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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - Living Life to the Fullest

Charles Stanley - Living Life to the Fullest

Charles Stanley - Living Life to the Fullest
TOPICS: Meaning of Life

If you had to describe your life like you are experiencing it, how would you describe it? Would you say it is a mere existence? It is an unending rat race, that's what my life is, a continuous battle, a schoolroom, a time of training, a time of real discouragement. Somehow you are going through some period of suffering in your life and it seems to be endless. what he's referring to primarily are those Old Testament saints who've gone on before. And he says we have this great cloud of witnesses, not that they're up there pulling for us, but that they have been a tremendous, awesome example to us. And what he's referring to is the life that they've lived, the difficulty they've gone through, the hardships, the troubles, and the trials.

Look at them, look how they responded, and look what God did in their lives. And so what he's referring to is the pattern, the example, the model that these Old Testament saints have been. Well, there's a second thing involved, I think, in living life to the fullest, and I think it's found in this passage. Notice what he says now, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance". Now, when he mentions the word here of encumbrances, of course, those people knew how encumbranced they could be. For example, those men wore robes. Well, imagine getting on the starting line of a race with a robe hanging all around your feet.

And so, he says you must lay aside every encumbrance, and so they dressed down for the races. That word means something of bulk. It can be the word that is used to relate to a tumor, something that doesn't belong there, something that hinders, anything that would hinder a racer. Now, the runner is going to dress down because he doesn't want anything to deter him with speed and reaching the goal. In the Christian life, we also have those encumbrances, those things that impede, those things that hinder us on our walk because as we're moving in the will of God, anything that hinders our keeping the pace with God and His will and His timing, which is so very important, anything that distracts my attention, gets me off course, or gets me off on some detour is an encumbrance. And so those things, he says, we have to deal with.

Now, that can be some habit in your life or it can be some hobby in your life. It can be some sport or it can be watching television. If you have an overemphasis of that in your life, an overemphasis on anything, overemphasis, for example, on money or whatever it may be, and you see, it's not easy for us to indicate in somebody else's life what their encumbrance is because we may not even know what it is, we don't know what they're thinking. It just may be the way they think about things in life, the way they think about God is so negative and so limited that it is a tremendous encumbrance to their moving ahead in their Christian life. It may be doubt, it may be fear, anything that hinders, impedes, slows us down, gets us off track, gets us out of the will of God, he says these things are encumbrances in our life, and they need to be removed.

Now, what may be an encumbrance to someone else may not be an encumbrance to you. And what may be an encumbrance to you may not affect anybody else at all. For example, let's say that you have a scuba dive, and so he wants to go down about fifty feet or a hundred feet or whatever it may be. More than likely, he may put lead weights on the belt around him. And those lead weights will enable him to sink more swiftly, and he uses those weights for his benefit. But a runner out here on the starting line waiting for the gun to go off, having about twenty-five or thirty pounds of lead weight around him, they would be a terrible impediment to his racing.

So, you and I can't look at someone else's life and say that's an encumbrance in your life or this is an encumbrance in your life. Some things may be very evident, but that's not our job to be looking for other people's encumbrances. Our job is to be looking at our own, examining our own life and saying what is it in my thinking, what is it in my habit, what is it in my lifestyle that hinders my keeping my focus upon the Lord, walking in Him, doing His will, following Him, allowing Him to work His will and His way in our life. And so, all of us have to examine those things. Sometimes they're subtle, they're not always easy to identify. And it may be that we have sort of thought that way so long, we think, well, that's the way you think, but that is not the way you think. Or we may have habits in our life that have been there for years and years and years and we think, well, you know, that's just the way I am. Well, just the way I am may be a real encumbrance to my spiritual walk.

And as we said before, oftentimes doubt, just a little doubt that lingers in our life about God's purpose, and does He really care or does He really have a plan for my life, or oftentimes making decisions, our whole way of looking at life. We make decisions and ask God to bless us, or do we seek the mind of God before we make that decision? And so, there are many, many areas in which we can be encumbered, and that is, we can be hindered in our walk and our race with the Lord Jesus Christ. And so he says we are to lay these things aside.

Now, how do we lay them aside? Well, the first thing I have to do is be honest enough to examine myself to see what is there that is hindering me, and secondly, I must make a decision to deal with it. And I would have to ask the Lord or say to Him, Or would you say that your life is one absolutely, fascinating, exciting journey, that it is a challenging time in your life. All of us go through different seasons in our life, and so sometimes if the season lasts too long, we just have the idea that that's what life's all about, just one big heavy burden. But that's not really true because all of us go through those seasons. Sometimes there are more clouds than there is sunshine, and we're often prone to think, well, is this what life is all about?

