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A Word of Encouragement

Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church

(3/2) Today we are going to look at the New Testament Book of Hebrews. So if you can find your Bible, there should be one under your chair, and turn to Hebrews chapter 12. The focus throughout the book of Hebrews has been on the complete sufficiency of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice to pay the price for our sins, and to give us free access into the presence of God the Father. So, we’re going to start in Hebrews 12, verse 1… as we see how we should deal with our sin and how God will deal with our sin.

"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. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons:

"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son."

7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! 10 Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 "Make level paths for your feet," so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed."

Let me start by asking those of you who are parents, why do you correct and sometimes punish your children? Is it to make them miserable? It is to prove to them who's the boss? Is it to get revenge? Of course not. You do it because you're trying, the best you know how, to protect and to help your children make wise decisions.

But here is what I see happening in the world today, often when the children are little, the parents say, "Oh, they’re so cute, we can’t discipline them." "Oh, look, Johnnies playing in the toilet again. Get a camera. Isn’t that cute?" But it’s not cute is it. It’s gross!

So often times today, kids are disobedient, they don’t get disciplined, the parents think it’s cute, they let it go, and therefore encourage it. And so what happens, is when Johnny hits 14 or 15, the parents realize, "Uh oh, this boy’s got no self-control." So then, they want to start making rules and we all know the rebellion that can be spawned from that. And maybe some of you had parents like that? They never said a word until you were old enough to kill someone and then it dawned on them that there was a cause and effect… the way you were raised was going to lead to big problems. And so now you’re old enough to get pregnant or get someone else pregnant, to kill someone or die. And so your parents are like, "We better lay down some rules." Right?

So what do we do… parents what do you do? You make them go to school when they don't want to go to school, you make them do their homework when they don't want to do their homework, you make them go to bed when they don't want to go to bed… not because you feel like being a dictator and making random rules, but because these are habits they need to develop if they ever plan to hold down a job.

If your child throws a temper tantrum or hits other kids or tells a lie or takes things that don't belong to him, you do what you have to do to correct that behavior. Why… because you're a bully? No. You do it because you want your kid to be good and to be able to function in a social setting that doesn't involve wearing orange clothes with numbers and stripes. Isn’t that right? You correct and discipline your children in order to train them to be good… to walk by temptation, so that when they’re older, they can self-govern.

1. Endure hardship.

Now in keeping with this line of thinking, the first thing we need to consider is what is God saying to me through this situation? Verse seven tells us, "Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons…" You see typically, our problems aren't punishment, but they’re merely God's tool for teaching, training, and leading us into holiness. It’s just like having a bed time or having to do chores around the house. It’s not punishment… it's part of the process of learning responsibility. You see, everybody needs to learn responsibility and everybody has problems… the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45). But God uses the hardships of our individual lives to help us become the people he has created us to be.

So sometimes we need to ask ourselves, "What is this situation, this hardship, this whatever… what is God saying to me through this? Is he trying to get my attention? Is there an area of my life where I’m resisting him? Is there an area of my life where I’m ignoring the needs of others? What can this situation teach me about being more holy, loving, faithful, and obedient to Christ?"

Now I believe, there are two mistakes we can make: One is to think that every time life gets a little difficult it's because God is trying to get even with us. And that's not true. He is our loving Father, but the other mistake that we make is to ignore what God is saying to us through our problems. You see many times he speaks to us through the natural consequences of our choices and our actions. So if you keep winding up in the same mess… if you keep finding yourself in the same broken place again and again in your relationships, in your work, or your finances… maybe it's because God is trying to teach you that some things need to change in your life.

So don't resist His instruction… Let me give you some advice…. a word of encouragement. If you wake up in the morning, and the minute your feet hit the floor… you're already stressed out, worn out, and feeling guilty, because of the battles you're losing day after day... allow yourself the time to get alone with God, to be still, and to listen to what he is saying. Consider the cause and effect… take a serious look at what is happening to you… Do you have a problem with your temper? What’s God saying to you? Do you have a problem with lust? What’s God saying to you? Do you have a problem with procrastination? What’s God saying to you?

Going back to verse one, we are encouraged to "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…" Other translations use the phrase, "the sin that besets us", "the sin that so easily trips us up" "the sin that ensnares us" …in other words, the sin that traps us, slows us down, and discourages us.

And verse one continues saying, "let us run…" (Hebrews 12:1).

It says, "Run…" and I encourage you to take a realistic look at how your sins are dragging you down, and decide to do something about it.

2. Decide to do something about it.

I want to offer some encouragement in regard to dealing with sin. Verse one, says to throw it off and run…. You see sin is a very real presence in our lives… there's no escaping that fact. But, as Paul tells us in the book of Romans, it doesn’t need to be your master. You can have victory. You can do something about it… Throw it off!

