, a higher calling, a race for the prize of a crown that will not lose its value with time.
Paul talks about this race in 1 Corinthians chapter nine, verses 24 through 27. Let's read that together: 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it.
25 And everyone who competes for the prize exercises self-control in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown.
26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. And I fight thus: not as one who beats the air.
27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.
This is the race I'd like for us to consider today. And the title of today's message is "Winning the Race."
First, Paul says that while all the runners in a race run, only one receives the prize. Of course Paul isn't saying that there will be only one winner of our spiritual race. What he IS saying is that we should run just as one would run in an earthly race in which there will be only one winner.
He's saying, "You know how there is only one winner in an earthly race? And you know how you would run in an earthly race you wanted to win? Run your spiritual race just like that, just as though there can be only one winner." And of course Paul was also showing by example that we should encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to run to win as well.
He then says, in verse 25, "And everyone who competes for the prize exercises self-control in all things."
How does a serious runner train for a race? They spend hours every day training their bodies. They don't sit on the couch eating potato chips; instead, they eat only food which will nourish their bodies and help them obtain their goal.
As Paul says, "Everyone who competes for the prize exercises self-control in all things." Just think about those in the Olympics. They train for years. They eat, drink, and breathe whatever it is they're training to be the absolute best. When they fall, they immediately get back up and try again until they get it right.
Sure, lots of people start Olympic training and quit before they finish. But those who quit don't win the prize.
How do WE train for our spiritual race? Some of us have the attitude that we can sit on our spiritual couches and eat spiritual bon bons all day, and we will win in the end.
But that's not what this passage teaches us. In fact, nowhere does the Bible teach a life of comfort and ease, of second-bests and "good-enoughs." Those things are for the ones who perish. But we have a higher calling. We are called out of second-best into excellence.
Let's take a look at the steps needed to finish a race.
First, you must train. Paul says in verse 27, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection." There is a training, a discpline, that is required to rise above mediocrity into excellence.
2 Timothy chapter 2 and verse 15 says this: "Study to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
This word "Study" means "to exert one's self, endeavour, give dilligence, study." Another meaning of the same Greek word is "to make haste." And I think all these meanings apply.
We must study the Word of God if we are to know it, and we must study it dilligently if we are to "rightly divide the Word of truth." This is an endeavor. We must exert some effort here.
And this study goes beyond the kind of studying you'd do for a test in school. God isn't interested in intellectual knowledge alone. Rather, our intellectual knowledge of the Scriptures is for the sole purpose that we can put it into practice.
Deuteronomy 30:14 says this: "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it."
This doesn't say the word is in your mouth and heart that you may look smart in a debate. This doesn't say the word is in your mouth and heart that you may give the right answer to "Saint Peter at the pearly gates."
No, this says "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may do it."
This is the labour, this is the dilligence, and this is the haste. We must first of all study the Word with the purpose of knowing how to live. We cannot simply hear the Word but not do it. Jesus compared such an approach to building a house on the sand. Instead, we must hear the Word and immediately put it into practice.
This is our preparation for the race. And it is our ongoing training throughout the race. Our race is not a sprint, but a marathon. We must stay in shape, making every day a day of preparation and training.
So the first step toward winning the race is training.
The next step is running. Some people learn about the race. They study the race. They fill themselves with knowledge about the race. They may even be trainers for the race, teaching or preaching about the race.
But they never run. Paul says in verse 27, "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified."
Paul didn't just train others for the race. Instead, Paul led by example. You can lecture all day about the race, showing people how much you know about it. But if you don't run the race, you'll be disqualified.
Other people watch the preacher run the race, and think that as long as they listen to him talk about running it, they themselves will finish. But just as it's not enough to know about and talk about the race, it's also not enought to listen to others talk about the race.
And how is the race run? One step at a time. You read the Word of God and meditate upon how it applies to your life. And you take a step forward when you put it into practice.
Maybe turning the other cheek when someone does me wrong is a very hard thing to do. But it's part of training. It's part of self-discipline. And it's part of running the race.
Maybe getting up in the morning and spending time alone with God is a very hard thing to do. But it's part of training. It's part of self-discipline. And it's part of running the race.
Running the race is our daily walk with Jesus, following in his footsteps of servanthood, humility, and obedience to the Word and the Spirit of God.
So we need to train, and we need to run.
The next step for winning the race is to stay on the path.
3. Staying on the Path.
There are no shortcuts in the race. If you get off the path and cut through the forest, you'll be disqualified, and you'll probably end up lost. And yet, we do this all the time.
In Matthew 7:13-14, Jesus tells us this:
13 "Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.
14 Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it."
