Hebrews 12:1-3 (NLT) Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
Can I encourage you a little bit today? To all those who are tired, weary, and on the verge of giving up, can I offer a little insight today? Does this race of faith seem just a little too long? Is endurance a longer word than you thought? Is persistence requiring patience you just do not have? Do not give up. Stay right where you are. You can be a champion. If Jesus Christ lives within you and eternity is etched on your heart, there is no fall to far, failure to fatal or loss to bad for you to be the victorious overcomer that the Lord has called you to be. In fact, champions are not winners all the time. Yes, you heard me correctly. It takes losses to be the lessons. It takes weakness to find new strength. It takes humility to overcome the pride that wages war against our flesh. You must breakdown fat to find muscle. You must have a broken heart to be saved.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us. What is slowing you down today? What is tripping you up? What is the obstacle that you named Goliath too big to overcome? Goliath came crashing down with a little stone marked faith planted square between the eyes. What are you hurling at that mountain refusing to move? Are you being tossed to and fro by the wind, waves and storm swirling around you? Endurance is needed for athletes to become champions. Persistence is the pays it forward for them to overcome losses to obtain the big win. Champions overcome failure to grab hold of victory. Failure does not make you a loser. Never trying again is what labels quitters. Jesus is our example. He was not a failure. The Lord never quit, but that didn’t mean in human form it was not a temptation. Jesus is our champion. He gives us the ability to be a champion, too!
”We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” What makes Jesus our champion? Dying on the Cross did not give Him that honor. If Jesus had died for our sin, and remained in the grave – He would not be a champion. What made Jesus our Champion is the fact that after He died – He did not stay in the grave but came walking out with the keys to death and the grave firmly in His Hand! This is our encouragement today. To fail a test, lose our way, or give in to sin now and again does not take away our potential to be overwhelmingly victorious in life. Grace would not be necessary if this were the case. God would not give us new mercy each day. Renewal, restoration and revival would not be promised if one pitfall was all it took to take away our victory. Those who endure to the end will be saved. They will obtain the crown of righteousness offered by our Champion – Jesus Christ. Somebody needs to hear that today. You are not defined by your past, your today, your failures, your shortcomings, your weakness or even devastating heartbreak – what makes you a champion is when you decide despite all things I am going get back up and do it again.
I Corinthians 9:25-27(NLT) All athletes are disciplined in their training. 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 am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified.
Champions realize their purpose and capitalize on potential. Perseverance is an act of discipline. It is to push our mind, soul and body past the natural limitations of our flesh and decide that faith is our primary goal. Faith is never a natural thing but always dependent on the supernatural. It is all about what we cannot see, the highly unlikely outcome and even the impossible that is promised to us in God’s Word. It is the thing that makes us send away our Hagar and Ishmaels because God promised us Isaac. It is the determination to put away the things of this world to make room for His Kingdom. All athletes are disciplined in training. They set a goal in their heart long ago that is not dependent on their team but solely defined by a heart that refuses to quit and sees the glory of their goal. We must decide as believers what our true purpose is in Jesus Christ. What has He called you to do? What is your calling? Calling is not what you feel necessarily qualified to do. Purpose defines the potential of our life. It is in the commitment of our natural life to godly purpose in each step of every day that will bring it to life as we discipline our mind, soul and body to keep persevering and never give up on what God is doing in us and Christ died for us to accomplish.
Matthew 26:36-41 (NLT) Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” Then he returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He said to Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing, but the body is weak!”
I love that the Lord inspired this passage in the Word of God. We need to see the humanness of Christ in order to understand that Jesus is truly a valid example. He saw the future. He knew the agony not only of the physical nature of crucifixion, but the torture of each sin to be laid upon Him in that moment. His Father, God, was going to turn His Face from His Son. Every wretched disease would soon leave a strip down His Back. Jesus was God incarnate but His Flesh was real just like ours. His Body would feel every terrible torture that would be endured to set us free. He asked God, “If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken from me.” Jesus knows what it feels like to come to the end of self. He knows the feeling of weakness due to the oppression of flesh. It doesn’t matter how willing our spirit is to follow in His Footsteps, the weakness of our body will always try to stop us.
There are many athletes who must overcome weakness, pain and injury to become a champion. It is not the absence of such things that afford them the title but their mindset that no matter what they will give their all. They are persistent in training and strengthening of their body investing countless hours in training. They give up time with their family, friends, hobbies, and just loafing around to preparation. They endure insult and injury to play the game they love so much. Pain doesn’t stop them – they push through it willing to pay the price when it’s over. Champions see the potential and prize ahead of them and refuse to give up. They may be taken out of the game but a true champion will never leave the game willingly.