Father, I thank you for showing me this, and I want to deal with it, I want to confess that this does not need to be in my life. It may not even be a sin. We're not talking about deliberate, known, willful sins, but those things that crop up into our lives or sort of... we sort of drift toward, and as we said, thinking or actions or whatever. And we have to identify them and say, Lord, I do believe this is something that is hindering my walk, and so I just want to lay this aside. It may not be as easy to lay aside as we think it would be, so it's something we have to depend upon the Holy Spirit to enable us to turn away from that, let loose of it, walk away from it, whatever it might be, from holding on to something that's keeping me from walking in the will of God. He says, "Lay it aside, put it aside, deal with it, turn away from it, and make it right between you and God".

Now, you would think that this next phrase, he'd put them all together. Look at this, he says, "Let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us". Now, to entangle means to trip 'em up, that is, to get tripped up by something. Well, would not encumbrances and sins be the same? Not necessarily. An encumbrance is something that's more subtle, you have to sort of look for that because, as we say, you may have lived with it a long time. It may have been the way you've been thinking all of your life. And so, when he says, "And the sin which so easily entangles us," what is he referring to?

Well, I think he's referring here to, first of all, if you'll notice he doesn't say S-I-N as sins, but the sin which so easily entangles us. More than likely, and I wouldn't say this is true of everybody, but probably for most of us it's true, that is, Satan has one tool that is the most effective of all. It is the one that he usually, at least can get a little leeway in our life, if we're not careful. He says dealing with this sin, laying aside this sin which so easily besets us. That is, there may be some particular weakness in your life. It may be doubt, it may be this issue of finances, it may be greed, it may be lust, whatever it might be, but it is an area in life in which we have to keep struggling with and fighting against.

It's the one that somehow Satan, no matter what we do, he seems to be able to get little toehold, little edge every once in a while. He says we have to deal not only with these encumbrances, these things that are sort of subtle that may not be quite so evident, but he says sin, those things that we know to be deliberate, willful choices of disobedience to God, and he says it's the sin, if you'll notice, that so, as he says, easily besets us. It's the one thing we seemingly can falter and fall to the most frequently or the most easily. He says it entangles us, trips us up, ensnares us.

Now, when you think about that, you have to ask yourself the question: Lord, is there some area of my life or is there something that Satan can tempt me with that somehow, in spite of my best commitment and my continuous devotion to You, somehow I am more easily entangled or tripped up here than any other way. He says whatever that is, we need to treat it the same way we treat these encumbrances. We need to be able to identify and to deal with it. And so often, as you look back in the Old Testament again, for example, the New Testament, you'll find in some of these lives of the saints of God, that they, too, had these areas in which Satan could also entangle and entrap them.

If we're going to live our life to the fullest, we must deal with those things we have to struggle with. Because it is those kind of things that will cause us to stumble and to fall and to fall off the track. It is those kind of things that cause us to begin to look out yonder instead of keeping our eye on the goal. And we want to get detoured, and sometimes it's things in a person's life, their desire to have things because things gives them a sense of worth and value. Things gives them a sense of acceptance. If they get enough things, they can make a big enough impression, then they'll be more accepted and, feeling more accepted, they'll feel more loved, and feeling more loved, they'll feel better about themselves, when all of that is a trap.

Listen, Satan has more traps than we could ever begin to imagine. What is his goal? His goal is to get our eyes off the goal. His goal is to get us detoured out of the will of God, doing something that we want to satisfy some desire or need in our life, and therefore we get out of the will of God, then we're not going to live life at the fullest. It doesn't make any difference what appears to satisfy, only one thing makes it possible for me to live life to the fullest, and that is being in the center of God's will, moving in that direction. Does that mean we'll be perfect? No. Does it mean we won't stumble? No. Does it mean we won't falter? No. Does it mean we won't get tripped up? No, but it means at least I'm on the track, moving in that direction, and when I stumble and fall, I recognize what No, that's not what life is all about.

Life really is all about something very, very exciting. And that's what I want to talk about in this message today. No matter where you are and what you're feeling and how down you may be or how up you are, the issue is what is life really and truly all about. And so the title of this message is "Living Life to the Fullest". And I want you to turn, if you will, to Hebrews chapter twelve, and there're two verses here that I want us to look at primarily caused it, I thank God for His forgiveness and get up and keep moving in the same direction.

