— Brother Phil Enlow: I believe the truths that we need are not ones that we don’t know. It’s not that we need deeper and stronger information, although there’s a place for all of that. I believe God wants to teach us things. But the things that we need, on a practical level, have a great deal more to do with things that we know intellectually but need to remember, need to constantly remind ourselves about.
And I was thinking about the year and the fact that we’ve got another year coming and what is it that we need, Lord? What is it that you want us to focus on, as we think about the way ahead?
And I just kept coming back to a simple word that we know, and so I doubt I’m gonna say anything brand-new this morning, but I’m praying that the Lord will bring it out in such a way that it will help us and encourage us in our walk. Like I say, it’s not always more information we need, it’s life, it’s ability, it’s God’s Spirit actually coming to bear upon our situation so that we have the strength to walk in those things that we know intellectually. And the word that just kept coming to me is perseverance.
And, just as a jumping off point, a scripture that we’re extremely familiar with in Hebrews chapter 12, and the writer here is following a passage in which he is showing the fact that there were a whole lot of people that persevered by faith through all kinds of circumstances.
And so, he begins with the word, ‘therefore’ which kind of refers back to what he’s been saying, in light of these examples that God has given to us in history, about people that served God in the world, but had to overcome a lot to do it. See, that’s the foundation of what he’s about to say.
“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.” (NIV). And so forth, and he goes on.
Well, I’ll read the next verse. “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
And, you know, there’s a lot of folks in the land that will try to portray the Christian life as…one mountaintop to the other. You’re supposed to be joyful and happy and icicles running up and down your spine all the time and blessings…just like a glorious thing.
And, praise God, there are blessings. There are things that are real that we can enjoy here. But that is not a realistic picture. If we’re gonna think about our lives going forward, we don’t need to just expect, okay, now I’ve finally gotten to the mountaintop, now I can…
( exhaling ).
…I can just coast. There’s no place for that in this life. There’s no place where we come and we just coast, and there’s no more effort to put forth.
And, you know, I was thinking about the very word, perseverance. And of course, it’s in the context of a race, isn’t it? And, we’ve pointed out many times how that God has set before each and every one of us a race. It’s a path that we run. It’s a way that we go that leads from where we’re at to someplace else.
And the Christian life is that. It’s not a matter of signing something on the dotted line, getting a ticket to heaven and going on about our life and then just suddenly, magically going there. There’s something that God longs to accomplish in your life and in mine, here and now, in our walk.
And our walk has everything to do with what we will become. And it’s not just a vague, generalized race that God has set before us. There’s something particular. It’s marked out.
And we need to always remember, as we go forward, that we are unique. We’ve said it many times, but it’s something we need to remember. Everyone here is different. Every one of you has a particular course, a particular road, if you will, that is marked out for you, and it’s designed to accomplish something in you because you have a unique place in the kingdom that God is building.
If you’re one that’s called to His kingdom, if you’ve been born of His Spirit and that’s your destiny, then there is a particular place in His kingdom that only you can fill. Nobody else can. God has designed it just for you. And what He wants to accomplish in our lives has everything to do with that. And that’s what…I sense the Lord wanting us to move forward in a very real way, this year. But if we’re gonna do that, we’re gonna have to understand, realistically, what that involves.
You know, I thought about, in this context, Paul’s first missionary journey. You remember how he set out and they went through…I think Philippi was part of that, and various other places, where he went to one place after another. He was persecuted, very severely, in some cases. But anyway, he went from one place to another to another to another and he stayed there as long as he could, but in every place, he gathered groups of believers and followers of Jesus.
And so, now it was time, okay, let’s go back. This journey is over. We’re going back to where we came from. And so, what they did was to reverse their course and stop in and visit every one. Now what do you think was the essence of Paul’s message to those believers? What did he focus on?
( congregation inaudible ).
Yeah! He said, “…we must through much…” and the King James is, “…tribulation…” through much suffering, through much difficulty, “…enter into the kingdom of God.” (KJV). This was the essence of the message.
He didn’t say, man, you’ve entered it, you’ve got it now, you’ve got it, just enjoy it and come together, and just…sing happy songs, life’s gonna be grand and great. Praise God! There is a price to pay to follow Jesus Christ! There is a course that…and if you’re thinking that there is ever gonna come a time in your life when it’s just gonna be easy and there’s gonna be no opposition, you are in for a whole lot of education about how it really is.
And I don’t sense the Lord wanting us to emphasize this this morning to discourage us, certainly, but rather that we have a realistic view of what it costs. Look at what it cost our Savior!
( congregational amens ).
The opposition of sinful men…I mean, everything the Devil could mount against Him, he did. And you know, I was thinking about the very word itself. The word perseverance, does that not suggest that there’s an effort toward an end? You’re not just sitting there, okay, I’m twiddling my thumbs waiting for heaven one day. I am having to put forth some effort and it’s toward a goal. There’s a reason God has called me.
We used the scripture Wednesday night about Paul. You know, I haven’t arrived, “…but I press forward to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (NIV). He laid hold of me for a purpose. There’s something that He wants to do but, in the doing thereof there’s stuff that I need to lay hold of.
