Levi Lusko - Cut and Run

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Well, in addition to all of our churches, we're so glad to have those of you who are joining us on the internet, on Fresh Life television. Thanks for being a part and joining in, even if it's later in the week and you're watching on the archive. We're so glad to have you be a part of what God's doing here. One of the most frequent analogies to following Jesus that you're going to find throughout the pages of the New Testament is that of running. You have, so oftentimes, this concept. Sometimes it's described as a walk, and sometimes is described as running, but the basic idea is that you have this activity that requires two feet. Oh I got to, my kill switch was pulled. You have this idea, though, of one foot being put after the other foot.

There's always a little warning before it starts. I guess that's important. This idea of one foot in front of the other. And you'll see it throughout scripture. It's a good picture of what following Jesus looks like. And I guess it's an appropriate analogy on a number of levels. Because for one thing, walking and running are both very constant, very constant. You have to continuously put foot after foot after foot after foot in order for it to keep happening. And for another thing, running's really hard. Running's difficult. It's challenging. I find myself, the more I run, the more I'm hoping that the running stops. It's what I'm usually thinking about from the beginning to the end. I'm just like, when is this over? When this is over? When this is over? When is this going to not be what I'm doing anymore? How many of you think I could preach a message on a treadmill? Your confidence is inspiring. I will take that and give it my absolute best.

So running is difficult. Running is not something you're just standing there doing. You have to really workout. You have to commit yourself to it, and so it is with making progress in our walks with Jesus. It's interesting, entering into faith, easiest thing in the world, nothing we do it all. It's all of God's grace. Becoming a Christian is 100% him. All we're doing is, by faith, accessing the grace in which we stand. But making progress as a Christian, well that's running the race. You enter it through what he does, and we make progress in it by committing ourself to it. It takes vigor. It takes energy. It takes committing ourselves to these things. I'm reminded of a story I heard of a father who heard his little daughter had fallen out of bed. He could hear the big thump. Every parent knows that sound. Your child, thump, right out of bed. And so he rushed in and said, honey, what's the problem? She said, daddy, I stayed too close to where I got in.

And I wonder if, sometimes, that's not a telling picture of the problem with our walks with Jesus, that we've stayed too close to where we got in. Scripture, we talk about just staying with the elemental things, the baby milk of walking with Jesus where we should have progressed on to solid food. Spitting up, and goo goo ga ga, and crawling around, it's cute when you're two, not so much when you're 30. And the equivalent would be a Christian who's been doing it for a long time but still is at the same level and is not progressing in intensity. So walking with Jesus, running with Jesus, it's constant. It's difficult, but you can make progress in it if you would commit yourself to it. I found, at one point of my life's got together with some buddies and said, let's run this 10K together. Let's just do this thing. That the first couple runs to train towards that were agonizing, but quickly I got better at it.

So it is, when at one point, it's like, oh my gosh, this is so hard, I barely can make it through it. Soon you're laughing thinking that was, at one point, difficult in your mind. The longer you walk with Jesus, the stronger you become and the more he's able to do through you, and at one point you never could have dreamed of doing, you look back on and go, I mean is that not the case right now? Do not some of you go, man, I just want to praise God today for what he's done in my life that at one point I would have said I never could have done that. So walking with God is constant. It's something that's difficult, but it's something you can make progress in. And it's also something, the analogy of running, it's very easy to do what it is our aim to do in this series of messages, and that is to decide what in our lives should stay and what should go.

That's what we're talking about, really, in this series. We called it feature creep, because of the way products that get released and then updated and then because they want us to not just have the one that we had that was perfectly fine, but to now get the one that can do fill in the blank. It's in the vested interests of companies to keep adding, keep adding, keep updating, and now we somehow have accepted this has consumers, equating more features with a better value. But it's not a better value if we're paying more money for a newer product with features that we will never use. And so we have a toaster that has 15 settings, and that's awesome, except that we've only really ever used one of them that we know of. And so more features is not a better value if they're not features that are useful to us in what we're trying to do with our lives.