That may require strong self-discipline on our part, just like the runner. He has to practice and practice and practice and practice and watch what they eat, and the self-discipline in order to win the race is extremely important, this same thing is true in the Christian life. And even though we say when you receive the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Savior and He's living His life in and through you, that doesn't mean that we do not have to bring every area of our life under discipline, under the will and purpose and plan of God. And sometime that's not easy to do. That's why he says lay these things aside. We have to rely upon Him and trust in Him. And that's why you have to stay in the Word of God.

What does God say about this? How did this work in someone else's life in the New Testament? How's it working in other people's lives? How does God give them victory in their life? And so, there things we have to bring unto discipline in our life in order to live life to the fullest. Then he says one other thing, and I wanna close with this one. You'll notice he says in the next verse, he says in this Christian life, if we're to live life to the fullest, we're to, "fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God".

Now, why does he say if we gonna live life to the fullest, we're to fix our eyes on Jesus. Now, let me say this, and listen carefully, if you will focus your eyes upon the Lord Jesus Christ, I'm not gonna say that always instantly it's all over and everything is wonderful. And you may go through a season that God allows you to be able to sense what it means to be down and discouraged and depressed and beaten down in order to make us sensitive to people who live that way. But if you'll get your focus on Him, it won't take long till something happens in your thinking. When you focus your attention upon Him, what happens is you begin to think the way He thinks, you begin to see Him as He is, you are reminded of this loving, unconditional, loving Savior, this Lord, this Christ, this Jesus who not only is in heaven, but this Jesus is our running companion.

And you see, you and I never run alone. We may feel lonely, but we never run alone. Because the Lord Jesus Christ says I'm abiding in you and you're abiding in Me. He's always a step ahead of me to show me the way, always a step behind me to pick me up when I falter, always by my side, whispering in my ear, "Keep going, keep moving, you're doing good, you'll make it," always there to pick us up when we skin our knees or skin our face, skin our elbows, skin our heart, skin our mind, skin our spirit.

He's always there running with us, He is our traveling companion, He's our running companion, and He will never allow you and me to take a single step from the moment you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, when you were on the starting line the moment you were saved, I was twelve years of age, not one single step have I ever taken that He was not living on the inside of me, standing by my side, moving ahead, moving behind, there to protect and to provide and to keep. When we don't listen to His encouraging Word, we falter right in His presence. And what happens, He is always there to lift us up. He's not gonna shove you off the trail to say you blew it again, because He knew before He ever saved you, you and I would falter, we'd fall off the cliff, He'd have to reach down and pull us out. He'd have to reset our feet, reset our focus, get our minds straightened out, get us moving in the right direction.

That's this loving assistant who walks by our side, who runs by our side. He is our companion in the race of the Christian life. He's always there. And the reason He says in this passage fixing your eyes upon Him, that is so that you have undivided attention. He's the perfecter of faith, and he says here, "Who for the joy set before Him," which was doing the Father's will, "He endured the cross," no matter what He had to face, He was committed to doing the Father's will, "despising the shame," he said He went through victoriously and He sat down at the right hand of the Father, and what's He been doing ever since? He's been interceding for you and me and running the race with us. And He is our greatest encourager.

If you and I are gonna live this life to the fullest, I mean if we're gonna live it to the fullest and enjoy it no matter what we're going through and whatever we're facing in life, you see, it has nothing to do with my external circumstances. If you and I are living in the center of God's will, that is, if we're committed to doing the will of God, we're committed for Him to working and molding in our life, then whatever storm He sends us through will be to His glory ultimately. Whatever difficulty and hardship and adversity and suffering He takes us through, what's He doing? He is building something within our life. What is He doing? He's building endurance.

Now, listen to this, why does He build endurance in this storm? I'll tell you why, because He knows He's going to allow another storm. because I believe in these two verses God gives us, not necessarily some formula, but He gives us a perspective, He gives us an insight, an understanding of what life is all about and why we can live it to the very fullest no matter what's going on. And let me say right up in the beginning, living life to the fullest does not require that I have all the wealth that I want. It doesn't require that I have all the education that I think I may need. It doesn't require that I have all of the acceptance or all of An endurance here equips me for the endurance later, and that endurance is not only built and working in our life to equip us for the next storm and the next trial and the next heartache, but it is also preparing us for more effective ministry, more effective ministry in other people's lives, more expanded ministry in someone else's life.

