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Watch 2022 online sermons » Robert Jeffress » Robert Jeffress - Spiritual Aerobics

Robert Jeffress - Spiritual Aerobics

Robert Jeffress - Spiritual Aerobics
TOPICS: Spiritual Fitness

Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress, and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. The Bible uses a helpful metaphor, to depict the Christian life. Scripture teaches us that life is a lot like running a race, and we're taught to run this race with the prize in mind. So how do we develop the spiritual legs, to finish and even win this race? Well today, I'll introduce you, to faithful men and women who showed us the way. My message is titled, "Spiritual Aerobics", on today's edition of Pathway to Victory.

At the age of five Shelley Mann, suffered from polio so badly, that she could barely move a muscle in her body. Her mother would put her in the swimming pool, just to get some circulation running, between her arms and her legs. The day she lifted an arm out of the water, Shelley cried, not because of the evident pain, but because that action, represented a major victory in her life. Shelley then made it her goal, that she would try to swim 30 feet, the width of her swimming pool. For months, she struggled through numbness and pain, to make it across the pool. Finally, she did it, but she didn't stop there. She wasn't content. She now made it her goal to swim the length of the pool. After struggling for months, she made it, but she didn't stop there. She tried to make it two, three, four, five times. Years later, Shelley Mann went on, to win eight American records in swimming, and became the greatest woman swimmer, in the Australian, 1952 Olympics. The same Shelley Mann, the former polio victim, went on to win the gold medal.

You know, Shelley Mann had a handicap in life, that would be enough for most of us to throw in the towel, but not Shelley. She was a winner, she was a finisher, because she possessed that invaluable quality of endurance. And it's that same quality of endurance that the Bible says we must possess if we're going to win in the Christian life. How do you develop endurance in your life? Well, the writer of Hebrews answers that question, in the passage we're going to look at today.

If you have your Bibles turn to Hebrews chapter 12, as we discover a lesson in spiritual aerobics. Hebrews chapter 12. You know, the Bible uses a number of different metaphors, to describe the Christian life. But the most common metaphor in the Bible, for the Christian life is a race. You find that, for example in 1 Corinthians chapter nine, in Galatians 5:7, in Philippians 2:16, and here in Hebrews chapter 12. In what way is the Christian life like a race? Two ways I have on your outline? First of all, the participants in both require endurance. In just a moment, when we talk about running the race, that is set before us, Paul is not, or the writer of Hebrews, isn't talking about a sprint or a dash, he's talking about a marathon. And if you're going to win in a marathon, you have to have endurance, sustained energy.

You know, a runner, think about it, if he's going to run for any distance at all, he has to master external circumstances. It might be inclement weather or headwinds, or the jeers of the crowd. He has to master those circumstances. But he also has internal challenges he's facing as well, fatigue, pain, discouragement. It's the same way in the Christian life. If we're going to master the Christian life, we have to have endurance, in spite of the circumstances around us or within us. And any runner knows, it's not how you start race that matters, it's how you finish the race. The same thing in our relationship with God. Don't you know people? Maybe you're one of the people. You started out great in your enthusiasm for God, but you've allowed temptation, or you've allowed just the cares of everyday life, to extinguish your passion you once had for Christ.

How do you prevent that from happening? How do you prevent starting out strong, but failing in your final years? You have to have endurance. Secondly, only the winners in either the Christian life, or in a race receive a reward. And again, the writer is talking about the Greek marathon. Guess what? They didn't give that participation trophies back then. How do you developed this kind of endurance, that will help you win in your relationship with God? Let's look at the first three verses of Hebrews chapter 12. "Therefore, since we have so great, a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin would so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance, the race that is set before us fixing 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. For consider him who has endured such hostility by sinners, against himself so that you will not grow weary, and lose heart".