So our homes, our hearts, our lives, our souls, can quickly become cluttered, can quickly become bloated with features, the options and accessories, and oh look with a heated steering wheel, and oh now it can read Facebook messages to me while I'm driving. That's not safe or helpful. And so we're trying to decide what things are feature creep that should leave. And that was the problem that we exposed last weekend. If you were here, we said that it was our aim to preach a three part sermon. Not a three part series like we would normally have where three different sermons fit in a series, but rather one sermon spread out over three weeks. So last week was the beginning. We identified the problem. The next week we're going to show a picture of what our lives could look like without the problem. There is hope. Isn't that beautiful?

Come one, you've got to come back to church next weekend. It's going to be awesome, a picture of what our lives could look like post feature creep when we had that stuff surgically removed. And so now in the middle of course, we have to give the plan, the plan of how to get from A to C, and that's what we have here. If you have a Bible, we're going to be in Hebrews Chapter 12. And I'm going to call this message Cut and Run, Cut and Run. Say it with me, Cut and Run. From Hebrews Chapter 12, if you don't have a Bible, no worries, we'll put it up on the screen for you. It says, "Therefore, we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God".

And Father we now ask that you would speak to us loud and clear through your word. We pray that, like a bag going through an x-ray detector, that as we consider these truths, your Holy Spirit would open up the eyes of our hearts to see what in our hearts, our lives, our homes, the things that are keeping us back from what we long for our lives to look like. And we asked this in Jesus' name. And we all said together, Amen.

Cut and Run, it's a phrase that today has political overtones to it. It's, generally speaking, used to describe a politician, someone who has made a decision to pull our soldiers out of a war, to pull our soldiers out of a fight, and done so with selfish motivations or for reasons of cowardice or whatever. And so it's used negative, just a quick dash and bailing out on something that was important. But the actual origin of the phrase is pretty cool. It's nautical, meaning waves, ocean, sea, ships. It was used to describe the decision a captain could make to have the anchor cut off that was keeping the ship buoyed in place, locked into place. And of course, once the anchor was cut, the cable and the anchor would go to the bottom of the sea instead of being pulled up into the boat, instead of being wrapped back up into the ship where it would be waiting for the next time that they would drop it down to hold them in the place.

Now a captain would not make this decision lightly, because then he's commanding a boat without an anchor, or at least without the primary anchor. But if he felt like the ship was in greater danger staying than going, cutting was deemed necessary. Cutting was deemed necessary. If the ship was going to be capsized, there's no glory in staying around for the anchor to be drawn if there's no boat. The boat's going down to the bottom of the sea with everybody else in it. Or if they are going to be boarded by a hostile party, well cut the anchors and let's get out of here. Let's make haste. Let's get out of dodge.

Let's get out of this dangerous situation. It's the same would be if there was an anchor that had gotten somehow tangled up, and try as they might, they weren't going to be able to get this thing drawn back in. See also every time I've ever gone fishing, what I've had to eventually, don't want to talk about it, cut and run. Back to Starbucks where I belong. No listen very carefully to what I'm saying to you. Cutting and running because of danger, cutting and running because of something that would be perilous to stay in the situation. And now bring this to the picture before us in Hebrews 12 where the scene is one of the Olympic footrace. And that's what the author of Hebrews wants us to be thinking of.

Now I keep saying, the author of Hebrews. You're like why don't you tell us who authored it? Normally you're like, hey Paul said this or hey Peter said that. Yeah here's why, I have no blooming clue who wrote Hebrews. And none of us do. There's people who have theories, but the truth is we don't know. And so it's a mystery, but it's an awesome book. And so the author of the book of Hebrews has this picture he wants us to see in our mind's eye. And it's a very familiar one, because we've all grown up watching coverage of the Olympics, which date back to the days in which this stuff was going down. And so you could always think of the thousands of cheering fans, and they would watch the different activities. Of course, the main event is usually, in the summer Olympics, just the absolute most fun thing to watch, and that is just the 50 yard dash. Like two people, or 100 yard dash, or whatever it is in meters that they're doing in Europe. I don't know all the specifics. But I just know this, I know that it's a pure sport when you get a group of men or a group of women, and it's this line to that line, and whoever crosses that line the first wins.

And that's what he wants us to be seeing here. But cutting is involved. Cutting is always involved where running is being discussed. And why? It's because, when you're running, every ounce matters. And that's why I don't know when last time you were at a sports store looking at the running clothes, but it looks a whole lot like lingerie, right? And that's because runners are like, I'm not carrying it with me, right? You look at the clothes there. You're like, really, really, that's a lot of thigh. It's a whole lot of thigh involved in your running shorts. And they're stingy with what they're willing to carry, because a runner knows, if that's going over that course, it's going with me. And so I want one gram lighter in shoe. That's what I'm willing to get to. That's not feature creep if it's going to be less weight over however long I have to carry it.

