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Rainbow Divider
MCM Broadcast

TV Broadcast #1330

The Race Marked Out
Part One

April 1, 2018

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— Brother Phil Enlow: Well, I’ve had, as is so often the case, a familiar scripture come to me and it’s one we use so much that sometimes you almost say, oh well, we don’t need that one. We know it by heart. But you know, the Lord has a way of shining a light on different aspects. It’s a scripture that’s so rich that there are so many different things you could emphasize and preach on. But, I don’t know, I just sensed something particular in Hebrews chapter 12, in the beginning there, as I say, a very familiar scripture. Let’s just see what the Lord has and how He wants to emphasize this.

“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. 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. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (NIV).

And, as I say, I’m very conscious as I read this how often we have used it and how many things are, in one sense, repetitious, but I think we need a lot of that. We need to really get things more than just hearing them in our heads and saying, yeah, I understand those words. We need to get these words to a place where they define our life. They’re what we’re about. They reside here and they simply become the default reaction to life, and only God can work that in us. But I believe He is.

But somehow the phrase, the part of this that has kind of come back to me several times lately and kind of came back to me last evening was, ‘the race marked out for us.’ And I think it’s kind of easy for us to think of this in very generic terms, very general terms. We think of ourselves as believers, we’re Christians, we come to church, we live our lives, and there’s a vague sense there is a path that God wants us to walk. We have to learn to walk by faith and at the end of it it’s gonna be great. But I feel like the Lord wants us to get a clearer, little bit deeper vision.

And one of the aspects of this truth is a very simple one. It is that everybody’s path is very personal. You know, we have a God of great variety. It’s amazing the variety of human-kind just within the span of those who literally live on earth today and those who have ever lived.

But I don’t know if you realize it or not, but there is enough complexity to human beings that the possibility exists for more different human beings than there are stars in the sky. I don’t mean just in our sky, I mean in the universe. In fact, it seems like I heard one time, don’t quote me that this is absolute or not, but it was like more than the number of atoms in the universe.

There’s a tremendous amount of variety and complexity. We have a God who’s never made two snowflakes alike. Every single one of us is special. Every single one of us is unique. No one can possibly take another’s place.

You know, I remember when Brother Thomas passed away and we had the service here, and the thought very clearly came to me that I knew that many people would be saying, okay, who’s gonna take his place? And the answer was a very simple one. No one ever takes anyone’s place. Every member of the Body of Christ has their own place. And, if his place had gone on and been necessary, he would still be here. But Jesus is still here and He has placed every one of us in the Body, how?

( congregational response ).

As it pleased Him. Every one of us if fitted together and designed for a particular place. You remember how when they built the Temple in the Old Testament, there were stones that were fashioned and when those stones were put together, there was no sound of a hammer. It was something where all of the work, all of the fitting work…and you guys who are in construction just imagine all this. Every bit of that…these great big stones were way back at the quarry, they were all cut and shaped and fitted…all of that was done, and when they came, they simply fit.

I’ll tell you, we have a God who is amazing. We have a God who will absolutely take every individual life and shape it according to His plan, according to His purpose. Now you parents, I know, especially those who have several children…how many parents have ever had two kids that were exactly alike? I mean, I realize we’ve had twins here, but even twins are not exactly alike, are they? Everyone has such an individuality about them. It’s their makeup. We’re products of our experiences in life, who we’re around, our parents…so many factors go into making us who we are. And, that’s just on a natural level.

But then you bring God into the picture and you see the hand of Somebody who can take the tangled threads of life and weave them into something that is amazing. And, as someone has put it, we’re like the bottom side of a quilt. I guess some of you ladies would know. Maybe it’s not a quilt, maybe it’s some other type of thing. But you know the illustration of how you look at the top of something that’s been knitted and it looks so beautiful, and you look at the underside and you see all the threads and they don’t make quite as much sense as they do on top.

Well, we occupy that position below, don’t we? Many times we look at our lives and we look at the lives of others, and man, we don’t get it, we don’t understand. But every single person here has been shaped for a special purpose.

And one danger I sense, because a lot of times we will take Bible examples and look at the different ways in which God dealt with them and formed them and prepared them for whatever it was, and then we’ll say, oh yeah, but they’re special. They had this great public ministry. They did something heroic and that’s how God deals with them. The rest of us, we’re just on God’s assembly line. We’re being stamped out as little…there’s another one, there’s another one.

But it’s not so. I’ll tell you, if you are here and you’re a member of the Body of Christ, you were shaped, you were called, you were formed from your mother’s womb, you were planned for before the foundation of the world to have a particular place that no one on this planet can fill! And God wants every one of us to learn how to walk in that reality, and to see the hand of God in our lives and to do what this scripture exhorts us to do.

