Summer Wind Pt 6: The Race
Pastor Samuel Inman
Who is God?
Who are you God? I have read about you in scripture but that’s like history. What about the news, the tragedies, that horrible stuff and all the confusion and violence going on in the world? Who are you in the middle of all of the hate, anger, greed and violence? What about my own struggles and this battle going on inside of me. Who are you in there? Ok well most people agree that there is a higher power, being, a force that created the universe. So you are the creator. Then who am I? Your creation? Is this an experiment? Entertainment for you? There is more proof of Good in the world more love than that, so that can’t be possible. You must care. It’s the love, the peace, or at least the deep need and longing for it. We know we are made for something, something more. It’s like I have this spiritual DNA, a destiny. But I keep looking for ways to reach out and grab a hold of something, of someone, but I draw back empty handed, alone, suffering alone, in the dark. I’m just tired of all of this. I can’t do it on my own. I need help. God if you’re real. Please be real. If you’re real help me.
Have you ever had those kinds of thoughts? I’m pretty sure you have, because you’re a human being. Chances are you are listening to me for one of two reasons. God has already shown Himself to you through his Son Jesus, or you are desperate for something more if you’re not one of those you might be wishing you were somewhere else. Whichever you are I am sure that God has or will and will continue to answer my question, “Who are you God?” Before you leave today though you need to also ask the question who am I and what would you have me do? Those go hand in hand. You see some of you have grown up in church and you may be afraid to even ask those questions, but you better start seeking out the answer. God isn’t going to come down start telling you what to do and how to do it. Instead you need to pursue God since he’s already been pursuing you up to this very moment. Next, start pursuing yourself. Your true self. The good thing is if you keep pursuing God as the first priority you will find yourself somewhere in Him. Because before you were born you were in his thoughts.
The Starting Line
If you have had the experience of God revealing himself to you through his Son Jesus Christ, and if you received it, then it’s like a seed has been planted in your heart. Everything you do from then on either nourishes and cultivates growth, or stifles and chokes it. After a seed starts’ growing it just wants to keep going. The seed is the Kingdom of God planted in you. If you let it grow, your life will be totally transformed. Another great thing is that you’re totally not alone right. It’s also like starting a race or a journey. My brother and uncle and a bunch of people went on a hike yesterday and from the pictures it looked great. When you choose God’s way it’s like you were alone on the trail and suddenly there is a whole group of people walking with you and many who have gone before you who care about you. That is what the church is about. We are a team and Jesus Christ lead the way for us.
Discipline in a Long-Distance Race
12 1-3 Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!
4-11 In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves. Or have you forgotten how good parents treat children, and that God regards you as his children?
My dear child, don’t shrug off God’s discipline,
but don’t be crushed by it either.
It’s the child he loves that he disciplines;
the child he embraces, he also corrects.
God is educating you; that’s why you must never drop out. He’s treating you as dear children. This trouble you’re in isn’t punishment; it’s training, the normal experience of children. Only irresponsible parents leave children to fend for themselves. Would you prefer an irresponsible God? We respect our own parents for training and not spoiling us, so why not embrace God’s training so we can truly live? While we were children, our parents did what seemed best to them. But God is doing what is best for us, training us to live God’s holy best. At the time, discipline isn’t much fun. It always feels like it’s going against the grain. Later, of course, it pays off handsomely, for it’s the well-trained who find themselves mature in their relationship with God.
12-13 So don’t sit around on your hands! No more dragging your feet! Clear the path for long-distance runners so no one will trip and fall, so no one will step in a hole and sprain an ankle. Help each other out. And run for it!
14-17 Work at getting along with each other and with God. Otherwise you’ll never get so much as a glimpse of God. Make sure no one gets left out of God’s generosity. Keep a sharp eye out for weeds of bitter discontent. A thistle or two gone to seed can ruin a whole garden in no time. Watch out for the Esau syndrome: trading away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy a short-term appetite. You well know how Esau later regretted that impulsive act and wanted God’s blessing—but by then it was too late, tears or no tears. (Hebrews 12:1-17 MSG).
This is a Race Not a Getaway
That is the marathon we are in. Now some of you joined the pack a while back and you call yourself a Christian but you don’t really move with the rest of the pack. You kind of have a different picture of what the church is.
Some of you joined with Jesus because you liked the sound of the destination. For your life is more like a trip to heaven and your church is like the plane you’re on. You made sure to check in early to get a good seat and for the past however many years you’ve been sitting in your seat waiting for the plane to reach its final resting place. You figure Jesus is the pilot, so he’ll get you there and your pastors are the flight attendants making sure you have everything you need for the Journey. All that matters to you is that you’re going to heaven and you assume that all of the good people sitting around you whose names you don’t even know are headed there too. Does that sound like church for you? Hopefully on your plane there’s inflight entertainment and light refreshments. If that’s you no wonder you’re bored. There might be nothing to live for except gossip and drama.
Not a Club Membership Either
Some others of you might have joined because it’s your chance to show everyone your stuff. For you life is all about rewards and the church is a club. You know exactly what kind of club I mean. The kind with achievements and pins and trophies. You have earned your daily devotional badge this week, and you may have an “I read the whole bible” badge and two missions trip badges, a life group badge, a gold leadership pin, and someday you’re working toward the Christian lifetime achievement award, You’re kind of struggling with the evangelism badge though. No wonder it’s because you just want to get someone to join the club so you can get the points.
