Welcome to ReCreate Ministry. Our mission is making and growing authentic followers of Christ. From all of us here, we hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and that you got to spend time with family and friends. One of my favorite things about spending time with family is the stories that get told. It’s the trips down memory lane that we get to take. One of my favorite memories of my childhood is the Saturday evening ritual that my dad and I had. Growing up, I lived on a ranch that was split between my grandparents, my aunt and uncle, and my dad, and every Saturday, we would work as a family on whatever project needed to be done that particular week. After spending the entire day working, my dad and I would go home and get cleaned up, then head to town. The closest town to us was a 20 minute drive, and we would always go to the pizza place to order a pizza, then go next door to the movie rental store and pick out a movie or two (and usually a video game for me), then go pick up our pizza, and head home. The drive home was the worst part, because we had a single cab truck, and there was nowhere except my lap to put the pizza we had just picked up. I don’t know if any of you have any experience with this, but when you’re hungry, a 20 minute drive with a hot pizza in your lap takes 3-4 hours. It was impossible to focus on anything but how hungry I was, and how great the pizza smelled.
The reason I tell that story is because we’re spending this week talking about focus. Going into the new year, I wanted to talk about our focus both personally, and as a ministry. We’re doing something this week that we don’t do very often, which is a stand-alone message, but I wanted to spend a week talking about what our focus here at ReCreate is, and what my prayer is for everyone who reads these messages. The message this week is called Fix Our Eyes, and it comes from Hebrews 12. That’s where we will be camping out today, but we will also be looking at a few other texts as well. Hebrews 12:1 – 3 (NIV) says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” There are three things that we are going to look at from this message, and the first one is this:
Hebrews 12:1a says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Going back to the beginning of that verse, we see that the Hebrew writer says we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. The word therefore at the beginning of chapter 12 points us back to chapter 11, which is often referred to as the Faith Hall of Fame. The word witnesses here does not refer to people who have seen something, but instead to people who were witnesses for God. They were people who kept the faith even when things were hard. As I look back over the last year, it’s definitely been one of the hardest years of my life. Starting the year, I was a week removed from the accident that changed my life. I was still unable to drive, still afraid of every little noise or shake around me, and still really unable to be around any crowd of people at all. The only thing I had was Jesus, and it changed the way I looked at my faith. I learned that, when Jesus is all you have, He’s all you need. It’s easy to have faith when everything is going well for you, but the real test of your faith comes when hard times hit. Hebrews 11 talks about people like Abraham, Noah, and Joshua, who all walked by faith, even when the path wasn’t clear.
The second part of that sentence is the challenge for us. We are told to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. The words throw off can also be translated cast away. Matthew 11:28 – 30 (NLT) says “Then Jesus said, ‘Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.’” We can give our burdens to Christ, because He is better and stronger than whatever we are going through. If you look through the entire book of Hebrews, that’s the main theme we find. Jesus is better. Better than religion, better than works, better than trying to earn it. Jesus is just better, and we can find our rest in Him.
How many of you make New Years resolutions? Have you ever been to the gym the first few weeks of January? It’s a nightmare. It’s like trying to shop on Black Friday. You’ll stand in line for hours just to get to the things you want. Almost everyone starts out the new year by trying to change something about themselves, and for a lot of people, it’s an attempt to give up a habit that they feel have held them back in previous years. This is kind of the same idea that the Hebrew writer is giving us. We are told to cast away anything that keeps us from Christ, especially sin. Whoever the Hebrew writer is doesn’t mention a specific sin, but instead, just talks about letting go of any and all sin in order to be able to focus on Christ. What is something that has held you back from giving your full focus to Jesus? James 1:12 (NLT) says “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” The fact that we have these witnesses to the faith who have gone before us should encourage us to keep up the fight.
A few years ago, the Atlanta Falcons were playing against the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl. Going into the 4th quarter, the Falcons led the Patriots 28 – 9. Something happened in the 4th quarter, though, and the Falcons gave up 19 points, allowing the Patriots to tie the game. The Patriots went on to win that game, scoring a touchdown in OT to win the championship. The Falcons could have easily won the game, but they took their focus off of the goal, and it left an opening for the Patriots to come back and win the game. Ephesians 4:26 (NET) says “Do not give the devil an opportunity.” When we take our focus off of Christ, we give the devil an opportunity to creep into our lives, and before we know it, we have moved so far away from Christ that we don’t even feel like He’s there at all. No matter how far we feel from God, He still has a plan for your life. That brings me to my second point.
