Through the years I’ve been blessed with a few great coaches who have taught me the power of motivation. I’ve seen first hand the effect of a coach or a leader who speaks the right word into a competitive situation in order to get the desired results. A good coach understands that not every person is motivated in the same way.
I was listening to a high school baseball coach tell the story of walking up to the mound where his young pitcher was trying to close out a game. The winning runner was at the plate and with two outs, all he needed to do was sit him down and the team would win the game. The problem was, the last two batters the young man faced had already reached base and it seemed like things were unraveling. The coach spent a couple minutes on the mound, then returned to the dugout to watch his young pitcher throw three strikes to win the game. When asked what miracle motivational speech he spoke to the young man, the coach said, “We talked about the weather and how after the game we’re going to go over to the concession stand and get a hotdog.” The coach understood that in order to get that individual players best, he needed to relieve the pressure from the situation.
Motivation isn’t just a sports reference. For many years I held a negative belief that I hated school. I had struggled in school from about 5th grade on, I had conditioned myself to be a below average student, and honestly I expected as much. College was a different chapter in my life but old habits die hard and I continued many of the struggles from high school. It wasn’t until a professor, in front of our entire class told me something that changed the way I perceived myself. She told me while correcting some basic mistakes in my work, “Holden, you are a scholar”
From this point on I didn’t view myself as an average or below student, I viewed myself as a scholar, even if I had a long way to go to produce scholarly work. I was a college student and for the first time I realized who I was.
For a lot of Christians we either need to be told for the first time, or reminded once again who we are. We are children of the most high God. The God we serve is unstoppable, He’s never been defeated.
He is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The God of Joseph who took a young man from the pit and placed him in the palace. The God who used a man who couldn’t clearly communicate, who was wanted for murder and used him to lead the nation of Israel out of terrible slavery in Egypt to the doorstep of the promised land.
He’s the God of Daniel who was thrown in a den of hungry lions
And He’s the same now as He was then. He is the living God, He’s your God and you are His child.
Maybe you’re here this morning and you just need to be reminded, He is God and you are His child!
Don’t give up!
James 1:12 says, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.”
Sometimes it can feel like we’re in too deep. Life gets complicated and its easier to tuck tail and run or find a good hiding spot, but let me remind you, You are a child of God, and it’s not by your strength, but His. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10,
“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
The burden of this life is heavy, but His burden is light.
How many times are we reminded in scripture that He will sustain us?
Proverbs 16:3, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.”
Psalm 37:5, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act.”
Psalm 55:22, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.”
I could go on and on but I think you get the picture. Church let me remind you, It’s not about how strong or weak, talented or inept, brilliant or thick-headed we are, its about how incredibly awesome that He is. And remember that if we commit our ways to Him, He will sustain us!
There’s a reason that the Bible repeats this promise again and again, and its because we’re destined to face difficult days. James 1:12 reminds us that, “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Endurance and perseverance are required for a living an active faith.
The challenge is knowing how to keep fighting and keep going, even when things get tough.
If you have your bible with you this morning, I’d like you to turn over to the book of Hebrews chapter 12. We’ve been in a series in Deeper, our youth group on this chapter, and when I’m invited to speak in “big church” as I’ve affectionally called it over the years, I like to pull a message from a series that we’ve been in for a number of reasons. 1) It’s fresh on my mind 2) People generally like to hear what’s going on inside of the student ministry and 3) its always good to take a youthful approach to God’s word.
Hebrews 12:1-4 has become one of my favorite passages of scripture, it says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
The Apostle Paul is using beautiful imagery here to paint a picture of a runner who is focused on winning a long endurance race. This is the kind of thing that gets me excited, in other words Paul is speaking my language when he brings up this type of analogy. But, I’ll just say this, the only reason Paul wrote about a foot race is because the man had never seen a stock car. Had Paul been to a local dirt track, this passage of scripture would’ve looked a lot different! It’s not that I have anything against running, in fact I ran cross country, at one time, a long time ago, I just think racing is more fun when there is a motor involved…
So I like to imagine a race car driver, lined up on the starting grid, Thousands of people are up in the stands cheering on their favorite drivers who are ready for the most important race of their life.
The green flag is in the air, and it’s pedal to the metal, and the only goal is to win the race.
Paul writes, “let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.”
Back in 2012 I had the opportunity to race a friend of mine’s Modified 4 cylinder Mustang at a local racetrack near my hometown. I had never driven a real racer before and because of that I made plenty of rookie mistakes. Race cars and the cars that are out in our parking lot are built totally differently. There isn’t a lot of luxury in a race car, it’s built for performance and speed. Now this race was in the middle of the summer, so it was hot, and the race car ran hot anyways, so there was a fan inside of the engine that kept the car from overheating, it was important that this fan was on while we weren’t at speed on the track, but off while the car was on the track, because the fan took significant power away from the car.
Well, like I said, I was new at this, and overwhelmed. I forgot to turn the engine fan off. And sure enough for that practice session, we ran way off pace. There was a whole team behind us who were disappointed because the whole session was a waste, and you only get a couple of practice sessions before the race and they were extremely important if you wanted a chance to compete. I made sure that this sort of mistake wouldn’t happen again. I asked my friend who was spotting for me to remind me as we pulled out of the pits for the next session and I even wrote it on my hand to turn the fan off.
If we were going to be competitive,
THIS CAN’T HAPPEN AGAIN!
This is exactly how we need to approach the second half of verse 1, sin and hindrances that keeps us down, it takes away our power and slows us down and keeps us off the pace. We need to recognize it, deal with it, and make sure that it doesn’t happen again and keep us from accomplishing our overall goal.
So what is the overall goal that the writer is talking about? Life is not a sprint, it’s an endurance race. Everyone from time to time has the inclination to do good, but Paul is urging us to “Run with endurance the race that God has set before us” and we do that by keeping our focus on the one who set the pace, by keeping our focus on Jesus
Pursue Jesus at all costs
Speaking of Jesus, He’s the one who looked past the shame of the cross and realized the joy that would come once the price had been paid for our salvation. Jesus shows us the prize of a life well-lived in pursuit of God,
The text never says life would be easy. Running in a race is not easy, it’s hard, there are obstacles, there are unexpected things that happen all the time. But if we’re committed to doing God’s will and running diligently the race that God has set before us, then we will find success in this life.
Take a look at 1 Peter 2:21-25,
21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls.
Are we going to make mistakes, you bet. Are we going to drop the ball, Yes.
God’s grace is sufficient and his love for us is unconditional.
So in closing this morning, I want to ask you a couple questions.
Have you turned to your Shepherd? Or are you lost?
And if you’ve turned, are you pursing Him or are you off the pace?