Now you look at the characters that he alludes to. I mean, Abraham had his own particular calling. He was called from a heathen background to lead his family and to go to a land where the Lord would show him. And he went there and God tested him in so many ways. But his life was shaped by the hand of God, but also the choices that he made to say, yes, God, I believe You. It was not, I believe in this plan, but if you come up with another one, God, I’m gonna check that out and I’m gonna decide whether I want…he had a confidence in the person of God. There came a place where he had committed his way, he’d committed his heart into God’s hands.

You know, it reminds me of a scripture that is somewhere…I looked it up this morning, but I don’t remember the actual reference, but it’s in the Proverbs. And the essence of it is this…that a man’s heart devises or chooses his way, but what?

( congregational response ).

But God directs his steps. So there is a point in life where God confronts us. We have this divine encounter. We meet the One that we’ve heard about, like Job did. “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” (KJV).

There’s a time when there’s a real divine encounter, and I’ll tell you, at that point a man’s heart has a choice either to rise up and say, “I will do my own thing, I will be my own god, get away from me,” or, “I surrender. I surrender to You, Lord. My life…I get it, my life is not mine to live for my own purposes independent of You. I wasn’t created to be a rebel. I was created to walk with You in harmony, to be filled with You, to be energized, without losing any of my individuality, any of my uniqueness. Yet the power that animates me, that makes me able to be what God made me to be comes from heaven itself.”

And you see the hand of God working in the lives of so many different people, and yet there are no two of them that are alike. You look what Isaac went through…different experiences in his life, and then Jacob. I mean, all that that he went through…his path was a strange one, wasn’t it? I mean, he and his mother conspired together to steal the blessing that belonged to his elder brother even though they were twins.

And God worked in spite of the way they went about it. But yet, his pathway took him out to a foreign country and he had to spend, what was it, 20 years laboring for his father-in-law? He wound up with two wives in the process. Lord, help him.

( laughter ).

One is wonderful. Two would be a challenge for anybody…or more. But anyway…sorry for the interruption there in the message.

( laughter ).

But anyway, he went through all of those things, but in the process he kept encountering God. He kept learning about Him. He saw that there was God who was with him. I mean, there he was, right at the beginning of fleeing from his brother, and he lays his head on a rock one night, just to be comfortable, I guess…he had a hard head, or something.

But whatever it was, he laid down for sleep and all of sudden, there was a vision, there was something real that he saw. There was a ladder that reached all the way up into heaven, or stairway, or steps or something. And angels were ascending and descending and he realized God was in that place!

He realized it wasn’t just me and living my random life and mysterious things happening, there’s a God who is with me! There’s a God who’s shaping my life! I need to pay attention to Him. I need to seek Him. I need to say, oh God, I need You. I want to walk with You. I want to get to know You. I want to walk out Your plan for my life. That’s what God is looking for from every one of us.

And, you go on and you see Joseph. I mean, what a pathway the Lord brought him through to prepare him for his life’s calling and the things that God had to break down in him by submitting and not harboring a spirit of unforgiveness in spite of what his brothers did for him…did to him…for him, yeah. But you know, when you see God’s hand in it, they did do it for him, didn’t they? They did it to him, but God did it for him.

That would be a good way to look at a lot of things in life because we’re prone to see the instrument and to be angry about circumstances and people and our experiences with them. But I’ll tell you, there’s a God who will take every hurt, every difficulty, every challenge you and I ever face, everything that brings out the very worst in us, if we let it…God will use that as an instrument to change us and to break something in us so that more of Him can come out.

And exactly what Ken said, we’re shaped to be instruments of His! We’re shaped for His life to be the life that animates and manifests itself. It’s not just at the other end. That was a big part of the way I’ve been thinking about this particular scripture. It’s not just about the destination, it’s about the journey. It’s about you and me, today, here, sitting…what’s happened to us yesterday, last week, all of our lives and what is going to be happening.

To think that the eternal God, the One about whom we have been singing, the One we have been worshiping this morning, is concerned about you, knows every issue of your life, has a particular place that only you can fill. My God, do we need to be conscious of that…do we need to be saying, oh God, I don’t want to just be here and live my life and then, okay, it’s gonna be great, I’ll go to heaven one day! I want to fill my purpose!

It’s not just people who stand up here and do something publicly, this is for everybody! You don’t have any idea the influence you and I can be in our individual lives. It’s exactly what Ken just said! What a confirmation of the things the Lord has encouraged me to see. Again, you can go through and see over and over again…I mean, here God has a purpose for a man named Moses.

And in the plan and the will of God, Moses grows up in the palace! The New Testament tells us he was mighty in word and deed! Man, this was a guy of accomplishment and self-confidence and all of that stuff, and here God was bringing him to a place of such dependence that it takes 40 years of feeling like his life was over, his life was simply going to be lived out as a shepherd in Midian, keeping sheep, raising a family, and that was all there was. Egypt was long gone…history, to the point that when God called him, he said, I can’t do this, get somebody else.