2 Corinthians 6-10 (NLT) For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
God has filled each human heart with purpose. It is marked eternity and labeled with the promise “made beautiful for its own time”. Champions pursue purpose. The potential to be the best is the drive and motivation of their heart. Where do you spend your time? What is the prevailing thought you strive for? What is life all about to you? When our passion, pursuit and purpose becomes the Kingdom it will change the pathway of our life. The Light in our heart is His Glory. It shines brightly in our brokenness and weakness as death gives way to life in us. With each step of faith – our purpose becomes more evident which means our opponent sets his sight on overtaking it. Nobody wants to play the loser. They want to play the champion to take away the crown of victory.
The enemy comes like a thief to steal, kill and destroy. His onslaught more pervasive when purpose begins to breakthrough sin, shame, doubt and disbelief. The moment you believe that you will overcome – is the second you gain the enemy’s full attention. He is going to pressure you to give up and attempt to perplex you by filling your mind with lies tempting you to stop the nonsense. A stealth predator it is not uncommon for him to wait until you are alone, feeling somewhat isolated, and vulnerable to try to separate you from others. Champions are hunted. When they get knocked down, they get back up. Endurance, perseverance, persistence and discipline cause flesh to suffer but with each conquest new life is produced in us. These are the qualities that define champions. Though they are pursued they do not stop because they see the prize and desire it more than anything.
John 16:1 (NLT) “I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith.
John 16:33 (NLT) “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
These are the words of Jesus before He ventured to the Cross. Before He felt the coldness of death and solitude of the grave. These were his parting words before marching straight into hell and taking back the Keys to the Kingdom which was about to hand to you. Jesus knew His Purpose. He was a champion. He won the victory over death and the grave. Super Bowl Sunday is just a little over a week away. We watched the division championships last weekend. I noticed that during the presentation of the trophy – it was not the most valuable player of the game, the quarterback or the coach who received it but in each case an elderly gentleman. The announcer would then acknowledge them as the owner of the team. He was not the one who engaged in the battle on the field, took a single hit, caught a pass or even kicked a field goal. He is the one who paid the price so each one of those players could pursue their passion and achieve their purpose.
Jesus paid it all. He overcame the world so our faith would be worth something. Our purpose is faith that produces such confident hope that we can give up pursuing lesser things and overcome in all things. My life “in Christ” can achieve its purpose. My heart will satisfied when eternity is mine. Until that time, I must remain in Christ who is my champion. I must follow His Example. He never quit. Jesus never gave up. He endured suffering, temptation, isolation and even death for me to have victory over all these things. It is up to me if I will join in. Will I choose life over death? Will I pick blessing over the curse? Will I let the Light of His Love show through my broken heart, dead dreams and failures until His Glory overtakes my life? I cannot give up and be a champion. I may lose a few, but I win it all if I persevere never losing faith but always reaching for hope.
“Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Just to be clear, Jesus came to be a champion. He would secure victory over sin, death and the grave once and for all. What was the joy awaiting Him when Jesus stepped down from His Throne carefully placing His Crown on the seat to come to this world? He had all of Heaven. The only thing missing was you and me. He came to this earth for just one thing. His Treasure and Special Possession. He came for us. He left everything to have us with Him forever. You and me. Ordinary people who fall, fail and stray just about every day – but Jesus wanted us. He desired us above all things and gave up His Life to have us. Will I do the same? Will you?
Romans 8:35-39 (NLT) Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus Christ became a champion for us because He loves us. He was committed to love us even to the death, but that wasn’t long enough so He overcame death to give us a crown of righteousness so we could live as champions with Him forever. Are you fulfilling your purpose? Do you know the true potential of your life? Jesus did and He came up out of the grave to give you the power to complete it. The rest is up to you. When you feel like you have fallen too far, you haven’t the Lord is there to pick you up. When you think you have gone too far, His Spirit will lead you right back. When you wonder if it is worth it, ask Jesus because He sure thought you were. Choose to persist, persevere, pursue and prevail in every situation because in our weakness His Power is perfect. If you don’t give up but endure by faith until the end, you will win every time. Discipline is painful but defeat is agonizing. Celebrate each victory no matter how small. It is one step closer to winning it all. You are a Champion. Jesus lives in you. Don’t give up on victory today. Hold tight to your faith for it is the key. Be confident in Your Hope because God hasn’t given up on you. The best is yet to come if you believe.
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NLT) Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.