What Lies Ahead
May 7, 2023
Call to Worship: Psalm 63: 1-5 1 You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water. 2 I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. 3 Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. 4 I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
Dear Heavenly Father, I desire to learn how to worship You as You deserve. Help me Lord, to grow into the sort of worshipper that You are seeking, one who worships You in spirit and truth. I pray that my life may be one that honors You in all I say and all I do, in all the circumstances of life, throughout the day and as I drift into sleep at night. Lord, I pray that I may learn to walk in all of Your ways, to serve with all of my being and to learn to love You as You have loved me. Teach me Lord, how to worship You in the beauty of holiness so that I may be one that bows my heart before You in spirit and truth, to Your honor and glory. In Jesus’ name, I pray, Amen.
As I was preparing this message of What Lies Ahead, in a new series Growing Forward; I was thinking about running our race with Christ. I then pondered all our daughter Riley is doing to be able to run her races well as she is at the peak of her track season right now.
She has big goals she is working towards both as she is bringing her high school track career to a close and in preparation for beginning her college career and running at North Central. She has had to work through a great deal of adversity beginning with covid and not even having a freshman year of track-so when she and others her age started they were already a year behind the other competitors as far as experience on the track at the high school level. But she pushed forward and had a very strong first year as a sophomore-learning a lot throughout that season about competing.
Coming into her junior year she was determined to train hard and be solid at the start of the season to keep building on what she accomplished that first year. She learned she trained too hard, too fast and while she earned a pr for her fastest time at that point at an indoor meet, she also learned a short time later she had acquired a stress fracture. It was devastating to her at first to hear the news that she would be sitting pretty much the entire season. But as she was able to process the reality of her situation she found a new grit within her and she was not going to quit. She was going to do all she could to help her body heal, to keep her strength up, and most importantly to keep her eyes on the prize-being able to run in a race again. She worked really hard and because of that, she was able to compete in one final race of the season, regionals. To go on to the state level you have to earn the top 4 spots in any event, and Riley coming fresh off an injury came in 5th. She didn’t make it to state, but she did make it back on the track and put forth a solid effort because she kept her eyes on the prize. She was looking forward.
Now she is in her final season-which really has only been the 2nd full season she has competed in and she still has her eyes on the prize. She is still working hard, and still seeking to improve, and because of her setbacks and adversity, she knows a greater strength within her than she knew she had before. Because of her willingness to keep going, she has been recruited to run at the college level and experience a whole new level of enjoyment in this sport.
Her journey in this sport she loves is filled with celebrations and great victories-but not without setbacks, disappointments, and things she could have done differently as she looks back, and none of those victories would have happened without her keeping her eyes on the prize. She has to be looking ahead to where she is going and make choices each day in what is going to help her get there. Some days the choices are better than others. Some days the adversity to overcome is great. But she keeps pressing on.
Isn’t that a lot like our walk with Jesus, like living the Christian life?
The amazing thing we must all take hold of is we ALREADY HAVE VICTORY in all things through Christ! We already have it! But we have to learn how to walk in that victory. We have to believe we have received that victory when He died on the cross and rose again, victory was ours, because of what Jesus has already accomplished!
We also like Riley and so many other athletes, have to keep our eyes on the prize so we know what we’re living for; we know what our daily choices are driving us toward, and what is spurring us on when we have those setbacks, or days we make choices that are not our best.
The Apostle Paul speaks to the importance of keeping our eyes on the prize and running our race so we are living in the victory Christ died to offer us. We’ll talk a bit about how we can learn and practice this all the more, looking to what lies ahead for us as believers. Hear the heart of Paul; hear His passion to live for Christ; hear His determination to press forward to finish what it is He was called to by God.
Philippians 3: 10-16 NIV
10 I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead.
12 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. 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
15 All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if at some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. 16 Only let us live up to what we have already attained.
- Seek to KNOW Christ.
What did Paul start with? “I want to know Christ…” In order for us to know what lies ahead in our lives and to attain the prize that is heaven and all the heavenly blessings God desires to give us, we must know His Son, Jesus Christ.
John 14: 6-7 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
We can’t and won’t receive the prize of Heaven, without receiving Christ as our Lord and Savior first. This is where we start, but believing in Him and receiving Him as your Lord and Savior is just the beginning.