And so they're always cutting. Runners are cutting. Sports, they think of even the body. Some sports have a weigh in, and you're going to get weighed, and you have to cut weight. And I was reading this week, plans to cut weight and stop drinking water three days out. Fill your bathtub with hot water. You're just like, really? Because they, in athletics, take seriously this idea of less weight, cutting for competing, cutting for running. Two things are given in the text that we should, as runners, think about eliminating or subtracting from our lives so that we can run better. They are weights that get in the way and sin that easily entangles. Weights that need to get thrown to the side because are getting in the way, and then sin that would easily entangle us. I don't know if it's easy just to describe this, so I thought maybe we could give a picture of it. If you go to a baseball game, you'll see them, come on out here with the weights, guys, you'll see them practicing with bats that are weighted. They'll slide a ring around a bat and then they'll practice swinging with a ring around their bat that they don't intend to actually hit the ball with that weight on anymore.

In the text, the word weight, I read in commentaries, describes the wrist and ankle weights that competitors would slip on for training, for practice runs, and even sometimes in the warmup run at the day of competition. And they would put these on their arms, and they would put these on their, that one's a little loose. Could we get that tightened up, por favor. Thank you so much. Gracias mi amigo. So they would have these weights, I think these each weigh five pounds, and they would go around the ankles and go around the wrists. And the idea is, if you do training runs with weights on, then when you finally take them off, you're going to be stronger, and you're going to feel lighter, and you're going to feel so free, and run so fast. That's the idea, right?

Now I put some names to these weights. I wrote on this one schedule. Can we get a little closer shot on that one? Schedule, and does anybody ever feel like your schedule just weighs you down? That what you've let in it, you're like, who's in charge of my schedule? And everyone in the universe is like, you is in charge of your... dang it, it's... why did I say yes to this? And this one says work. Work can weigh us down. Work can weigh us down as we're trying to make progress in our walk with God, our work. And maybe not it's our boss' fault work that weighs us down, maybe that happens. I think that oftentimes it's our own fault work that weighs us down, meaning we weren't efficient. We weren't managing our time well when we had the time.

So then work's cutting into our home life. And it's because we weren't... why were we on Instagram every time we had a few moments at work? Why were we on, right? You're thinking that the work's weighing me down because I've made bad choices in a lot of times. And then, of course, occasionally, other times, it's the other where it's forces outside of your control. But work can, at times, weigh us down, agreed? On my left foot here, it just says stuff. Because when did life just become full? I'll get a little higher. When did life just get full of so much stuff? At one point, did you look in your garage and go, why, why, why, why? It's getting colder now. Cars belong here. Too much stuff, and how much of our time is just dedicated to just keeping up the stuff that we have?

Oh going to love that boat, but you've got to winterize that boat now, got to get that boat summer ready. Summer ready that boat. And we would spend more time in our walks with God, but we're weighed down by the upkeep of just the stuff in our lives. And then on my right foot here is just says, financial. Financial weight, oh my gosh, every month that payment, every month that payment, right? It seemed like a great idea when we were financing. It seemed like a great idea when we were buying it. But now every single month, every single month, making that payment, making that payment. Putting that gas in that truck, paying the insurance bill. And all of a sudden, before you know it, we have... thank you so much, guys, oh wow, did they speed that up when I wasn't looking? That's a lot worse than I remember. It's only five pounds in each hand and each foot, but 20 pounds is just, OK. Oh yeah, that's great.

But then you're like: wait a minute, Levi, didn't you say last weekend that the average American spends 49 hours a week on social media entertainment? And so where's that weight? Because I say you've got a schedule weight, and I can relate to you there because Billy's got soccer and Brittany's got ballet, and I got to do this, and then I've got to do that. I've got to cook the meal. And you're like, that's crazy. Schedule, I feel you on that one, and I feel you on the work one, and I feel you on the stuff one, and I feel you on the financial one. But then, what about, if we're honest, the fact that we will spend almost 50 hours this week watching Netflix. And by the way, do we need any more devices in our lives to be able to connect to Netflix? What is it with everything?

