“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls” (Hebrews 12:1–3, NKJV).
This passage of Scripture speaks of a great race that each of us is called to run. When you came to Christ and He became your Lord and Savior, God’s Holy Spirit came to dwell inside your physical body. In other words, you became the temple of the living God. You were born again by the Spirit of God, and the old things in your life that once governed and hindered you began to pass away. Now you have become a new creation—with new strength, new thoughts, a new heart, and a new mind. A life of supernatural possibility has been opened to you, for God has purposed to glorify His name on the earth through you. That is why you and I are still here; that is the purpose of the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth. We are to be an irrefutable, living testimony to the reality of God’s incredible love that sent His Son to a cross for all humanity.
Therefore, in a day when morality is failing, civility is quickly becoming a thing relegated to the past, family breakups are common, and teenagers are living in debauchery, it is imperative that you and I run with endurance this race that is set before us. Yes, we are running it together, but each of us still has our own individual part to play. The race we are called to run will often involve a pathway that looks impossible. Indeed, it is impossible in the natural. But remember, God is not calling us to do anything in our own strength. Jesus made a way for us to run this race by triumphing over evil; He made impossibility possible through the victory He won at Calvary. And now the Lord is simply calling us to be the vessels through whom He will carry His own name to glory. All He requires of us is a willingness to believe Him.
Of course, knowing these things does not necessarily make it easy to run this race. I often have days that are tough, and it is evident in the Scriptures that those who have gone before us have had to experience very difficult days as well.
For example, consider David—a man who was appointed by God to be a king. David was only a boy when the prophet Samuel took a horn of oil and anointed him in front of all his brothers (see 1 Samuel 16:13). David knew that he was being set apart for the purposes of God, appointed to lead the people of Israel. His heart was filled with incredible promise and vision for the future. Yet right away he was sent back out to continue looking after his father’s sheep. One day, a lion came into the little flock of sheep that he was protecting and grabbed a lamb in its mouth. Suddenly the Holy Spirit came upon David, and he was given the power to grab the lion by its mane and kill it. How stunning that hidden victory must have been! On another occasion, a bear came up against him, and he was empowered to defeat it as well. David was later sent by his father to check on his brothers during a season when Israel was at war with the Philistines and they were being taunted daily by a giant called Goliath. While the rest of the Israelite army stood paralyzed by fear, the Holy Spirit came upon David once again. He courageously ran into the valley and won a marvelous victory over Goliath! By that point, it must have seemed as if things were only going to get better until the promise and purpose of God for his life were fulfilled.
However, things soon took a turn, and David found himself being pursued like “a partridge in the mountains” (see 1 Samuel 26:20). That is when he penned Psalm 18. “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men made me afraid. The sorrows of hell compassed me about: the snares of death prevented me” (Psalm 18:4–5). David was essentially saying, “In every direction I looked, all I saw was my inability to finish what I felt I was called to do. I could not see a way forward. I had no idea how God’s call on my life was ever going to be accomplished.”
How many of you know that feeling? Perhaps you started out running the race with zeal, experiencing victory after victory. You knew that God was with you, for there was no way you could have won those battles without His strength. Bondages in your life were broken and you entered into new realms of freedom. God gave you the power to be honest when nobody else was telling the truth; He enabled you to respond graciously when people were unkind to you. Soon you began to conclude, “Wow, God really does have a supernatural call on my life!”
However, suddenly one day you found yourself being pursued by the enemy. David started off by running a race that he was convinced would bring glory to God. When he ran into the valley to face Goliath with only a sling and five stones, it was as if he was saying in his heart, “The name of God must be honored!” And so it is hard to fathom that David eventually began running in the opposite direction. He started in the supernatural, but he came to a point when he turned to his natural reasoning. “David said in his heart, ‘Now I shall perish someday by the hand of Saul. There is nothing better for me than that I should speedily escape to the land of the Philistines’” (1 Samuel 27:1). This, of course, was only false reasoning. The promise of God that he was going to be the next ruler of Israel still stood.
Sadly, many people in our generation are doing a similar thing. They start out running for God with an inner desire to bring glory to His name— only to eventually find themselves facing opposition that they cannot understand. You see, the grievous error that many Christians tend to make is somehow assuming that they are going to go through this life unopposed. As a result, they end up crafting an alternate plan and running an alternate race, venturing into a place other than where God called them to go.
You and I cannot afford to do this in this hour. It is imperative that we recognize the significance of the moment in which we live. Take a moment to consider the fact that after more than two thousand years of Christian history, it has come down to you and me! We have had all the teaching, all the stories, all the biographies; everything we have been through has been meant to prepare us for this very moment in history. You and I are now called to run behind all those who have gone before us to fulfill this great calling of God on each of our lives.