Just imagine what it will be like with that thing gone from your life. Allow yourself to imagine what it will be like to walk in victory. Allow yourself to imagine what it will be like to be free from anger, guilt, lust, and laziness. Imagine how empowering that will be.

"Let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…"

When you recognize the damage that sins does, when you realize how much it slows you down, it makes it so much easier to let it go… and to throw it off. Just think about this. If you want victory over sin, take some time to think about how much your sin is dragging you down, and how good it will feel to put it behind you.

As I read this passage, I couldn’t help but think, this guy can relate, this guy knows what it's like to fall down… he knows what it's like to struggle day in and day out. And he does… Jesus is "one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are… yet was without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). But you know, in the day to day routine of our lives, sometimes it's all you can do to get back on your feet. Your hands and arm are tired, your knees are weak ... and you're not sure you can stand again.

Well we’ve got our own cheerleading team, the Holy Spirit in verse 3 says, "Don’t grow weary and lose heart" As followers of Christ, we can’t allow ourselves to grow weary and lose heart, we’ve got to get up on our feet, stand tall, and take another step. The Lord says, don't be afraid to try again. And no matter how many times you fail, get up and try again.

Now I'll tell you something. In my Christian walk and ministry, I have faced all kinds of obstacles. There have been times when I felt like the whole world was against me. And those times have certainly been difficult, but the only times I have been seriously tempted to quit was when my own weakness and my own failures got the best of me. It was all in my mind and during those times I thought, "I'll never overcome this thing, I'll never crush this bad habit, I'll never have victory over this sin. So I may as well just quit and throw in the towel."

And maybe today, like many Christians, you feel the same way. You can handle the challenges on the outside, but you get discouraged from losing the battle within. So today I want to encourage you, don't let this happen to you. Don’t grow weary and lose heart.

If you're facing great difficulties right now… if you’re facing hardship, either within or without… and you're tempted to give up and admit defeat, I encourage you to keep trying. Take a new grip with your tired hands. Hear the word of the Lord in verse 12, "Strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. "Make level paths for your feet…"

3. Make level paths for your feet.

Here’s what the Holy Spirit is saying to us here. It's time to go back to the drawing board. If the last plan didn't work, come up with a new plan. Develop a strategy to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Mark out a straight path for your feet. Don’t be disabled, but rather be healed.

If you say, every time I drive by that bar I end up stopping in for a drink… well, drive home a different way. If you say, "Every time I go online I end up visiting websites I shouldn't… well, move the computer to a room full of people. And if you're really brave, give your password to your spouse or your parents. Have them check up on you.

No matter how many times you fail, get up and try again. And if you want to win the battle over habitual sin... create some accountability for yourself and you’ll be much more consistent. When you know you have to give an answer for your actions you’ll be much more careful and attentive.

Now if we were perfect, we wouldn't need this system of checks and balances in our lives. We would always do exactly what we're supposed to do. But guess what? We're not perfect. And sometimes, without proper accountability, we're going to slack off. That's why we need to look out for one another.

And that is one of the things I like about Celebrate Recovery program. It’s a support system to help us "throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles…" It is a plan to do something about the hurts, habits, and hang-ups in our lives. And it’s a resource to help us to get up again. We all need people in our lives who love us enough to say what needs to be said… to stick with us whenever we fall… and to help us get back on our feet. If you don't have this person in your life, I encourage you to do two things. First, be that person to those closest to you. Love them enough to speak the truth… love them enough to be loyal no matter what… and secondly, ask God to put a loving person in your life to whom you can be accountable.

You see… everyone in this room has one ugly thing in common. We all struggle with sin. Some of us have sins that are more visible than others, but we all struggle with sin. Sin that entangles and holds you back. Sin that trips you up and knocks you down. Sin that makes you want to throw in the towel and quit.

I want to encourage you today that you don't have to quit. This is a battle you can win. "Sin shall not be your master" (Romans 6:14). This morning we are going to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we’re going to celebrate our communion with God, and so I encourage you to get honest with yourself about your sin, acknowledge the consequences it brings, and decide that you're ready to become un-entangled. "Throw off everything that hinders" (Hebrews 12:1). And no matter how tired your arms are or how weak your knees are, stand up and mark out a level path for yourself. Try again. But don't do it alone. Get someone to stand with you. Get someone who loves you to walk with you.

And most of all… I saved these words to last because they're so good… so meaningful… and so powerful… do what the writer of Hebrews encourages you to do: "Fix your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith" (Hebrews 12:2). Your hope is secure in Jesus Christ. He paid all there is to pay. And now he is calling you to follow him, in holiness and obedience, so that you can live a life connected to him, living in his presence, and walking in his power. You're his child; this is what he wants for you. Take His hand and walk with Him today.

Read past sermons by Pastor John Talcott

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