Now with Netflix, oh my god, I've got to get it. Wait, wait, doesn't every screen in my home already get me onto a portal of which I can usually find nothing to watch anyway? But I will watch something. I'm almost like, we'll, fine, I'll just watch this then. That'll show them. What? So where's that represented? OK, bring me my social media and entertainment weight, because I guess we've got to be honest about it too. We've got our social media and entertainment weight that we also have no one to blame for weighing us down except ourselves. That one's a little heavier than five pounds, fellas. Thanks a lot for that. But now I have to have Snapchat videos and Instagram videos. I've got to do them both. And now I've got to do other things. And oh hey, yep, going to walk with God this year. New Year's resolution, thank you guys, appreciate it, grow in my walk with God.

And now I'm trying to walk with God, but I have so many things that are not bad things, because don't forget the weights that weigh us down are different from sin. This is good stuff. You can't not have work. I'm not saying you shouldn't watch TV. I'm not saying don't send a tweet out. I'm certainly not saying you can't have things in your schedule that are hard. And the stuff, you know what, to some degree as long as we're on this earth, stuff's going to be a part of the deal. And so is finances, we can't abandon money and go live in a cave. Sometimes it's an attractive idea. They eat a lot of berries and they sleep a lot. I don't know. But see, these aren't bad things. The weights are not bad things. They're just good things that can crowd out the ultimate things, remember?

So let's define weights this way. Weights are anything in our lives that we allow to dim our vision or kill our passion, to dim our spiritual vision or to kill our spiritual passions. So these are things that are not hurting, but they're not helping the thing, and they're causing the things that we do want to be doing to be crowded out of our lives. Because we said last weekend that a crowded heart is the enemy of a fruitful life. And the goal, as Christ followers, is to bear fruit, and more fruit, and much fruit, and fruit that remains. But one decision at a time, all of the sudden, we wake up one day, and we're trying to walk with God, but we feel like there's weights on our feet and hands and our chest.

And here's the crazy thing about all of these weights that are on me right now, they are all weighing me down one grain of sand at a time, because these are sandbags. And so oftentimes, we make small decisions, that's not that big, it's a small thing. No, it's not a big deal at all. But add it to all the other things that you've said yes to, well now they're getting heavy. So I guess this is a good time to bring out our sin, because... thank you guys, come on, bring out my sin. Just give me a big pile of sin. Now before you do, could you tighten up my stuff, because it's falling off my foot. Thank you. Let me explain my sin while he fixes my stuff. Give me a hot minute. I'm going to get a drink too, just sneak a rest in. I'm multitasking. You're doing good. Thank you. I'll be here all week.

So you have, in the text, the sin that easily entangles. I like how the JB Phillips translation puts. It is says, "the sin which dogs our feet". Directly translated from the Greek this phrase speaks of something that would twirl around your ankles, and get in your way, tripping you. Something they would twirl around your ankles and get in your way, tripping you up, dogging your feet. Can anyone think of something that Christians 2000 years ago would have immediately thought of when the author of this book was speaking of, something that could twirl around their ankles and cause them to trip up if they try to run with it? If you said toga, you're right. So fellas, put on my toga. First and only time I will ever say that in my life. This is the best we could do with what we were working with to get a first century toggle, which all of the athletes in this day would wear regularly under or over their head. This is awesome. So you get in your toga. Oh good, very nice, thank you. It's surprisingly roomy. OK, very nice, oh thank you. It's breathable. It's fantastic. Thank you. Oh good, gird my loins. A nice hourglass shape, very, very nice.

So now I got something that could twirl around my ankles and dog my feet. And here's an interesting thing about sin, is that where our weights are just going to slow us down, our sin can knock us over. Our sin actually could stop our forward progress. And that's the real problem about these things that will twirl around our ankles. It's pruning back unnecessary aspects of our lives that are taking too much attention so we can focus on fruitfulness. Jesus said of his father, the ultimate gardener, in John 15 verse 2, he said, "he cuts off every branch of mine that doesn't produce fruit, and he prunes the branch that does bear fruit so it can produce even more fruit". Interesting thing about being a plant in God's vineyard is that if you don't bear any fruit, pruning happens. And if you do bear fruit, your reward is pruning happens. And so no matter what, he wants us to have pruning take place.

