Saturday, October 25, 2008

Finishing What You Started

Based on Hebrews 12:1-3
1Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NIV)

Essential Information about FINISHING (verse 1)

Jeff mentioned that the race is marked out to keep us on track, not to trip us up. Each turn, each obstacle, each new challenge, all are designed to point us to Jesus, to cause us to look for Him even more than we already do.

What do the following verses say about God’s involvement in designing your race?

Psalm 139:13-16
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,
16 your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Acts 17:26-27
From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.

What does your race look like? What are the circumstances of your life that cause you to turn to Jesus?

We’re encouraged to run with perseverance. Perseverance is “steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., esp. in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.”

What difficulties (large or small) are threatening to throw you off track right now? Where do you want to quit? What would it look like for you to choose to persevere?

Will you choose to accept these circumstances as part of God’s plan to cause you to turn to Him? Will you make the commitment to persevere?

Essential Information about THE RACE ITSELF (verse 3)

The race is tough. No question. Racing isn’t strolling. It takes determination, training, and effort. Take a look back just one chapter in Hebrews 11 if you want to read some stories of people who had to overcome difficulties in their race. They all kept their eyes focused on what was ahead of them.

Running the race can sometimes be so hard that we lose sight of the goal. Jeff spoke of a runner’s “kick,” that burst of untapped energy and resources that a runner taps into to make it through to the finish line. God’s purpose in our lives are for us to touch and change our world as we become more like Jesus. It’s in the midst of the challenges in our lives that others can see something different about us. But how do you keep going when the race gets tough?

One way is to draw strength from Scripture. Romans 15:4 tells us that “everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” How familiar are you with the Bible? Where do you turn to in Scripture to find encouragement?

How do the following verses encourage you?

Philippians 1:6 – Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:13 – I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Romans 8:28 – And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

A suggestion: Memorize one of the verses in this study to strengthen you and to find the encouragement that Romans 15:4 promises.

Essential Information about HOW TO RUN (verse 2)

Hebrews 12:3 is very clear about how we can keep going, how to run the race. We are to “fix our eyes on Jesus.”

Acts 17:27 says that when we seek God, when we reach out for Him, we will find Him because He is not far from us. Jesus is our running partner. How does the thought of Jesus running with you encourage you and strengthen you to run the race? What difference does that make in your ability to keep going?

Notice that fixing our eyes on Jesus is a choice we have to make, just as we have to choose to run the race. What are your eyes fixed on— yourself, the other runners, the crowd and how you look to them, your circumstances? Or are your eyes fixed on Jesus? What do you see when you look at Him, just some guy—or do you see your Savior, your Friend, your God, the Expert on running the race?

How much time do you spend talking with Him as you go about your day? Are you talking with Him about the difficulties in your life, asking for (and taking) His advice? Are you trying to run like He does? When you’re knocked down, are you reaching out for His hand to pull you back up? Are you letting Him set the pace?

Runners train to run, especially if they want to finish and finish well. They discipline themselves, they exercise. Hebrews 12:7 tells us to “endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons [and daughters]” and Hebrews 12:12-13 sums it all up—“Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet…’” What are you doing to train yourself to run the race? What do you need to do to run better?

In this race, age isn’t an issue. In the Scriptures, children are held up as examples of faith; teenagers are encouraged to be an example to adults; all believers are called to be examples to a watching world; adults are told that even in old age they will still produce spiritual fruit and remain vital and vibrant. No matter what your age, your circumstances, your condition, you can be in the race.

So, how’s the race going? You’re being cheered on by a watching crowd. Run! Run hard! Run well!

—"perseverance." Unabridged (v 1.1). Random House, Inc. 19 Aug. 2008. .

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