1984 a man named Juan Melendez was arrested and imprisoned.
He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for murder.
His alibi wasn't believed. He professed his innocence
and yet he went to death row. In 2002, Juan Melendez was
released from prison. A man who went by the name of Puerto
Rico Johnnie, his real name is Vernon James, confessed
to the crime and DNA evidence proved that he in fact did
commit the crime. Juan Melendez served 18 years in prison
as an innocent man. He was asked, "what are you going
to do now that you are leaving prison." He replied,
"I am going to look for the first time in 18 years
at the stars and the moon. I am going to hold a baby in
my arms again. I am going to feel green grass."
are people today who have been imprisoned with feelings
of inadequacy and self doubt. Today, I have a message
that I hope will turn your feelings into facts and create
for you a base upon which you can build an understanding
and a realization of who you are as a child of God. It
begins with the promises. The promises that we have in
the Bible are true and are real and you can hold on to
them. They tell us who we are as children of God, created
in His image. And so the scripture we have is the following:
"Therefore, since we
are surrounded by such a great crowd 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, the perfector of our faith, before the joy
set before him, endured the cross, scorned into 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." (Hebrews
can't think of a better list of instructions on how to
live a positive, happy life than to follow the instructions
that are listed in scripture as clear and as concise as
you can possibly imagine.
Throwing off everything that hinders you.
Run the race with perseverance.
Fix your eyes on Jesus.
Never lose heart.
begins very simply and clearly by "throw off everything
that hinders and the sin that entangles." We hear
the word sin and we immediately think of all the bad things
we have done. We have this perception of sin as the bad
things we do, but the reality is the sin that comes and
penetrates our hearts and our minds isn't the sins that
we do. That is a reaction. Sin is a break in our relationship
with God. We need to understand who we are in relationship
to God, so that we can put off the sin, the misconceptions
and misunderstandings of who we are, and be the person
that God created us to be.
are the sins that continue to try and invade our minds?
They are the sins of worthlessness, the sins of I am of
no value, the sins of you are a failure, the sins you
shouldn't have done this and that, and could have done
this and that, and the should have's, would have's, could
look at the father of positive thinking, Dr. Norman Vincent
Peale. He talks about how he had to constantly struggle
with his self doubts. It reminds me of the illustration
where a little girl hears the garbage man coming so she
runs into the house saying "Mommy, Mommy, the garbage
man is here." The little girl's mother responds saying,
"oh, just tell him we don't want any, thanks."
When negative thoughts come into our minds, this sinful
nature which does not belong to us, we need to say, "thanks
but no thanks, we don't want any garbage today."
We need to take the garbage and put it in the dump where
it belongs and get it out of our lives and start living
with the mindset that God created us to have. The scripture
tells us to "throw off everything that hinders and
the sin that so easily entangles." The scripture
continues by telling us to "run with perseverance the race marked out for us."
Did you hear that? There is a race specifically designed
just for you to run. Every single human being on planet
earth has been created with gifts and skills that are
unique to that individual. It is no secret that every
single one of us has a unique fingerprint. We can distinguish
every single human being by their fingerprints. The same
is true with the hairs on your head, the structure of
your face, the shape of your feet, you are totally and
completely unique. There is not another human being on
planet earth who is exactly like you. God, in His miraculous
ability, can do that a hundred billion times. God will
continue to create uniqueness and every single one of
us has been given a race to run. It is up to us to run
that race. Ephesians 4:1 puts it this way. "As a prisoner for the
Lord then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling
you have received."
has given you a special calling. He has made you with
special unique talents. Some people call them quirks.
The negative garbage comes in and you think, "oh,
I have quirks." But the Bible refers to them as a
special calling. Ephesians 4:2 says, "Be completely
humble and gentle, be patient, bearing with one another
in love." As you notice these quirks in other people,
recognize them for what they are. Recognize them as unique
gifts that God has given to them to run special races.
Special talents. It was Christ who gave some to be apostles,
some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some
to be pastors and teachers, only to list a few. The list
goes on and on and on.
have spiritual gifts tests that are available. You can
take these spiritual gifts tests and you can discover
what God has gifted you with spiritually. There are ways
to discover what God has done for you, what God is doing
for you, and what God will do for you. So we begin by:
throwing off everything that hinders,
continue by running the race marked out for you;
fixing your eyes on Jesus the author and the perfector
of our faith.
never lose heart
are raised as children and the natural instinct of a child
is to be self centered. One of the first things a toddler
learns and one of the first words they understand is "mine,
me, mine, me." Unfortunately, there are some people
who continue throughout life still living as a child.
