How to Get Back Up and Keep Running the Race
“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” (Hebrews 12:1).
Every believer's life is a spiritual race of sorts, complete with unseen obstacles and potholes of temptation, restful straight-aways and angelic fans. Sometimes, it seems we really crush it! We run like Olympic champions and win at every turn against a treacherous opponent. We can almost hear those heavenly crowds cheering us onward. Other times, we are running like Forrest Gump – shackled by braces, fearful and falling, being pursued and losing badly. We look behind us, stumble over sin, stall out or worse, simply give up.
Remarkably, whether in the worst of races or in the best of races, we always have one fan who never gives up on us, who continues to cheer us onward toward the finish line – the God of Heaven! Our Father sits in the grandstands of heaven, filled with every Bible great who has run their race called life. They are cheering us on, encouraging us with every promise in the Bible, and with testimony after testimony of those heroes of the faith who overcame and won their races against all odds. He is applauding our steps and shouting our names!
So don't let anyone tell you that God is not on your side. And “if God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).
So God shouts run! when we are winning in our race. But also He shouts run! to prevent us from falling on our faces when we are struggling and about to get tripped up by the weights and the sins that so easily entangle us.
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Run Like Joseph
It looks fun... but it’s a fraud!
It promises pleasure...but it produces pain!
It says, "just this once"... but it will addict and enslave!
Run from sin, because the stakes are higher than you know.
But it's an unpopular message in the Church today, one that you're unlikely to find being preached on Sunday morning television. Sin is ultimately deceptive, and at some point we have to pull back the veil and expose it. At some point we must speak again on the importance of holiness and living right, and the necessity of coming out from the world and being separate. It's time we move beyond the glorious truth that sin is forgivable and that there is always abounding grace for confounding sin. While it's absolutely true that where sin abounds, grace abounds much more, we must understand that sin is not without consequence, and that God has called His kids to live a life of consecration. Indeed, we are called to be transformed into the very image of Jesus Christ.
Those heroes of the faith who cheer us onward have left a treasure trove of information on how to run well. They tell us that even when we don’t understand, God has a plan. They tell us that God turns even the pits and the prisons into a part of the plan. They remind us that God works all things together for good, for those that love Him and are called according to His purpose. They help us hold onto hope, so that even our setbacks are just set-ups for comebacks. They show us that God’s silence does not mean God doesn’t see, and that our pain does not mean we are forgotten. They remind us that our days and our steps are indeed ordered of the Lord.
But perhaps no testimony is so inspiring as the Old Testament account of young Joseph, a favorite son of Jacob, who was hated and sold into slavery by his own brothers. Joseph became a slave in the house of a high official in Egypt named Potiphar. After he ran away from the advances of Potiphar's wife (Genesis 39:6b-21), he was unjustly accused of wrongdoing and was thrown into prison.
“She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house” (Genesis 39:12).
Now Mrs. Potiphar was an Egyptian desperate housewife who liked what she saw in Joseph. But for Joseph, it was the perfect storm. It was the perfect plot for a scandalous story: a young, handsome man, who had a back story that gave him every reason to doubt the goodness of God and His plan, and who could better his daily life by compromising... just a bit.
You could almost hear the devil's lies...Nobody is around. Nobody will know and it will be fun. It will give me even more run of the household. I will have everything I need or want. But Joseph knew the devil is a liar.
Don't buy the lie of sin. It always over promises and under delivers. And it will mess you up:
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:12-15).
Sin has consequences to it. It destroys. Most likely, Joseph would never have made it into the palace as Prime Minister, had he not run that fateful day.
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Sin Steals Your Identity
Have you ever noticed how Joseph’s life story revolves around robes – robes that are put on him, and robes that are stripped off of him?
In ancient cultures, robes were symbolic of a person's particular station in life. That is, the robe you wore defined you, almost like a uniform.
As a boy, his father put a robe of many colors on him, which identified him as the favorite son. Then his brother’s stripped it from him, identifying him as the hated brother.