As we grow in our faith, we are called to KNOW Him all the more in a personal relationship. Jesus is a person and we can’t know anyone really without nurturing a relationship with them. Riley has been called to grow in her knowledge and understanding of the sport of running and how to compete at higher levels, so we too are being called to come to know and understand Jesus in more personal ways.
2 Peter 3:18 18 But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
Because the more we know Him, the stronger our faith grows, and the greater our obedience comes about-not out of obligation but out of honor and love. The more we know Him, His majesty, His character, His promises, and His heart, the more we want to know Him. He pulls us in deeper and deeper unto Himself. He shows us hidden wonders from the rest of the world as we press into a relationship with Him.
Jeremiah 33: 2-3 2 “This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: 3 ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’
Because the more we come to know Christ personally, the more we realize the great prize is not waiting for some glorious place-although that is something to ponder and cling to in hope for sure, it’s Christ Himself! He is the prize!
John 17:3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
- Desire Sanctification. To stay the course and keep our eyes on the prize-looking for what lies ahead in our Christian walk, we have to develop a hunger or a desire to become more and more the likeness of Jesus. There is a song we sing sometimes and it says, “A little more like Jesus, a little less like me.”
But Paul is saying, we must develop such a desire we say, “All like Jesus!” This desire to allow the process of sanctification which is to be made holy, to be set apart from the ways of this world and transformed into the likeness of Christ-His nature, His character, and His fragrance He gives off-the desire grows within us the more we come to know Christ personally. If we don’t know Him, or we only keep a head of knowledge about Him, we won’t be too interested in changing who we are. But if we know Him, our spirit cries out that is joined with Him and compels us to take on His nature. Our spirit desires to do the will of God. Spirit and heart are interchanged numerous times in the Bible-back to the original text-which teach us it is the engagement of our heart God seeks and it’s our heart that He inhabits.
We have heard the saying grace is receiving what we don’t deserve and that’s nice but it’s not biblical.
Philippians 2:13 gives us the biblical definition of grace that also shows us how our desire increases to follow Christ – 3 for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
This is the process of sanctification in our hearts and minds.
As new Christians, we don’t know what we want or what our life should even be about. But as we come to know Jesus, we begin to receive His Word in our hearts and let it affect our thoughts. We begin to want more. The more we read, the more we want. The more we discuss, the more we want to discuss. The more we press in, the more we want to press in. This is God working in us to will and act in order to fulfill His good purpose.
1 Peter 2: 2-3 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
- Eyes on the Prize!
So as we are seeking to take hold of the promised land this year-the spiritual blessings we have as we walk in obedience to the Lord, as we strain to press on and run our race set before, let us keep our eyes on the prize that is Christ Himself!
Hebrews 12:1 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,
This means we must stop looking back to all that we thought was good in this world that is not lasting, stop looking back to our setbacks and disappointments, or even failures, and we must keep running forward in the victory we have in Christ. We must throw off everything that hinders us from running our race. Get rid of the sin that entangles us!
1 Corinthians 9: 24-25 24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.
Conclusion: Let us forget what is in the past; let us strain toward what is ahead. Let us keep our eyes forward and up as we run the race marked out for us, for we already have victory in Christ! And a growing and deepening relationship with Him as our Savior is the prize!
Communion: I want to read what happened when Jesus died on the cross for all sinners and why He did it.
Hebrews 10: 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. 4 It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. 5 Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; 6 with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.
7 Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll— I have come to do your will, my God.’” He sets aside the first to establish the second. 10 And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.
11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again, he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 4 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. 15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First, he says: 16 “This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.” 17 Then he adds: “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.”
Thanks be to God for sending His Son Jesus to be our sacrifice and pay the debt in full for our sins that are remembered no more as we receive Him as our Lord and Savior, and ask for the forgiveness of our sins. We are truly forgiven and set free in Christ through the pouring out of His blood. His blood was spotless and pure-without sin-and it is the required atonement that justifies us and gives us right standing with God. Not because of anything great we have done-solely because of this selfless and loving sacrifice of Jesus, for our great gain!
Let us accept Jesus into our hearts. Sinner’s prayer. Let us get our hearts right with God and repent of any wrongdoing, or wrong heart motives we might have, and seek forgiveness now. Let us forgive others, so our hearts are pure to remember and give thanks for what Jesus did for you and me. Take a moment and release what is in your heart.
Matthew 26- “Take and eat; this is my body.” 27 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. 28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
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