And we've said that we're not going away for our New Year's resolutions or for spring cleaning. We're going to do some fall pruning. We're going to look for unruly growth in our hearts and see him cut back areas that are keeping us back from what he has for us. I think of a conversation that was apparently had with Steve Jobs and the new CEO of Nike, who had been appointed at the time when Steve Jobs was still alive and running Apple. And Steve Jobs called to congratulate him on taking over this great heritage brand Nike. And the CEO said, well, do you have any advice for me? Do you have any advice for me? And Steve Jobs, he said, yeah. He said, Nike makes some of the best products in the world. You guys make some great things, pieces that are like works of art.

Some of these items are in museums and are literally lusted after. He said, but you also make a ton of really crappy stuff. And so quit making so much crappy stuff, and focus on what you actually have that's awesome. And I wonder if that's not telling in our lives, that sometimes we just need to cut back and subtract and eliminate some of these things, and we will see the growth that we so badly want. And I think that we find in Jesus' words also another category even to put some of the areas in. You see Jesus told this parable of an unfruitful tree. But the unfruitful tree did not get cut down. Notice why, this is Luke 13:7, the owner said, "finally, to his gardener, I waited three years, and there hasn't been a single fig on my fig tree". I want a fig on my fig tree. I want me a fig Newton, y'all.

And so he said cut it down. Cut it down. This thing's got to go. "It's just taking up space in my garden. The gardener answered, sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I'll give it some special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down". I wonder if this doesn't present us with, then, another category. Some things got to go, some things need to stay, but perhaps there's some areas that just need more care. Some areas of our life that we aren't going to say, this is going to go entirely, but I'm going to watch this more this year. I'm going to put some boundaries in place. I'm going to put some guidelines. I'm going to make some forms of accountability with other people so that this is an area that's not going to go away. It's clear cut with the sin that entangles us the lust, the envy, the deceitful rich, the lies about riches that we believe.

Money's not the problem. The lies money can tell us is. Pinning our happiness on any new product, pinning our happiness on any new acquisition, on any new item that you come in to own, that's the problem. But then in the areas that are more gray areas, good things that can crowd out ultimate things that we would just say, in some areas, there's just going to be more care that's needed to see if it can lead truthfulness in life. Because sometimes I'm like, dang, social media is a huge issue for me. And time on the screen, that's a huge fear of missing out. And I'm not doing anything, but I'm sad that you're doing something awesome. Or here's my least favorite one, I'm with my kids, and I'm on Instagram looking at what someone else is doing with their kids. I'm like, that does not seem right, right? Why don't I just be present here at the moment?

But then you go, well then get rid of it. That's why I don't tweet. And then I'll meet someone who will say, hey, so thank you. Saw a tweet you posted. Was going to kill myself. Watched the webcast from the link that went out, and grateful for that tweet. So then I'm like, well, maybe it's an area of my life that just needs care, that needs some fertilizer, that need some boundaries. And say, look I'm going to watch this for a year. Let's get this thing to fruitfulness, then we'll make some harsher decisions about it. But the goal in our lives is fruitfulness. And that really leads us to our first of three things that are going to really help us to stay in a mindset of willing to subtract and willing to give that care to get to the place that we need to get to, that we would be willing to cut in order to run.

Three principles, number one, prioritization, prioritization, before you get your machete out and you start go hacking out some leaves in your life, just know this, you've got to sit down and make a plan. We want to grow figs, we're trying to grow grapes. What's the goal of this garden? And I wonder if it's not helpful that Paul doesn't just tell us we're running, but we're running a race, verse one. Verse one tells us we're running a race, in Hebrews. And that changes everything, doesn't it? How you get your body running just knowing you're running, that's hard. But if there's a race involved, I get that a little more. I ran cross country one year. Tell you a little bit more about that in a moment. But then second year after that, I played soccer.

And someone said, what's the difference? And I said, well, I like soccer because it too is a lot of running, but then you get to kick a ball after a lot of running. Where cross country, your reward for running is a little more running after that. And so to me, a competition speeds up running. Because you're not just running, you're running towards something. You're running to accomplish something. You're running towards a finish line. And Paul says, we're not just running, we're running a race. That means there's a finish line. That means there's a point to what we're doing. And so looking at our lives and assessing what should stay, what should go, what needs more care, what needs to be cut so we can make improvements in our running, we should figure out what the finish line.