I feel almost as if we are a football team, and I am your coach for this moment, giving you a pep talk in the locker room: “We are going to go out onto the field, and we are going to be opposed. Yet, remember that we are a superior team with a superior strategy. We have been well trained, and the weapons of our warfare are not like theirs; our weapons are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds. We have been given power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt us. We are going out on the field, and we are going to be victorious! There will surely be a shout of glory at the end of this match!”
Can you picture the typical scene right before the beginning of a football game? The team comes out of the locker room, full of excitement. They walk down a long corridor with cement walls on either side, and at the end of the corridor is a paper wall. Now at the beginning of NFL and college games, the team has to break through the paper wall. They cannot even see the field until they do so. How incredible it would be if an NFL team were to burst out of the locker room, run with confidence down the corridor, and then stop at the paper wall! Imagine if they were to just stand there staring at it, not believing that it could be breached. Instead, they somehow have it in their minds, “We can’t get through this.” Oh, how foolish that would look! We would be crying from the stands, “Go forward! Go forward! It is only paper!”
In a similar way, our opening Scripture in Hebrews tells us of a great crowd of witnesses who surround us. I can just hear these saints calling out to us—not only the ones from before Christ, but those who have come after. They have all gone through the flood and through the fire; they have known the triumph of God. Now they see the full picture of who God is and what He is able to do. I don’t know if they can actually see planet Earth, but if they could, they would be up in the stands, shouting, “Run! Don’t give up. You have a great call of God on your life! Don’t give in to the lies of the enemy or the threats of darkness.
Don’t be silent in a time when God has given you the power of speaking His words. Don’t cower under the darkness of this world which is soon to pass away.” These witnesses know that before we even begin, the victory is ours. Whatever the devil sets before us is only paper, and it cannot stop us! The only thing that can stop us is unbelief. Think about the children of Israel who came out of bondage in Egypt. They personally witnessed the miracles that God did to release them from the hand of Pharaoh. They experienced the parting of the Red Sea and they were sovereignly led by God’s cloud by day and pillar of fire by night. Yet they suddenly stopped at the very border of the Promised Land—hindered by what was only a paper wall! Filled with fear and unbelief, they concluded, “We are not able to go in! There are giants in the land who are so much stronger than us; we are grasshoppers in our own sight and in theirs, as well!” (see Numbers 13:33). If you and I could shout to them down through history, we would say, “Go, it’s yours for the taking! The defenses have departed from the enemy. Yes, they may oppose you, but they will not overcome you!” Yet the children of Israel ultimately succumbed to the lie of the enemy and refused to go in. They forfeited the race and instead lived in the wilderness for the rest of their lives.
When you do not go into the plan of God for your life, you will live in the wilderness all of your days. Heaven may be your home at the end of your journey, but you will not know the miraculous power of God. You will never know the satisfaction of walking with Him through places that only He could carry you. You will go from church to church; you will blame the preachers and the people. But the reality is that you simply would not go through your own paper wall. You refused to walk in the place of the miraculous that God had set before you.
And so the question that God put on my heart for you today is: What has the devil written on your paper wall? “You are not strong enough. You are not smart enough. You are a loser. You have always been a loser, and you will never be anything other than what your father or your mother was.” On some people’s walls, the enemy just draws bricks and makes it look impenetrable. Nevertheless, it is still only paper. You and I must lay hold of the fact that there is nothing the devil can put before us that can stop us from being what God has called us to be. The only thing he can do is write these things on our wall and try to get us to agree with him.
All the while, there is a shout coming from the upper tiers of heaven’s stadium—from those who have faced the same taunts of the enemy throughout history but have found them to be false and powerless. They are telling you and me, “Go through that paper wall. Go through whatever you have to go through. Don’t stop at this place of unbelief. No matter what the devil writes on your wall, he is a liar!” I say that we have been in the locker room long enough.
It is time for all of us to put on the armor of God, head down that corridor, and breach that paper wall. The devil may write whatever he wants, but he is not keeping us out of this end-time game. Not only are we going in, but we are going to fight, and we are going in to win! We are going in, believing every word God has spoken to us and empowered to do everything He has trained us to do.
Whatever the devil is insisting is stronger than the power of the Holy Spirit within you; whatever he has written on your paper wall that has kept you from wholeheartedly entering this battle for the souls of men—I encourage you to run right through it today! Don’t let these things hinder you any longer. Don’t let all your training end up being in vain. Make the choice to believe God. Even if your own heart condemns you, remember the Bible tells us that God is greater than our hearts.
He is going to give us the strength we need to be a part of this end-time battle for the souls of men. You and I are going in, knowing even before we start the battle that our victory is certain. We are more than conquerors through Christ, and we will see Him glorified once again in our generation!
Carter Conlon ©2015 Times Square Church