And it makes no difference who you are. God has gifted you and God has talented you and He has equipped you and He's in the process of equipping you to be a blessing to other people. And as you and I walk through the storms and we face the hardships and we get up after we have fallen, but we keep moving toward the goal and we do not allow anything nor anyone to divert our attention long from the goal that God has set for us. What's gonna happen? We're going to experience a fulfillment and a contentment and a joy that is absolutely indescribable and beyond human understanding of the world. They cannot figure it out because, you see, our life does not get its fulfillment in things. Our life does not get its fulfillment in anything but in doing and becoming the will of the Father.

And so he says fix your eyes on Jesus. You'll stumble and falter and fall and you'll feel so unworthy and so guilty, fix your eyes on Him. And when you fix your eyes on Him, you understand this loving Jesus who is your running companion just picked you up. He's the one who's whispering in your ear, "You'll make it, just keep going. It doesn't make any difference how tough it looks right now, you keep your focus on Me. I am your Savior, your Lord, your Life, and all that you need in these moments in your life, I will be that to you with no exception". Think about this, running a race and running in the energy of Almighty God. He says, "I will go," the Psalmist said, "I will go in the strength of the Lord my God". The sixty-eighth Psalm says, "God commands our strength". He says, "You'll mount up with wings like eagles, you'll run and not be weary, you'll walk and not grow faint or lose heart".

What is this Christian life all about? The Christian life is all about living and doing the will of my Father. The Christian life is all about being conformed to the likeness of His Son. Everything else about the Christian life is secondary to that. The area you serve, how God works in your life and how He uses you in someone else's life, all that's secondary. If I'm going to live life to the fullest, I must get on the track that He has set for me and set as my goal, not achievement, an accomplishment is the eyes of the world, but to do the will of my Father and to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. You say, well, that's no fun. Friend, anybody who would say that hasn't tasted of Jesus Christ and being in the will of God. Because listen, we who are believers and we who are in the will of God, we know what fun's all about.

Listen, we know what joy's all about. We know what fulfillment and contentment and satisfaction is all about. Because you can do everything else in life, and without Jesus, the biggest void in your life will still be there very empty. Now, how does it all begin? Here's how it starts. It starts with your recognition that apart from God, your life has no sense of real, genuine purpose or meaning. It means you're not going anywhere. Once you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior, here's what He does. He not only forgives you of all your sin, but He sets you in the right direction. You say, "But, you know, suppose I'm forty years old". He takes you right where you are. "Suppose I'm seventy years of age". He takes you right where you are. You just don't have as long to run, that's all. You don't have as long to run, you won't have as many battles to face. It may be a little tougher on you than someone who's been a Christian a long time, it doesn't make any difference.

Now, the will, of course, the ideal will of God is that you be saved early in life, but suppose you weren't, does that mean that God doesn't care? No. It means He'll take you anywhere you are, my friend, and if you will surrender your life to Him and tell Him, God, I've blown it. I've had it my way. I am coming to the cross. I'm trusting Jesus Christ to forgive me for my sins by His death at Calvary. I'm just turning my life over to you. He puts you on the track. The Spirit of God comes into your life to enable you, to guide you, to show you. The Lord Jesus Christ becomes your running companion. It starts with trusting Him as your Savior. But what about all of us who have been Christians a long time? Did God, a few moments ago, say to you, "That's your encumbrance"?

Did He identify one or more things in your life to point out to you to say you'll run better without that, you'll run smoother without this, you'll have a clearer sense of direction without that, you need to lay that aside? Or did He say to you, "That sin continually entangles you. That's the reason you keep falling down, you keep tripping the recognition that I need. Life lived to the fullest doesn't require that. But He tells us in this passage exactly what is required".

So, beginning with verse one of chapter twelve, he says, "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, up on the same thing," and He wants you to deal with it? Is He saying to you, "Don't get disheartened, don't despair, don't get depressed. What you're going through is just building up strength and building endurance in your life because I want to use you. I want to do something in your life, and in order for you to become and to do what I want you to do, I must build endurance in your life. You must learn to swim against the tide and run against the winds. And what I'm gonna do is gonna absolutely surprise you, but it'll be a joyful surprise"?

Is that what He's saying to you? And would you have to say today, Father, my gaze has been over here and up yonder and down here and back yonder and over here and all, hasn't really been fixed on Jesus, but today I set my sights on the Son of God to say, "Lord, not my will, but your will, not my way, but your way, not tomorrow, but beginning today right now". And my friend, once you're willing to do that, you will start enjoying the Christian life. And no matter how tough it gets, deep down inside of you, the whisper of the voice of Almighty God, "You're doing good, keep moving, keep trusting. I'm with you and I'm gonna be here as your running companion until you have taken your last step," which is from this life to the presence of Almighty God.
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