Now, most of you will find grammar boring, but the grammar of this passage is key to understanding it. Did you know, in these verses, there's only one command. It is "Let us run with endurance". That's the command. The other, what seem to be verbs are actually participles, having a great crowd of witnesses. Laying aside every encumbrance. Fixing our eyes on Jesus. Those are the three keys for endurance, having a cloud of witnesses. Laying aside every encumbrance. Fixing our eyes on Jesus. I want to turn those participles into three words, each beginning with an r: remember, remove and redirect. If we're going to succeed in our Christian life, we first of all, need to remember. Remember what? Remember our heroes who have gone on before us. Remember the heroes that went before us.

Look at verse one. "Therefore, since we have so great, a cloud of witnesses surrounding us," what is he talking about? What cloud of witnesses? Well, it's the ones he just talked about in chapter 11. Remember in the original text, there was no chapter break. He's just spent the whole chapter talking about Moses, and Noah and rehab and Abraham. And then he says, "Therefore, as you think about these heroes of the faith, follow their example".

Are you feeling ridiculed for your faith? People at work or school making fun of you, because of your commitment to Christ? Remember Noah who labored for 120 years, building that arch in the middle of a desert. People made fun of him, but he remained faithful. Do you feel like God has forgotten his promise to you? He's not obeying his promise to you? Remember Sarah. She was aged 90, when God finally fulfilled his promise to Sarah.

Are you feeling that you can't resist, the temptation in your life much longer? Remember Moses who chose to endure, the old treatment of God's people rather than, to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin in Egypt.

Are you having difficulty, letting go of that one thing in your life, that you know this pleases God? Remember Abraham who was willing to offer, that which meant the most to him, his own son, Isaac, in order to please God.

That's what he's talking about out here. Secondly, we need to remove our obstacles. Remember our heroes, remove our obstacles. Look at verse one. "Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin, which so easily entangles us". Now, this is a picture of a runner in a marathon race, who says, "You know what? If I'm going to succeed, I need to travel as lightly as possible. I need to take all any extraneous clothing, so I can run as quickly as possible". Now that's what he's talking about here. But what is it where to lay aside? Well, he says, first of all, every encumbrance. We might think that is a reference to sin in our life. No, it's not sin. Whatever he's talking about here is not sin. How do I know that? Because he mentioned sin, and the sin would so easily entangles us. He's talking about taking off, laying aside two things that would slow us down, in our relationship with God.

We understand what sin is. Sin is anything that trips you up, in your relationship with God. But an encumbrance is anything that weighs you down, in your relationship with God. For you, laying aside and encumbrance, might be aside a friendship. For other people, it may be laying aside a hobby. Again, is it wrong? But it distracts you. It keeps you from giving your all, to your relationship with God. It's become a focus, maybe an idol in your life. Maybe it's television. Nothing wrong with television, but maybe it's keeping you from spending time with God. A person who really is intent on winning, is going to lay aside anything that weighs him down.

I remember reading an interview with the film director, who just died this last year, Joel Schumacher. He was the guy who directed, the first "Batman" and "Robin" movie. And while he was directing that movie, they had a teenage actress named Alicia Silverstone. And throughout the filming of the movie, he said she said she was battling with her weight, trying to keep the weight off, and she wasn't succeeding. And the tabloids were having a field day criticizing her, and it really hurt her feelings and discouraged her. And so one day, Joel Schumacher, took her off to the side and said, "Alicia, there is absolutely nothing wrong with your weight. There are plenty of teenage girls, who way exactly what you do". And she started kinda feeling encouraged. But then he said, "But Alicia, if you're going to be a movie star, you can't be like everybody else".

No, don't send me any emails about that, okay? "Oh, that's terrible. You know, we're not supposed to look on outward appearance. Man looks on the outward appearance, God looks on the heart". That's right, God does look on the heart, but it's also true, man looks on the outward appearance. I mean, he was telling her the truth. If you want to be different than everybody else, you have to make certain sacrifices. There may be things that are perfectly legal, according to Christianity. There's nothing in the Bible against them, but you may come to the point that you say, "You know what? I can't do this if I'm going to to succeed in the Christian life. And I'm going to lay this aside, not because it's sinful, but because it's weighing me down". That's what he's talking about here, laying aside every encumbrance.