But do you know that’s exactly what God was looking for? Man, that is hard for us to wrap our brains around. It is when we feel our weakest, when we feel our inability to do what God has set right before us to the greatest degree, that God is most ready and able to work.

We fight that…boy, it’s getting quiet. We fight that with every fiber of our being, naturally speaking. Man, I don’t want to be weak. I don’t want to feel like I can’t do it. Lord, if You give me something to do, give me something that You know I’ve got what it takes. Well…

( laughing ).

That defeats the whole purpose. It’s not…He’s not putting us on display as…you are great human beings. This is, I want to put Me on display. I want people to see Me. I want people to look at you and realize, there ain’t no way he can be that way, or she can be that way, or do this or do that. This is God! And I want to know this God who can take somebody who is just like me, weak like me, and can do such marvelous things, can just give them an outlook on life that just is transformational!

Oh my God, I see my own need of these things. You know, somebody who does what I do, what little it is, you don’t realize the battles that go into something like this. The Devil is just constantly trying to come from every angle he can think of to make me feel like, you can’t do this, or look at that thing that just rose up in you…who are you to get up there?

I say, Devil, go to hell where you…like Ken says, go to hell where you belong. I’ll tell you, there has to…that’s why this scripture talks about having to do it with perseverance. Perseverance reminds us that we’re gonna have opposition to do this.

Your own nature is gonna provide the biggest opposition. If our nature were truly…if we were dead to our nature, let me put it that way…if we died to our nature, and got to where we didn’t listen to it, we didn’t go by it, but we always looked to God for the strength, now it would…our problems out here would be greatly diminished.

How many of you know the difference between our nature dying and our dying to it? You know, sometimes we hear about death to self and we think, oh, it’s supposed to not bother me anymore. It’s supposed to…I won’t even feel it! It’ll just be gone and I’ll just be so free and happy. No. As long as we’re in these bodies, there are gonna be desires that will try to rise up and take over.

But just think about this. If time goes along, every one of us is gonna have a day when everybody is gonna be gathered here or at the cemetery perhaps, and we’re gonna be in a box, just to be plain.

Now suppose there were, for some reason, there was a marching band that was engaged for our funeral, and they were there just playing “The Stars and Stripes Forever” or whatever. I mean, they were really cutting loose and making all kinds of things! How much do you think that would bother you?

See, that’s the thing. It’s not that the band is quiet, it’s that you’re dead to that. That’s what God longs to produce in us to where it doesn’t matter how loud the band plays, we get deafer and deafer to it. We get to where we recognize, I don’t have to listen to that. I don’t have to go by that. I have another source of life. I have another source of strength.

See, that’s where…and God is going to continue to allow things in our lives, in our walk, that will be adverse, but He longs to pour in His strength. And what he’s picturing here is a life of great dependence, isn’t it? And boy, we don’t like that, like I say.

But back to this thought of how individual our courses are. And, I guess you could go on and on with different stories of how God raised up one…I mean, you just look back in the previous chapter where he’s describing these witnesses…and verse 38, “…the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.” (NIV).

These are heroes of faith. That’s a strange place for their path and their race to be carried out. Do you ever wonder, how did I get here? Why am I here and why is somebody else doing so good? Boy, I’ll tell you, God needs to give us such an understanding of His ways that we stop comparing ourselves with one another.

You are not them. And, of course, they’re not you either. Every one of us has something that is so personal, so individual, that we’re gonna have to learn to trust God to say, God, You ordered my steps. You accomplish Your purpose in me. I am, I was, “…created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” (KJV). I am a product of your handiwork. You are the Potter, I am the clay. You shape my life. You’ve got a reason for what You’re doing and I am not them and I’m gonna stop comparing myself.

You know, the time that I got…I’ve mentioned so many times I got mad at God. That was the issue. He was blessing others. He wasn’t blessing me. I was left out. And so, I was mad about it. There’s no other way to put it. But you’ve never done that, I know. You’re more spiritual than I am.

But don’t we react that way? If others are experiencing prosperity and I’m not, something’s wrong with me. God’s punishing me. I’m not spiritual enough. I don’t have enough faith. You’ve got a lot of religion that basically preaches that because their idea of what we’re supposed to be experiencing in this life is prosperity.

Well, God may well prosper somebody for His purpose for their life. There are people that are, what we would call filthy rich, but the money that they have is not their god and they use it in a godly way and God raises them up for that purpose. Abraham was rich, but he worshiped God and put God first. But there are others and it describes them here. They are poor, they’re persecuted, they’re everything but…but every single person has a place and God is shaping them for a reason.