Sermon:  The Joy of the Race

Summary:  We need to stay focused on the mission and course God has set us on as 
a marathon by getting rid of hindrances to the mission, by perseverance, and especially 
by focusing ourselves on following Jesus whose mission is for us to spread the Gospel.  

Know:  In order to fulfill God's mission, we need to sharpen our focus on Jesus through 
confession, prayer, and the right attitude toward our struggle in it.

Feel:  Motivation to stay the course of mission in Leavenworth

Do:  Identify and discuss specific hindrances to carrying out God's mission and purposes 
in our lives, confess them, and make a plan to be accountable to keep them cast off.

Text:  Heb 12:1-3

Scripture Reading:  Heb 11:32 - 12:3

1.  About the class - Missional Church Planting
	a.  America is once again a mission field
	b.  Center of Christianity has moved to the southern hemisphere
		- Had moved from Europe to North American
		- Now has moved from North America to Africa and now to South 
	c.  Population is exploding in America
	b.  So many people being born, so many dying….without God
2.  Increasing number of American church plantings
	a.  Many of these plants are three years old and younger
	b.  Conversion growth
	c.  Several have 100 people or more already
	d.  God is doing some great things
3.  Scripture Reading
	a.  Chap 11 - Heroes of faith
	b.  Single-minded devotion, looking past themselves to God's plan
	c.  Many suffered for walking with God
4.  Heb 12:1-4 - Uses a running analogy

I.  Throw off every encumbrance
	A.  NIV - Everything that hinders
		1.  The Message paraphrase says, "strip down and run with 
		2.  Idea is to strip down anything that causes resistance or weighs 
		     you down
			a.  If overweight, strip down excess pounds
			b.  Swimmers shave - may make you look funny
		3.  ILL: Matthew Carroll - Getting in shape for basic
			a.  Ran everywhere he went
			b.  He became in excellent shape
		4.  ILL: My Dad said he enjoyed basic because he was in shape
			-  Get rid of anything that causes resistance
	B.  There are many things that can hinder
		1.  Persecution
			a.  Previous chapter highlights many who were persecuted
			b.  They stayed focused on God's will in spite of it
			c.  Focusing on God's will caused persecution
		2.  Doubt
			a.  Faith chapter highlights examples of faith
				- People chose to walk with God rather than world
				- Meant a harder life for most of these people
				- They did so because of their faith in something 
				   bigger than themselves
			b.  Opposite of faith is doubt
			c.  When things go bad, sometimes can doubt God
			d.  If something is God's will, run run run! To win!
		3.  Sin
			a.  Get rid of the sin that so easily entangles
			b.  Usually think of adultery, fornication, drunkenness
				- These are destructive sins, we need to deal with 
			c.  But there is also jealousy, selfishness, strife, 
			     factiousness, rebellion, pride, deceit, etc.
				- These are just as destructive
				- Need to deal with these as well	
			d.  Each of these will entangle us in our race
	C.  ILL:  A Church down south
		1.  Nothing really ever happened in the lives of people there
			a.  Had a steady attendance at worship
			b.  No one coming to Christ
			c.  A lot of what you see in the world also saw in the church, 
			    cheating, adultery, divorce, family feuds, etc.
		2.  Something happened with new leadership and small groups
			a.  Started taking seriously - Confess your sins to each other
			b.  Started doing this in small groups
			c.  Loving accountability increased on destructive behavior, 
			     including things like pride
		3.  Spiritual Formation groups, discipleship groups, etc. sprang up
		4.  True transformation began to take place
			a.  Authenticity
			b.  The hindrances and encumbrances were being cast off
			c.  Church began to minister
			d.  Lost people started coming to Christ through them! 
	D.  Family, this is how we throw off every encumbrance
		1.  It begins with confession, laying it at the foot of the cross
			a.  It means confession toward each other
			b.  It means MUTUAL accountability
			c.  It means support and encouragement
			d.  It means love and humility
		2.  Some people do this in small groups, dividing up into gender 
		     specific groups at a specific time
			a.  Others find a mutual accountability partner or two
			b.  Whatever it is
		3.  Not only is it okay to confess pride, anger, selfishness, etc., it is 
			a.  Jas - Confess sins to each other - Not a suggestion
			b.  Unconfessed sin is sin that binds you
			c.  Sin that binds you is an encumbrance
				- Can't minister effectively
				- Those close to you may think your faith is baloney
		4.  **But if we confess and repent, you are free and can run…    