Let me ask you this, do you have a personal idea of what you want by the time you're dead to have done while you were here? You're going to work every day, I get it. And you put money into the bank, and spend it, buy some things, and you go to some places. But is there an overarching point to all of this? Because when you really think about it, life is weird. You're born. Up until then, you've had it pretty good. You're in a giant hot tub eating out of your belly button. But then all of a sudden you're thrust into this cruel world, and they're spanked you, and they're cutting your food supply, and they're immediately putting pants on you. And it's fine for a couple years. They dote on you and do everything for you. But then all of a sudden, your reward for crawling and talking and walking is you've got to go to school. And then it's just pressure, pressure, pressure, right?

Got to get good grades. Got to get good grades. Why? So you can get into a good college one day. OK, got to get good grades. Got to get good grades. Why? So you can get a good job one day. All right, got to get a job. Got to have a good job. Why? So you can get hot spouse one day. Got to have a spouse. Go to have a spouse. Why? So you can have beautiful kids one day. What about them? They've got to get good grades. They've got to get good grades, right? What, wait a minute. And if you put up with enough of this for long enough, your big reward at the end is what? Retirement. And then what? Move to Florida, buy an RV, wait to die. Though the good thing about that phase of your life though is you're back to eating soft foods and not wearing pants anymore.

And to me, that's quite the payoff. But if you look at it like that, you're like, life's like throw pillows. They come off the bed. They go on the bed. They come off the bed. They go on the bed. They come off the bed. They're go on the bed. Then you put them into a casket. You're like, wait a minute. That's terrible. It's awfully morbid. Yeah, but what's the point if there's not some higher meaning? What's the point if you're not seeking to accomplish, what is the point? What's your finish line? Because once you figure that, if it's God, great. If not, if it's just get a lot of money, have the most toys and win, see as many national parks as you can, whatever your goal, I just encourage you to figure out that thing and then orient everything around that thing being accomplished.

And Paul, what he's saying is, my finish line, this isn't in 1 Corinthians 9 verse 24, is pleasing God. And he said, "don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win"! He said, "all athletes are disciplined in their training. And they do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I'm not just shadowboxing". I'm training for something real. This matters. And once you figure out that thing, and let me just tell you something, a great thing to put at that the thing thing is pleasing God and honoring him, because he made you, and he loves you, and he died to save you, and he's willing to give you as a resurrection power, and the hope of heaven, and he'll let you build his kingdom.

And so you're not just making a life that's like a sand castle on the beach, but it's something that will last beyond the grave that you could be a part of building the only thing that will outlast everything and that's his kingdom, and that's his will, and that's his church. Pretty good. And so once you figure that out, you put your yeses in stone, and then all the noes, those decisions make themselves. Like for me, my yeses are in stone. I want my time with God, doesn't matter, that's in stone, I'm going to get time with God every day. In stone for me is gathering together with his church. That's not, well, if the weather is good, or not good, or if this doesn't happen, or this. I'm going to gather together with God's people and experience the glory of God in the presence of Jesus Christ and let his word recalibrate my heart in this confusing world. I'm going to bring the first and the best of whatever he gives me to his house. I'm going to do those things.

So I'm saying my yeses first. My yes to my time with my wife on Thursday nights. I'm saying my yes to time with my girls. This week, I said NO to seven amazing speaking requests. One of them in another country, great place, I can't do everything. I'm going to say no because I've already said my yeses, and my yeses, once they're in place, then the noes, they're easy. You see what I'm saying? The problem is, so many of us, we just are yes and no and everything's here and there, but we're not making them through a grid of prioritization. The easiest way to accomplish nothing is to try and do everything. And that's what, sometimes, we're doing, because we haven't oriented ourselves towards a goal line that we then filter everything else through.

The second thing I see in this passage is inspiration. So we cut and run. Cut and run. Cut and run. And by the way, it's continuous. You can't just cut once, because next year they'll sneak back. It's called feature creep for a reason. They'll creep in, creep back in. And so we have to keep doing it. We have inspiration as we cut and run in two different forms. Notice he says in the text, "let us therefore," "let us run this race with an endurance that is set before," say it out loud, "us". We all have our own lanes. To be clear, I'm not running your race and you're not running mine. Not only is there callings that are on every Christian, which is to honor God, the same basic principles apply of our relationships. But we all have particular callings.