It's a hard path. It's a narrow path. People get offended by the path. People refuse to believe the path is so limited, and that we don't have more room to wander about as we please.
But those same people never taste true freedom. The path appears so narrow, and indeed it is. But when we walk the straight and narrow path, we find a liberty and a freedom that the world simply does not know.
We not only begin to see the chains that have held us bound, but we also find that they begin to fall away, for if the Son has set you free, you are free indeed!
What is the path? In Deuteronomy 5:32-33, we read this:
32 "Therefore you shall be careful to do as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.
33 You shall walk in all the ways which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess."
He said this after delivering the Ten Commandments to the people. These Ten Commandments, summed up in loving God with everything we are and loving our neighbor as ourselves, showed the mind of God concerning the every-day matters of our lives.
Indeed, all of Scripture shows us the mind and the will of God, and as we see our lives in the light of the Word, we will begin to see areas in which we are not walking on the path.
But staying on the path is a vital part of winning the race. In order for us to take some other path, including the path that looks and feels good to us, we must leave THE path. In a race, this is called cheating, and it results in disqualification. In our spiritual race, this is called disobedience, and it results in destruction.
Within the path given to us in Scripture, God also has a path that is specific to your life. We've all heard stories, real or fictional, about ambitious parents who wanted their child to be a doctor or a lawyer, only to be disappointed when their would-be prodigy becomes an artist or musician.
God has placed within each of us gifts and callings which are unique, and which are put there for a reason. If God has gifted you to be a doctor or a lawyer, then you will find fulfillment in your profession as you are the best doctor or lawyer you can be for the glory of God.
If God has gifted you to be an artist or musician, then you are walking on the path only when you do what he has called you to do.
If God has gifted you to be a stay-at-home mother and wife, then you are walking on the path only when you do so for his glory.
So there is the general path of God which all of us follow, and within that path is the specific path he has designed just for you, just as he has designed you just for it.
Now we should notice that the specific path of God for your life will ALWAYS follow the general path of God given to us in Scripture. God is not going to set you on the path of homosexuality. God is not going to set you on the path of drug addiction. God is not going to set you on the path of lying and cheating. God is not going to set you on the path of some type of new age Christianity or mysticism.
No, if you are walking on any path which is not in 100% harmony and agreement with the path given to us in all of Scripture, then you have strayed from the path of God, and you are heading for destruction.
So first and foremost, be dilligent to learn and walk on the path of God's Word, and once you're there, he will lead you in specific directions.
So, to win the race, we must train, we must run, and we must stay on the path.
And the next and final point I'd like for us to consider is this: To win the race, we must finish the race.
4. Finishing the Race
Most of us know the story of the tortoise and the hare. The hare and the tortoise were going to race. Of course the hare thought he had won before he ever even started, simply because the tortoise was so slow, while he was so fast.
Along the way, the hare took a nap, had something to eat, and basically took it easy, because he thought he could run past the tortoise at any time and win the race.
But he overslept. And we know how the story ends, the slow tortoise beats the fast hare, not because of his great running skills, but because of his persistance and because he kept on going, step after step, at the speed God created him to go.
And he won!
You might get frustrated because God has not created you to run as fast as someone else. Maybe you think God has not made you as gifted, as talented, or even as special as the next guy or gal. But the prize doesn't go to the strongest or fastest runner, but to the one who takes step after step, dilligently and faithfully running the race in the way God has created him or her to run.
It does no good to train if you don't finish.
It does no good to run if you don't finish.
It does no good to stay on the path if you don't finish.
In fact, the point of training is to finish the race.
The point of running is to finish the race.
And the point of staying on the path is to finish the race.
If we are not going to finish the race, all the rest is just a waste of time. But we are running to finish, and we are running to win. And if you train, if you run, if you stay on the path, and if you endure until the end, then you will win a crown of life, and will rule and reign with Christ forever.
I'd like for the ministry team to come stand at the front now.
If you haven't started the race, but you are ready to accept God's free gift of Salvation through Jesus Christ, then I ask you to simply reach out and take his free gift of forgiveness and everlasting life right now.
You can reach out to him with words from your heart. You can say something as simple as this: You can say, "Jesus, forgive me for my sins. Come into my heart. Be the Lord of my life. And I will walk with you all the days of my life."
And if you are starting the race today, or if you have not been consistently running, or if you have strayed from the path and want to get back on track today, or if you just want to renew your dedication to train, to run, the stay on the path, and to finish the race, then you're invited to get out of your set and come gather at the front for a time of prayer and worship.
If you need to go, you're free to do so, and everyone's invited to the room on your left in a few minutes for some fellowship.
Let's gather at the altar, and let's win the race! Come.