II.  Run with Endurance
	A.  NIV says run with perseverance
		1.  Means you don't give up
		2.  It is a marathon, not a sprint
		3.  This means not giving up
			a.  Race gets hard, don't stop, don't give up
			b.  Jesus didn't give up
	B.  Closer look at the text here
		1.  Run with endurance the "race"
			a.  Greek - "Agon" = Struggle, Fight
			b.  It is where our English word "agony" comes from
			c.  Interesting choice of words - Run the "struggle" or "fight" 
			     or "agony"
		2.  Other places where this is used:
			a.  Phil 1:27-30 - The “conflict” is a sign of salvation
			b.  I Tim 6:12 - “Fight” the good “fight” of faith
			c.  2 Tim 4:7 - “Fought” the good “fight”, finished the course
				-or “I have agonized the good agony”
	C.  ILL:  Tanzanian Olympic runner.  
		1.  Came in last, with a bleeding injured knee
		2.  Nearly everyone had already left and it was getting dark
		3.  Was asked why he kept running
		4.  Response: “My country did not send me 7,000 miles to start the 
		     race, they send me 7,000 miles to finish the race”
	D.  Jesus did not come all the way from Heaven for us to start the race
		1.  He came so we can cross the finish line
		2.  Keep running and do not give up
			a.  Don't get discouraged
			b.  Don't get encumbered or hindered by anything!
		3.  Satan will do anything he can to cause you to lose focus
		4.  **Have to keep your eyes on the race….

III.  Fix our Eyes on Jesus
	A.  This is how we throw of every encumbrance and persevere
		1.  This race is all about running FOR HIM
		2.  It is not about us, what we want, our comfort
		3.  If it is for him, then it is for others….
	B.  Example of Paul from Phillipians
		1.  Phil 4:4 - Rejoice in the Lord always
			a.  Joy is a major theme in Phillipians
			b.  Joy used 6 times, Rejoice 11, more than other N.T. books
		2.  Where Paul is at…in prison! - How can he be joyful there?
		3.  (Phil 1:12-18) - Paul's goal and desire in life is not comfort
			a.  It is to carry out God's mission in his life
			b.  He was doing it even in prison!
			c.  Result - More people have courage to share Gospel!
		4.  He was fixing his eyes on Jesus who for the JOY set before him 
		      endured the cross 
			a.  Nothing could take away his joy IN THE LORD
			b.  Not joy in his comfort, being in control, having things, 
			     having it my way
			c.  It was joy IN THE LORD
			d.  Nothing could shake him
	C.  ILL:  Speaking of not being shaken - Connecticut on a campaign
		1.  House said - Go around to side door, Dog tied up there
		2.  Lunged at us, clipboard makes a good anti-dog weapon
		3.  Not shaken.  Later than same day, Priscilla obeyed Gospel
			a.  That way a day of joy
			b.  Every day was a day of joy
	D.  Don't focus on the challenges, fix eyes on Jesus
		1.  Peter's problem walking on the water
			a.  Noticed the waves, became frightened
			b.  Began to sink
		2.  Fix eyes on Jesus
			a.  If fixate on the waves, you will sink
			b.  There are many waves
				- Persecution, difficult people, even yourself
				- Fix your eyes on Jesus
		3.  How?  Two simple things
			a.  Prayer - A life of prayer
			b.  Read and reflect on the life of Christ, his mission and the 
			      way he modeled it for us
1.  Statement begins "We are a Christ Centered Family."
	a.  That means we fix our eyes on Jesus
	b.  It means throwing off hindrances, perseverance, focus on Him
2.  Jesus had all kinds of things that could have hindered him
	a.  I would have given up on those 12 dense guys, but he didn't
	b.  God works powerfully through imperfection and weakness
	c.  GOOD NEWS - That means he will work through US!!!!
3.  We can carry out his mission because he died and rose from the grave
	a.  In his death we have life, in our weakness he displays strength
	b.  Trust him, run with him
	c.  Campaign coming.  Will talk about this some more in the weeks ahead
	d.  Need to enlarge our vision - Church Planting!
		- Will be talking to Mission Alive about church planting in our area
		- Also will be talking to some area ministers and leaders
		- Pray that God enlarge our vision to his vision
4.  Prayer and Invitation
	a.  Worship and praise for what God has been doing among us
	b.  Opportunity to come forward, or ask someone if have a question.


Small Group Notes:  The Joy of the Race

Summary:  We need to stay focused on the mission and course God has set us on as a 
marathon by getting rid of hindrances to the mission, by perseverance, and especially by 
focusing ourselves on following Jesus whose mission is for us to spread the Gospel.  

When do you have the greatest difficulty focusing on something?

Explore:    (Heb 12:1-3; Gal 5:19-23)

1.  How does joy enter the picture here?  What was the source of Paul's joy in Phil 1:12-18?

2.  What attitudes do people typically have toward each of the deeds of the flesh in this list in 

3.  Why is it that some confront and deal with some anti-virtues while we tend not to deal with 
the others? 


4.  Identify specific hindrances you have in your life that keep you from carrying out God's 
purposes in your life?

5.  What are some hindrances that we may have as a group?  As a congregation?


6.  Spend time in confession and prayer together.  (If you are split up into gender specific 
groups - Each person can have an opportunity in a chain prayer or "popcorn" prayer to pray)

Mutual Accountability and Support

7.  What plan can you make to deal with these hindrances?  How can this group help?  How can 
you help?