Does anybody here have stuff you need to lay hold of this year? See, that’s what this is about. The Lord wants to bring us into possession of more of what He has provided for us. Thank God, that’s everything that we could possibly need to fulfill His purpose for us. But you and I…every single one here, that knows Him, there’s stuff, there’s ground that we need to take.
And I just want to say…I guess, how do I put this? Just think about the things that oppose us. Well, I was talking about perseverance. There is a race. There is something that we are going for. It’s founded upon a hope. Not just, I’ve got to do this. This is not a hamster wheel that we’re on. It goes someplace.
But there is a literal hope that if I go down this road, there’s something at the end that’s worth everything! It’s worth leaving everything behind so that I can have that.
See, anything short of that is short of the Gospel. Folks, we don’t hang on to the world and go after that, too. It’s one or the other. It’s a very clear demarcation between the two, in the scriptures.
But the fact that he emphasizes perseverance, does that not also emphasize the fact that there’s gonna be a lot of stuff that’s gonna try in every way to hinder us and to hold us back and to stop us, if it could? We’ve got a Devil that is absolutely determined to put a roadblock in everybody’s way.
It’s interesting that he…the writer here talks about the things hinder, but, “…the sin that so easily entangles….” I just want to say to everybody here, starting with me, whatever besetting sin, whatever thing is a weakness in your life, that you have tended to yield to, you will be tempted. We will be tempted this year! Don’t expect to slide by. Don’t expect that it’s just gonna magically…you’re gonna magically stop being tempted. Jesus wasn’t…the temptation only ended for Jesus when He took a strong stand against it, and it was not effective.
But I’ll guarantee for everyone here, there are areas of our lives that God is dealing with and He’s working on. I know that there are in mine. Absolutely! There are areas that I don’t tend to be as victorious as I’d like to be, as I need to be. I don’t think I’m the only one.
( congregational response ).
See, this is something that…and you will be tempted. And God wants to bring us to a place where we experience more of the victory that He gave us. You know, He talks about the fact that when He died, we died with Him. And the way we gain victory is by reckoning on that, believing it, acting as if it’s really true.
You know, I’ve used this illustration in the past, I think, many times. If you have a dead person lying here…let’s say we have a funeral and it’s the kind with a casket. You don’t see many of those anymore. But you have somebody who’s literally lying in a box. Their body is there.
And somebody…Donald comes along and blows a trumpet. Okay? Now, we who are alive will hear that, and we’ll react. What’s going on? But that person that’s lying there won’t react. Now, it’s not that the trumpet stops blowing, but rather, that person is dead to that. They don’t respond to it anymore.
See, if you are waiting, in your Christian life, for a time when the temptation will just be gone, it won’t be there anymore. Good luck! In this life, that ain’t gonna happen! Your body still wants all the wrong things. It’s not gonna stop trying to holler. It’s not gonna stop blowing its trumpet to say, pay attention to me, feed me.
But what the Lord wants to do in every one of us is begin to teach us to stand up to that and say, wait a minute, I don’t have to listen to that. I died in Christ. And I’ll tell you, the more we reach up to Him and believe Him and ask Him, I believe He’s going to give us the strength to where that just won’t have its affect—that won’t have this affect that it does.
Sin is very addicting. We think of things like alcohol and drugs, for example, as very addicting because they have a physical appeal that just cries out for more. But how many of you are willing to admit that that’s true of every sin?
( congregational amens ).
Every sin is addicting. You give into it and it’s easier the next time to give in, and harder to say no. I’ll tell you, we have no reason to look down on anybody who happens to be hooked on one of those other things. Every one of us needs victory over sin! And Christ has promised that.
And I believe with all my heart, He wants us to be further down the road, at the end of this year, than we are right now. But we’re gonna have to go through some things. We’re gonna have to face those temptations. And many times, those temptations will come when you’re at your weakest point.
The Lord is gonna teach us to trust in Him, to look to Him, and to find that victory. Every one of you is gonna be tempted. Every one of us is gonna be tempted this year. Every one of us is gonna go through dry times. The Lord has not promised us that we’re gonna always feel goosebumps serving the Lord, that joy is just gonna flow out of us all the time, and if it isn’t, something is wrong!
But I think those of us who’ve served the Lord any length of time, you know that there are times when your emotions will be dead, as far as the things of the Lord are concerned! You will have nothing to look into and say, I feel like serving the Lord. Everything will be contrary, and you can’t even work it up, sometimes. And the Lord withdraws His presence. Does that mean He’s left us?
( congregational response ).
No! Because He’s promised He would never leave us, never forsake us. But I’ll tell you, there are times when He doesn’t make His presence known, because we’re not called to walk by feelings, and all those kinds of outward things. We’re gonna have to learn how to exercise faith in those times. And so, I guarantee there’s gonna be times like that. Don’t you be dismayed when they come.