There is even unique callings on homes and there's unique callings on churches. I believe we have been given a very special calling to fulfill Fresh Life, and we're meant to run in our lane. And other churches are not the barometer. Jesus' pleasure of what we're doing is our, that's what we gauge it by. And so sometimes we're doing things that haven't been done before, aren't done by the churches you've gone to before. And we just look at it this way, if it hasn't been done before, maybe he saved it for us. And if we're going to reach people no one's reaching, we know we have to at times do things that no one's doing. So there's callings on homes, churches, lives, but we all have our lane. But what I love about it, is the way it's set up, we can have the benefit of the other people we're running beside. "Let us therefore run". Let's run together.

Success in the Christian life is a group sport. It's a team sport. It takes a village. And nothing determines how you run more than who you run with, who you run with. Back to Cross country, eighth grade. I had a cheating buddy. And my cheating buddy and I figured out a loophole in the training schedule. They coach would send us out on this one run two, three times a week. And I remember that there was a cemetery about a mile in. And so we would time it. I kid you not. We would time it to where we would always be at the back of the pack when we got close to the cemetery, and as we were running, everyone would go straight, and we would just turn to the cemetery. And we would cut through it. And we figured out, it shaved like two, three miles off. Because where they would come by was a street on the other side of the cemetery.

So what did you do in the cemetery for the time they were running this extra miles. I remember we broke a lot of glass bottles. That's the thing I remember the most about that time. We would find glass bottles and throw them and break them. That's what we we're doing. I'm not proud of it, but it's what we did. And then, we would get to the other side just in time, we had this thing worked out. And we would like running the place for 20 seconds to get going again, like I was for the most of this message. And then we'd see them coming, and we would hide behind the gates, and they would go by. And this is a tough run. I hate this run. Hey, Joe. This is what we did every time we did that. We would high five when they would announce that run that everybody else hated. And that worked out really well for us until the first meet.

And we were at a decided disadvantage when it came to cardiovascular fitness on these runs. And it was horrible, because who you run with determines how you run. Who you surround yourself with, this is like a broken record with the groups, like a broken record. Why, because we want you to have people around you who are oriented towards heaven, and pleasing God, and receiving grace when we mess up. But that's the thing, because otherwise you'll just have friends at work who, for them, normal true north and their compass is very different than your compass. And money and buying the boat and attaching weights to hands and wrists is a normal everyday thing that you now want to have not be your thing. But have you surrounded yourself with people who are going to help you run the race of faith within endurance.

Are you surrounded by God's people who are going to be in your corner, cheering you on, holding you accountable, praying for you? You've got to get the right people in your life who have the same priorities as you. It doesn't mean we abandon the world. We want to reach the world. But we are very careful with who we're going to let speak into our life, who we're going to let counsel us in moments of confusion. We want the right people there. So we need that inspiration, but inspiration comes from a lot of different places, doesn't it? The creatives would tell you, inspiration, man, comes from all sorts of different places. And here's an interesting component to our inspiration. The text says, "therefore we also, are surrounded by so great cloud of witnesses, so let's throw off the weights, so let's set aside the sin that entangles".

Therefore is a key word. Whenever you encounter it in the New Testament, you should always ask a question. And the question is, what is it there for? Because it's always hinging, like a hinge that would open a door, let it swing. Whenever therefore gets used, its hinging between something that was said and now like a big boom, OK? So big statement, big thing, big truth, therefore. It's there to get your attention, so you should always highlight it, or underline it, and ask the question, what was just said that he now is going to lay it down? He's about to go, in other words, right? Like the good looking preacher from Fresh Life one time said, right? So pathetic really, the things that I do fish for compliments.

So in this case Paul has... I just said Paul. I don't know if it was Paul. Some people think it's Paul. I'm just so used to saying Paul because he wrote 13 out of 27 books in the New Testament, but I don't know if he wrote Hebrews. So whoever wrote Hebrews said, in Hebrews 11, something noteworthy, and drops a therefore, and tells us to run shedding weights, OK? Hebrews 11, your homework assignment if you choose to accept it, is to read it and to hear these amazing exploits of men and women from the Old Testament, from the OT, from the way back when. All these awesome people, these stories, David and Goliath, and Enoch walking with God, Elijah calling down fire from heaven, Isaiah getting cut in half for his faith in Jesus. Jeremiah, all these men and women, Daniel stopping the mouths of the lions, being willing to die for their faith. The faith of Abraham, even sometimes when he doubted, and the faith of Samson who made huge mistakes but still was a man of faith. And these men and women are just celebrated in Hebrews 11 for what can be accomplished through faith.