And then he says, also laying aside the sin, that so easily entangles us. We all know what sin is. I imagine right now, you can think of immediately, one thing in your life, a relationship, an attitude, a habit that you know is displeasing to God. The question is, are you ready to lay it aside? May I remind you, that if God has already identified that one thing to you, and you have that desire to get rid of it, the same desire, the same power that was able to raise Jesus Christ, out of the grave lives in through of the Holy Spirit of God. You have the desire, and whether or not you know, you have the power right now to lay aside that sin, that is tripping you up in your relationship with God. If we're going to be successful in the Christian life, we have to remove those obstacles, both sins and encumbrances.

When I was in high school, I came across something, some words that so spoke to me, that I wrote them in the back, of my green hardback living Bible. Do you all remember the green hardback living Bibles? You're going to age yourself if you do. But these were so popular. And I took this Bible school with me every day. And before I went to Richardson high school, there was a park across the street, cottonwood park, and I would go and read my Bible. And then I would read these words I'd written, in the back of my Bible. It's titled, "The man God uses". What kind of person does God use?

Number one, he has but one great purpose in life.

Number two, he has placed himself absolutely, at God's disposal.

Number three, he has learned how to prevail in prayer.

Number four, he is a student of the Word of God.

Number five, he has a vital message for a lost world.

Number six, he is a man of faith who expects results.

Number seven, he works in the anointing of the Holy Spirit.

Number eight, he, by God's grace, has removed every hindrance from his life.

Have you done that? Have you, through God's grace and power, removed everything, that is weighing down in your relationship with God. That's the way you develop endurance. What is the key to endurance? Remember our heroes. Remove our obstacles. And number three, refocus our attention. Refocus our attention and focus. Look at verse two again. "Fixing 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 God. For consider him Jesus, who's endured such hostility by sinners against himself, so that you will not grow weary".

You know, focus is so important for a runner. If a runner is focused on those in the stands, he's going to become distracted. If he focuses on his feet, he's going to become distracted. What he's got to do is focus on the finish line, and the prize. And that's what he's saying here. The writer is saying, if we're going to win and the Christian race, we've gotta redirect our focus. And what do we focus on? Well, if we're like a runner, we're focusing on the finish line, but here's the problem. We don't know where the finish line is, do we?

Steve Ferrara tells a great story in one of his books. He said he has a friend who was a rower on the Oxford crew. Have you seen those long sleek boats, the Oxford participants row in? You've got this massive sweating men and women in the ship, and they're rowing these massive oars, and they're exhausted. The only problem in these beautiful sleek boats is this, the rowers can't see the finish line. It's behind them. They're directed, they're seated facing the opposite way. There's only one person, who can see the finish line in the boat, and it's that guy with the megaphone. He's called the coxen. And he is the one who sees the finish line, and those who are rowing the massive oars, their job is to look at him, listen to his instructions, obey his commands, and trust him to get them over the finish line.

That's the imagery here. No, we can't see the finish line, but we aren't to focus on the finish line. We're to focus on Jesus. The one who's already gone ahead of us. The author and finisher of our faith. That word "Author" can mean trailblazer, but it really means example.

Whenever you get fatigued. Whenever you get discouraged. When you think, "I can't make it any longer", remember Jesus and what he did, who for the joy set before him endured the cross. There was nothing joyous about going to the cross. It was a miserable experience. But Jesus didn't crawl to the cross, he marched to the cross triumphantly, because he looked beyond death and saw the prize, that God had for him. The Bible says, if we're going to injure this Christian life, we need to focus on the trailblazer, Jesus, who has gone on ahead of us. We follow his example until the very end. "For I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith. And there is now laid up for me in heaven, a crown of righteousness, which the righteous judge shall award to me on that day, and not to me alone, but to all who have loved his appearing".
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