You know, I mentioned the fact that we’re unique. Don’t you look around at other people and start comparing yourself with them. God wants every one of us to learn how to persevere in those kinds of circumstances. You’re gonna have sadness come into your heart, sometime. Something’s gonna happen that will really…maybe it’ll rock your boat, something you didn’t expect, and there’s gonna be trouble in your life that you’re gonna have to face.
Do you think God just went to sleep and the Devil slipped in? I’ll tell you, there’s a God who knows what to do and when to do it to accomplish His purposes. And when He does those things, what is He wanting from us? Wanting trust, He’s wanting faith, He’s wanting a persistence to say, I don’t care what happens, I don’t care what it costs. If it costs me my life, that’s where I’m going. But there will come those times. Don’t you be dismayed when they come.
There will come conflicts between you and other people! Particularly, the Devil wants to sow discord among the brothers and sisters. I don’t have anything particular in mind in this, but I’m just saying, these are principles. The Devil will attack this church in every way that he knows how to do it! God wants us to have an awareness, an alertness!
Didn’t Peter say, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” (KJV). God wants a people who are alive and awake, who realize they’re in a battle, realize that there’s a road to walk that this world will oppose you in every possible way! But we can walk it, because we’re not alone.
But it calls for people who are willing to pick up their foot and say, I’m going forward with Jesus, no matter what. But boy, it’s hard sometimes when…the Lord knows our weaknesses and so does the Devil. And if you’ve got a weakness with people and attitudes and those kinds of things, the Devil is gonna allow someone to push your button…the Lord’s gonna allow someone to push your button, the Devil’s gonna cause them to.
And the Lord wants us to learn how to let go and let God have His way. Let Him work. Learn to be the person that He created you to be. He created us to be in the image of His Son. Praise God!
You know, some of us have been down the way long enough and we reach a point in our lives and we say, oh my God, this is impossible. Well, you know, the fact is, if you’ve reached that point, you might have an advantage over somebody who thinks they can handle it, because the truth is, it is impossible. But I’ll tell you, there’s a God who knows how to bring us through.
I mean, you look at some of the examples in scripture of the people and all the things that they went through. Abraham and Noah, and you go down the list. You think of what Abraham had to do. What was the thing that kept motivating him? He believed God’s promises! God’s promise trumped everything!
And even though he wobbled, and struggled a little bit in his faith…there were times he tried to do things on his own and it didn’t work out like he thought it would. Always the bottom line, he came back to this. God, You promised and I am banking my entire existence on the truthfulness of Your promise! Folks, that’s what it takes! That’s what the Kingdom of God is about.
You know, I thought about the example that we’ve used so many times of the parable that Jesus told about the four kinds of soil, four kinds of people that hear the Word of the Gospel, but they respond differently. And of course, the one just has no capacity, whatsoever, to hear it. Our world is getting more and more full of people like that, who have heard and rejected. And their hearts are hard. The Word makes no impact on their lives whatsoever.
But there are two classes of people who actually seem to receive the Word, and yet, when you look down the road, it doesn’t really come out like it should. Is that right? One of them is on rocky soil. And it’s soil where the deep issues of the heart have never been confronted. Self is still on the throne down here. Okay? And that’s never been really identified and confronted.
The person has never become aware…oh, my God, the problem is not just stuff I’ve done and this little fault and that little fault, the problem is me. I am totally unfit for the Kingdom of God! I need my heart changed. I need a new heart and a new spirit. I need the reality…I need a miracle that only God can perform!
I’ll tell you, you have somebody that just…they hear the benefits of the Gospel, they feel the presence of the Lord and they enjoy that, and they say, oh yeah, that’s for me! But in the parable, what happens? After a while it gets hard. You see? That’s just the way it is. If you’re gonna serve God in this world, it’s gonna get hard. You’re gonna have hardness to deal with.
But these people, they say, wait a minute, I didn’t bank on this! That’s not what I want. I’d love the idea of Jesus loving me and forgiving my sins and taking me to heaven one day, and so I’m glad to ‘add’ Jesus to my life. You understand what I’m saying? It’s my life. It’s still my life, but I’m gonna add Him, because of the benefits I get from Him. And it doesn’t work.
And one of the reasons…one of the functions, if you will, in the purpose of God of allowing…of causing us to have to fight, causing us to have to press through, and stand in the face of all kinds of opposition, is to eliminate people like that. Because they have no place...if that hard heart has never been conquered, if self is on the throne, they have no place in that Kingdom! God is gonna conquer us through the Gospel. His Word is real! His purpose is real.
But there was another kind, wasn’t there? And…the seed went in among thorns. There was other stuff that grew. You’ve got another example of somebody that tried to add Jesus to their life. I’ve all kinds of things I’m interested in. I’m building a business. I’m doing this. This is what my life is about. And they hear about Jesus and yeah, go ahead, I’ll add that.
Man, you don’t add Jesus to your life in any shape or form, because if your heart is in this world, that’s what will define your life, that’s what will define your destiny. We live here in this world, and God can help us to get along in it, but I’ll tell you, if your heart is here, this is what matters to you the most, God will arrange the circumstances where you will say forget this, this is what I want.