If you thought you were on the airplane or in the club I’m not trying to say that you’re going to hell. I’m just pointing out that you might be making the journey harder than it has to be for you and for everyone else who wants to help you. You are messed up and you’re attached to your mess. Do you know what a hoarder is? It’s someone who keeps something they don’t need, but they really think they need it. So imagine yourself trying to run a race now with all of your badges and trophies. Oh yeah just keep earning more, it’s slowing you down but who cares you’ll have all of your treasures and recognition here, on earth. That’s what you wanted right. Ok how about you with your suitcase, your carry-on and personal item. By the way you knew it was a long trip so you packed a lot of stuff. You’ve been carrying all of that baggage for a long time thinking because you aren’t comfortable with bearing your soul to other people. You’ve got to let some of that stuff go especially the baggage, but the trophies and the achievements too. They’re no good to you. If you’re not careful you might not finish the race with those.
Who’s Your Coach?
The life of the church and your faith in Jesus should not be mistaken as a ticket to a better life. So don’t be a part of it to escape the pain and suffering of this life. You’ll be disappointed and disillusioned and end up missing out on the joy. Neither is it a spiritual rewards system. So you should not join it to get ahead of the rest or to earn God’s favor. You’ll always be insecure and in competition. You’ll miss out on being even more than a conqueror. This life we have been entrusted with is more like a race. So the important thing is finishing, and here is no cruise control for feet so you have to do the running. Also the destination is nice but it’s not heaven. Well you may be going there but the reward is God himself. You might as well get to know him along the way and let him coach you. Would you spend a lifetime putting him off then expect him to want to spend eternity with you. Don’t be discouraged though. We’re all in this together, encouraging one another, keeping each other on course. You need the full support system of the team.
The good news is there are people who have been praying for you. Whether you are just thinking about joining the race or just coming to terms with some of your issues, people are praying for you. You didn’t make it here without their love and support. And that love is just an extension of God’s love for you. You are most likely here today as a result of someone’s prayers for you.
Correcting Your Bad Habits
Paul wrote to Timothy, “16 All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. (2 Timothy 3:16 NLT)” So what is God wanting to correct here? Maybe you’ve been totally living life your way doing it on your own. Well you wouldn’t start a race this big and this important without a trainer or without teammates to run with would you? That can change today. You don’t have to depend on yourself anymore and you’re not alone. Or maybe you feel like God is punishing you. He’s not. He disciplines those he loves. This is training so that you will be able to keep running the race. And don’t mistake running for striving, you need to stop trying to prove yourself. Lay that need for approval down at the altar. All you should be doing is keeping your eyes on Jesus and keeping pace with Him. Lastly you may just have something’s holding you back. Whether it’s been weeks or years you won’t be able to keep it up for much longer. You need to take a pit stop to get that checked out. From all that baggage you’ve been carrying you picked up some injuries you didn’t realize you had. You’re angry, frustrated, confused. It wasn’t your fault to start with, but you held on to it and you’ve got to let it go and get free so you can heal and get back in the race.
In 2002 I knew I couldn’t keep it going. I was crying to my dad one night, because I was feeling totally rejected. I was just in a place where I felt misguided. I was just struggling with School, work, relationships. I told my dad I just felt like I wasn’t good enough. He tried to comfort me and asked me if I’d thought about YWAM. After that, the idea kept coming back to me. I knew that’s what I needed so I signed up for a six month Discipleship Training School in Blantyre, Malawi. God formed my character there in ways that my culture and my situation here couldn’t. I missed my Grandmother’s memorial service, my 20th birthday, a semester of school, and my family and friends. I also face a few challenges like having malaria twice, being the only American, living in a totally foreign culture with different food and customs like using outhouses and bucket showers, but none of that mattered to me because I wasn’t focused on home or on Malawi. I was focused on Jesus. And it wasn’t because I tried so hard, it was because he led me there and I followed. Before that trip and many times since I spent time kneeling on the floor at the foot of these steps crying my eyes out and praying this prayer, “God, I’ll go wherever you want me to go. I’ll do whatever you want me to do God. Just use me. Please use me.”
You see God isn’t looking for champions or spiritual experts, he’s looking for willing hearts. Isn’t that a relief though? It gives me peace every time I’m reminded that all I have to do is say, “Yes Lord.” with all of my heart and he will do the rest. Really he will do it. He may use you to do it but he’ll help you with the motivation, the resources, the words and before you know it He’s done it through you and in you. All I really want with my life is to please God. I’ve seen enough and experienced enough to know that nothing on this earth can satisfy the longing in your soul for something more and you can lose everything without warning. So what’s left that is worth living for. We know from his word that we were created to bring Glory to God so that is all I want to do. So I’m still praying, God I’ll go wherever you want me to go, and say whatever you want me to say, and do whatever you want me to do.
If you want to join me in that prayer today, whether you are just getting ready to follow Jesus or you’ve been in the race a while I want you to stand up right now. Jesus suffered and died on a cross because someone had to face the consequences of the wrong you’ve done and he voluntarily paid the price for your freedom with his life. That’s love. That’s who God is he didn’t leave us to figure it out on our own He has done everything to make a way for us. If you want go that way stand. Come on you’ve been trying to make Christianity work your way and it’s time to invite the trainer in to get you in shape and get back in the race with the rest of us. Stand with me. You’ve thought maybe you can just try harder but the harder you try the more empty you feel. It’s making you sick inside and out. You can’t do it on your own. Ask for his help and Join us in this race together. Stand with me.