• Pastor John Rhodes

Keys to Winning

Life is a journey. It has a start, there are events, there are good and bad times, and then you die. This picture, however, is incomplete. Another view is that life is a race. The focus of a journey is on the events. The focus of a race is on winning at the finishing line. It says in Hebrews …let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… (Heb. 12:1).

This is a new series with the theme, Winning the Race of Life. This first message is on three keys to winning. Read Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV).

The reading begins saying … v1 … we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. I keep wanting here to read “crowd,” but it definitely says “cloud.” It’s not a puff of smoke. It is not a covid-19 crowd either! It is a cloud whose expanse is across the sky. It is the mass of people who have completed their journey and, by keeping faith in God, have won the race.

The heroes of faith are listed in Hebrews chapter 11 - Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, … Joseph, Moses, David etc…; ladies include Sarah and Rachel. It proceeds to the people of Israel, judges, kings, and prophets…… too many to mention. All these speak and cheer us on. This is good to know this because it is usually the fallen Christian leaders who are publicly highlighted in media, not the many winners. There are many great, successful saints in addition to the Hebrews’ Hall of Fame. Many are still living; many are in this church. The common factor is faith. Here are three keys to win your race -

1. Throw off every obstacle

v1 …. let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles….

The first key is to “throw off” every obstacle to winning. There are two types of obstacles - hindrances and sin. Hindrances slow you down, sin stops you in your tracks.

I can think of three potential hindrances – possessions, relationships, and work. All these are good and God-given. It is how we handle them that is the problem. Jesus said, … “Watch out! …life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15). On relationships, our priority must be on the one who loves us the most, God! Human relationships come and go; the Spirit of God is with you forever. Who on earth do you love the most? If you love God more than them, then you will love them more than you did otherwise. On work, Jesus said to lay up real treasures in heaven that last forever. Hear me out. You must be responsible in finances, to family & friends, and in work; but where is your heart? Focus on the events alone may be causing you to miss out on the whole point of life. Focus on winning in the Lord! You have a great cloud of witnesses in God’s family cheering you on.

The second obstacle is sin. Sin entangles - lying, stealing, adultery, covetousness, greedto name the main ones. Need to repent? What does Hebrews say about hindrances and sin? “Throw them off!”

2. Run with perseverance

v1 …. let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us

When you put something off, you must put something on. The next key to winning the race of life is to put on perseverance. Perseverance, or resolute patience, means determining to run all the way to the finishing line.

I give an example of a man close to his finishing line. He’s the oldest man in Sydney. Frank Mawer is currently 109 years old. He is a Pentecostal Christian, converted aged 30 in a church that would become Petersham Assemblies of God, now Revive Church. He has run through life with perseverance. He shares his experiences, “I have passed through various good and bad times. I can remember when I was at a very low time in my building experience. The little scripture … ‘Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you.’ (1 Peter 5:7) … really helped me. I came out from a financial loss. I had to build my finances again and it took a long time, but God has rewarded me.” Long life is a reward; eternal life is a reward for persevering faith. Frank will be in the great cloud of witnesses.

3. Fixed your eyes on Jesus

v2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

The final and most important key is to fix your eyes on Jesus. Looking to Jesus reveals areas in which you need to change – both to throw off and to add on. Looking to an impaled serpent image lifted high brought healing to the Israelites in the wilderness. Looking to Jesus on the Cross, bearing our sin, brings healing to us now. It may not be popular to be Christian. Jesus had to endure scorn, shame, and false accusations. But look where he is now! Seated at the right hand of the throne of God, over all creation.

People all around the world will soon be enjoying the Tokyo Olympic Games, 23 July to 8 August. This time, because of Covid-19, the spectators will be unseen! However, millions will be watching on television and internet. The heroes of faith who have gone before us speak by their life example. Together with the angels, they are unseen in the heavens. They are all cheering you on. Put off the obstacles. Put on perseverance. Look to Jesus!

John Rhodes

July 2021

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