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New year's Message 'Finishing Strong'

Revd Steve - 04 Jan 2016


 Hebrews 12:1-3 'Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher ofour faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.'

Team work is fundamental to participating in life’s tough race. Together is the key, as winning isn’t necessary, but finishing is.

Some say that life is a game of two halves, the first half is about becoming successful, “make your mark” “be somebody” but what happens when that doesn’t happen, the second half can still be successful by way of being significant. The best form of significance is to receive the crown of righteousness from Jesus at the end of the race, what can be more significant than receiving christ’s awarded crown?

The writer to the hebrews informs us of how too finish faith’s race strong. After encouraging the reader with the list of faith heroes (11) he/she reveals the application to achieve the goal of the disciple, to receive the crown. 2016 is the year for growth, for development, both individually as well as corporately, its time to climb another level, time we became deeper, wider, broader and higher, it’s time for growth, it’s time of maturity. It’s time to become disciples and not just christians. Hey 12 shows us how too - 

1. To run God’s race, we must know we’re not alone. Look Around You. Vs1a ‘since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses…’ a multitude of witnesses are cheering us on. yes the race is tough, yes you may well “hit the wall” but the many who have gone before have done so too, they spur us on, they pray and cheer for us before the throne of grace. You may feel alone, but your never alone! learn from the saints, let their faith encourage you.

2. To run God’s race we must lay aside every weight and sin. Look Within You. vs1b “lay aside every weight,” The runner empties his/her pockets and wears the lightest, most flexible clothing he/she can; no runner carry’s a single unnecessary ounce of weight. Remember, this is not a sprint—it’s a marathon. Rob Markham said when describing Toby’s running training regime “train the problems out” I love that statement. Before the race one has to eliminate any problems that will prevent us not only competing but completing. We train the problems out. If anger, un-forgiveness, resentment, self obsession are the stumbling blocks of growth then train them out. “We put to death the flesh” Gal 5.

As we enter 29016 with all it’s uncertainties, we need to apply these five principles if we are to ‘finish strong’ and end with significance.

3. To run God’s race we must “endure.” Look Before You. vs 1c ‘let us run with endurance’… This quality is essential to character making, if we are going to achieve real spiritual growth and fulfilment in 2016 we must cultivate endurance. 

The primary characteristic that is required for a developing disciple is endurance. Many people start off the Christian life as if it were a dash. A little while later, they are panting beside the track; they are finished, and they have hardly begun the race. Deal with your growth, feed your spirit, develop your discipleship. Discipleship groups. Bible reading. Prayer events. Drink, eat, learn and digest.

The following is the testimony of a victor—the apostle Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7–8)

What is the opposite of endurance? Giving up, or quitting. Christians cannot afford to be quitters. The Lord hasn’t called us to be spectators but participators. It’s easy to bale out than stay in, Jesus knows what that’s like, “take this cup from me, but nevertheless, not my will but yours be done” Endurance is the fruit of obedience.

When God commits us to the race, we have to set our faces ‘like flint’ ‘neither turning to the left or right’ in order to fulfil it and go through with it. There is a close relationship between self-control and endurance. 

We must master our weaknesses or sin/s; otherwise, every time we are tested in the area of endurance, some weakness—whether it is emotional, psychological, or physical—will get us down, and we will give up at the very point where we should have been holding on and enduring.

4. To run God’s race we must fix our eyes on Jesus. Look Above You. As is stated in Hebrews 12:2, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the crossHis pain is our gain.

We have to look continually to Jesus. In other words, we cannot run the race in self-reliance. Looking to Jesus means that He is our example, and we put our confidence in Him and in Him alone, as His blood is the power for victory. He is the author—the beginning of our faith. He is the completer—the One who will bring us through to victory. Looking (af-or-ah-oh) ‘having eyes for no one but Jesus.’

5. To run God’s race we must Train. Look Behind You. Anyone who has competed at any level of competition knows that it’s all in the prep, train, train and train. When I was swimming for my school, when I was rowing for my club, when I was running for the sea cadets, I had to train, train train. And when you hit a problem you deal with it so though the stumbling block become stepping stones. 2016 affords us the opportunity to go to the next level.

Start a discipleship group. Attend a course. Commence tithing and start giving back to God by way of serving His Church. Read, read and read again the Word, get into the Word so teh Word gets into you!

Read 1 Corin 9.24-27

John Wesley’s “Covenant Prayer” is a prayer used for the renewal of the believer’s Covenant with God. It is often recited in special worship services, but is also a wonderful expression for individuals who want to affirm their commitment to God. I am no longer my own, but thine. Put me to what thou wilt, rank me with whom thou wilt. Put me to doing, put me to suffering. Let me be employed for thee or laid aside for thee, exalted for thee or brought low for thee. Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing. I freely and heartily yield all things to thy pleasure and disposal. And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, thou art mine, and I am thine. So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven.  Amen.



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