Expectation determines experience. They believe God, because it's impossible to please him. You've got to come to him believing he is. And he is a rewarder of those who believe in him. So bam, bam, bam, bam, awesome story of the exploits of faith. Then like a mad scientist, he drops therefore, and says, run your race surrounded as you are by a cloud of witnesses. Now please remember the image that we have seared into our minds for this passage, and it's one of people competing in a race with the grandstands packed with screaming fans, cheering citizens from your region who are there with faces painted to urge you on.

Now study after study has shown there is a statistical point advantage to having more crowds in your section than the other person you're running again. But the cool thing is that, as we run this race of faith, every single one that's a part of the cloud of witnesses is all cheering us all on cheering us all on, cheering us all, cheering us all on. To what you would say, how do we know they can see us? How do we know people in heaven can see us? Let me ask you this question. Answering your question with a question, it's like judo, preaching jujitsu, right? In the New Testament, Jesus said of salvation, when one lost sheep, one lost coin, one lost son gets saved, he said there is joy and rejoicing in the presence of the angels over one sinner who repents. He didn't say the angels rejoice, though they probably are pumped too. He said, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels.

Now who, besides God's people, are in heaven currently in the presence of the angels? And the answer is the men, and women, and boys, and girls who have gone before us, running this great race of faith, but they've already finished their race. And they're up now there in the presence of God, standing there, seeing who he is with their own eyes, and they're urging us on. They're cheering us on. They're screaming. They're saying go, it'll be worth it. Run the race of faith. Come on, come on, you can do it. Come on, shed that weight. Come on, lay aside that sin. And Samson's going, it'll cost you your vision. Abraham's going, don't doubt, just trust God. David's saying, don't be cruising out on the rooftop when you should be on the battlefield. Esther's saying, step out in faith. You were born for such a time as this.

And everyone you know who's died in the Lord, everyone you know who's gone to sleep in the Lord, they're there in that host, in that innumerable host. They're saying, before you know it, you're going to blink and you're going to be here too. Only one life and soon it will be passed, and only what's done for Christ will last. And if we're willing to receive it, there is great inspiration that is to come from realizing we are living out our life on the same planet that they had their time on. It's just our moments, our fleeting moments. Church, we're holding the baton. And soon we will have to hand it on to the next generation. But here we got it. How much progress do we want to make for the kingdom while it's our time? Or are we just going to give it all the travel and to television and to Twitter? Or we're going to say there are something more, souls of people, building his kingdom, advancing the cause of Christ, by seeing the church expand?

So we've got our prioritization. We've got our inspiration. Here's the last one, and we're done. It's concentration. Concentration, it takes focus. And that's why the text ends the way it does, saying as you do all this, inspired by those gone before us, you're running this race together. Prioritizing victory is the main thing, that we would win this laurel wreath of gladiatorial combat, of Olympic celebration. You get that. That's great. Run the race. You've got, but as you do so, whatever you do, above all things, do so, "looking unto Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith," come on, "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".

Keep your eyes on Jesus, and nothing you ever asked to give up, nothing you're ever asked to shed, nothing you're ever asked to throw to the side, will seem like a great sacrifice in comparison to his blood that was shed, that ran down the cross. You're going to say it's nothing. It's nothing that I would give this up, because you gave up everything for me. Keep your eyes on Jesus. When you're focused on him, you can receive power from him. When you're focused on him, tunnel vision, like an athlete nearing the finish line. Tunnel vision on Jesus, when you're focused on him, you can receive power from him.

And that's what Isaiah promises to weak and weary youth. Look at it, Isaiah 40, it talks about those running out of strength. I'm getting tired. It's so hard. I get it, it's true. But the moment we wait on the Lord, we get to renew our strength. We get to mount up with a wings like eagles. We can run and not be weary. We can walk and not faint. So keep your eyes on Jesus and cut and run, and run and cut, and cut and run, and run and cut. And he'll give you what you don't have. He'll do what you can't do. And I pray you receive it in Jesus' name.
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