The Bible tells us we have to put away childish things
and I think this is what it means. We still want to be
childlike but not childish. The way we grow up out of
our child nature, is to realize that we are not the center
of the universe. It has been a plague of society since
the beginning of creation. In fact, only a few hundred
years ago did we discover that the earth is not the center
of the world and the sun does not rotate around the earth.
I still have a difficult time comprehending the fact that
the sun doesn't go around the earth! I see that sun go
up and down and around every day and it looks to me like
it is going around my earth. Yet, science tells me otherwise.
I believe the science, I believe the mathematics, and
I know my human nature wants the sun to go around me even
though that is not how it works. The divine nature is
that I must go around the sun.
is the center. Not until we realize that we have to get
off the throne of our lives and put Jesus on the throne,
will our life begin to become manageable and understandable
and real. Jesus wants to be the center of your life so
that you can grow up and become the mature human being
that He has called you to be. Allow Him to be the center.
Get off the throne and establish a relationship with other
people who indeed look at the center of Jesus Christ as
who He is and understand that we can fix our eyes on Jesus,
the author and the perfector of our faith. Having fixed
our eyes on Jesus, we run the race. The scripture passage
ends with these wonderful words:
Him, Jesus Christ, who endured such opposition from sinful
men so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
must never lose heart but we must keep on keeping on,
keep on striving, keep on realizing that the temptations
will come. Temptations will try and tear down our self
esteem and our self respect and our self dignity and try
and tell us things that we are not. The facts are that
you are a unique person created in the image of God. The
facts are that you are one of God's chosen people. The
facts are that you are loved by God. The facts are that
Jesus saved you from evil. The facts are that you will
live forever with Jesus in the center of your life. The
facts are you have nothing to fear. The facts are that
you can have confidence with Jesus. These facts are pillars
in our lives that do not change like our feelings. When
those feelings come that say, "you do not have any
value," we can refer back to these tremendous facts
and as we continue to repeat these facts, then the feelings
1) Throw off everything that hinders;
2) Run with perseverance the race marked
out for you.
3) Fix your eyes on Jesus.
4) Never lose heart
wants to be the center of your life and wants to allow
you to mature and become the person he has called you
to be; and, then simply never lose heart. Run the race
that God has called you to run no matter what happens.
There are going to be problems. It is a guarantee. You
are going to run into struggles, I promise. Despite the
struggles you must run the race to the best of you ability
never losing heart!
1924, Erick Little went to the Olympics. He was a runner,
one of the greatest runners that ever lived. He ran the
100 yard dash, the 220, and the 440. He never heard of
steroids. He was without question a man of unbelievable
strength and speed. He was running the 440 and as everyone
took off some other runners were jockeying for the inside
track for their favorite position. Their feet became entangled
with some runners falling and Eric Little found himself
on the ground behind the pack. Eric pulled himself up
and he kept running. With a hundred yards left he found
himself in 4th place. At the last minute, he
stuck out his chest as he crossed the line and he took
first place in the 1924 Olympics in the 440 after falling
to his knees. Historians said it was the most incredible
thing they had ever seen. It was miraculous. The medics
had to literally carry him off the field. That is running
with heart! Giving it all you've got, doing what God has
called you to do. Therefore, throw off everything that
hinders you. Don't allow the garbage man to deliver garbage
in your mind. Simply tell him I don't want any today.
Run the race that God has marked out for you. Fixing your
eyes on Jesus, the center of your life and then simply
never lose heart. Keep on striving day after day, mile
after mile, year after year, knowing the facts.
know the facts. Repeat them with me.
1) I am a child of God.
2) I am created for a purpose.
3) I am loved by God.
4) Jesus saves me from all evil.
5) I will live forever with Jesus.
6) I have nothing to fear.
7) I have confidence through Jesus.
8) I am GodíŽs chosen one.
9) I am holy through Christ.
10) I am complete with Christ.
These are the facts. Don't ever let anybody or any feelings
tell you different!
Heavenly Father, we thank You that You are the God of
creation. You created us so unique and so special. We
thank you that we can be in this place today surrounded
with this crowd of witnesses and we can proclaim our faith
in Your goodness. So keep our minds fixed on You, on Your
love for us, and may we forever walk with You our Lord,