The second half of Hebrews 12:1 (NIV) says “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” I don’t know about any of you, but I am not a runner. For one, my ankles won’t let me run. The main reason that I don’t run, though, is because I just don’t like it. I have a lot of friends who run on a daily basis. They train for marathons, get up early every day, and even go running in cold, wet weather. I admire them. They’re crazy, but I admire them. I’ll be honest; I’m just not that dedicated. One of my good friends has been helping me to get into better shape recently by going to the gym for the first time in years, though. He’s been pushing me to stay with it, even though I’m sore and hurting. You know what’s happened since I started, though? Even though I’m extremely sore, I feel better and have more energy on the days that I work out than I do on the days that I don’t. The pain is a reminder that progress is being made. Philippians 3:12 – 14 (NIV) says “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Just like my work in the gym has a purpose, our life in Christ has a purpose. Each of us has been called to a purpose. We all have specific gifts that God has given us so that we can accomplish something. We are called to run with perseverance. Rejecting sin’s entanglement lets us run our race with staying power. Perseverance calls for stamina or staying power. The race is the path God has marked out for us. We are called to faithfully follow the route that God Himself has marked out for us. J.R.R. Tolkien said “Faithless is he who says farewell when the road darkens.” Despite the fact that I don’t know much about running, I do know that you have to have perseverance to finish a race or marathon.
Earlier this year, I was watching the Olympics. There are a lot of events that I don’t care anything about, but I found myself fascinated this year by the downhill snowboarding event. Each team had two competitors in it, and the athletes weren’t allowed to try out the course before the event, so the second person to go down for each team had an advantage. The first person would go down on their run, then call back up and let their teammate know what to expect on the way down. So often, God calls us to run a course that we haven’t been on before, and we have to go down on faith. Thankfully, we have so many great witnesses that have gone before us. Our lives are not meant to be lived in a safe manner. If you look back at Hebrews 11, it’s full of stories of people who took chances. I’ve heard it said that “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming ‘Wow! What a ride!.’” (Hunter S. Thompson) The last challenge the text has for us is:
Hebrews 12:2 – 3 (NIV) says “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the journey set before him he endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Jesus was our example, and He finished His race perfectly. He now stands at the finish line, and because of that, we should keep our eyes on him. We should look away from all other distractions. The first day I was back in the gym, my friend had us start on the stairclimber. Anyone familiar with this evil machine knows what a pain it is, and I did not want to do it from the moment I got on it, but my friend told me I had to do at least 5 minutes on it. The entire time I was doing it, my legs were burning like crazy, and all I wanted to do was get off of it, but I had to push those thoughts out of my head and focus on getting to the end. I’ll admit that cardio is not my favorite thing, but it’s necessary to help me accomplish my goal.
2 Timothy 4:6 – 8 (NLT) says “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me – the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” Paul, knowing that he was coming to the end of his life, tells us that we should continue running our race because we have a prize waiting for us at the end of it. Anyone who is in Christ has the prize of righteousness waiting for us, should we continue to run the race. The Hebrew writer says the same thing about Jesus at the end of v.2 when he says “For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning it’s shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus knew the glory that awaited Him, so He was able to endure the cross to achieve the goal.
As we read through the New Testament, we find that this is the theme of a great majority of it. Each story we find gives us courage to endure whatever the world throws our way, because we know what awaits us when we reach our own finish line. Vince Lombardi was one of the greatest football coaches of all time. He once said “Football is like life. It requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and respect for authority.” Coach Lombardi was a man who knew what it was to run the race. As we reflect on our own hardships, we need to remember the endurance of Jesus. He endured hostility from sinners that reached it’s climax at the cross. The best way to avoid faintheartedness and weariness is by keeping our focus on Christ. His example can provide us with the endurance that we need to run the race that God marked out for us. Let’s thank Him for that.
We thank You for Your example. Lord, we thank You for the strength to endure any struggle that comes our way. We thank You that we can find our rest, as well as our strength, in You. Father, I know many reading this are going through things that they can’t see a solution to. Some of them have been in the tunnel so long that they’ve forgotten what it’s like to even see the light, much less live in it. I pray that You would be with them, and help them to see that You are there in the darkness with them. Most of all, we thank You for Jesus, and it’s in His Name we pray.
Next week, we will be starting a new series called Desperate, and we are going to spend a few weeks looking at depression and anxiety, and what the Bible has to say about it. From all of us at ReCreate Ministry, have a very Happy New Year, and a blessed week!!!!!