As a servant in Potiphar’s house, he wore a robe identifying him as Chief Steward of his master’s estate. It might seem prestigious, but it was still a slave's robe.
And did you notice what happened when Joseph ran from sin? Potiphar’s wife stripped him of his robe! The robe Joseph was destined to wear was a royal robe in the Egyptian palace. The slave robe of Chief Steward was better than naked in a pit or prison, but it was still a slave's robe, with a slave's identity. If Joseph had not run from Potiphar’s wife, it's likely he would have remained a slave for the rest of his life.
When he ran, he went from the ragged robe of a slave to one of the royal robes of the palace.
God's kids are not meant to be slaves to sin. We are the children of the King, a member of the royal family of Heaven. Our identity should be one of an overcomer, a new creation, a masterpiece. We are blessed in coming and going, more than conquerors, full of joy and walking in victory, and wearing the robes of righteousness as ambassadors of Jesus Christ in this world!
But if we remain in sin, we exchange the robe of righteousness for the robe of slavery. Sin makes us forget who we are; it steals our joy and confidence before God, and strips us of our identity in Christ. And it places on us a robe of shame we were never meant to wear.
Don’t let sin steal your identity. Don’t let it keep you captive to less than what God has designed for you. Run from sin and become everything you were destined to be!
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Sin Will Stop You from Being in the Right Place at the Right Time
Did you notice what happened as a result of Joseph running from sin? Answer: he got put in prison!
Wait a minute Pastor, that’s not supposed to happen...
When we run from sin, we are supposed to get blessed.
When we run from sin, God is supposed to step in and reward our decision.
Things are supposed to get better!
The truth is, there is a price to running from sin. You might lose some friends along the way. You might have to exit some relationships that are pulling you down, or walk away from a job that's asking you to cut corners. You might not get the blessing that is dangled in front of you, to entice and persuade. There is sometimes a price to pay for saying no to sin.
But remember this – the price you may pay will never be as great as God's reward!
At first, Joseph experienced what seemed like a setback in his life because of his decision to run away from sin. But God turned that setback around for Joseph's good, and that setback became a set up for the ultimate come back!
In fact, if Joseph had not run from sin, he would not have been put into prison. He would not have met and befriended the palace butler and baker, and his gift of dream interpretation would never have been told to Pharaoh. He would not have been elevated to second in command over Egypt at a time of great need, and he would not have been in position to save his father and brothers from a great famine.
If Joseph had not run from sin, he would not have been in the right place at the right time.
“For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).
Not running from sin is a sure fire way to miss out on the opportunities God has prearranged for you to enjoy in life!
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Sin Stands in the Way of Your Destiny
Why did the enemy try to take down Joseph through the enticements of his master's wife? Was Joseph ransacking the enemy's kingdom and destroying all his works? Was he a mighty preacher bringing people to salvation and an arch enemy of Hell? No. Joseph appeared to have been made harmless by his circumstances. However, there was still an unfulfilled, divine destiny hanging over Joseph, revealed to him through two God-given dreams. The devil knew it, and sent Mrs. Potiphar to stand in the way of this divine destiny.
But Joseph never forgot, and when he revealed himself to his brothers, he shared what he'd learned about the fulfillment of his destiny:
“God sent me before you to preserve a posterity for you in the earth, and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So now it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Genesis 45:7-8).
Joseph said I was given a dream to make me aware of my assignment. And the greatest choice that I ever made was to run from the clutches of sin and tentacles of temptation. Because when I ran, I ran into my destiny.
Don’t let sin stop your destiny, or short circuit God’s plan for your life.
Run. No matter what you have to leave behind or struggle through. You may lose friends, they may even gossip about you. But what lies before you is greater than what you leave behind you.
You have a destiny to fulfill; you have a purpose for which you have been created.
The heroes of Heaven are shouting from the grandstands! God is calling your name and cheering you on: Run, and experience who I've destined you to be!
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Frank Santora is Lead Pastor of Faith Church, a multi-site church with locations in Connecticut and New York. Pastor Frank hosts a weekly television show, “Destined to Win,” which airs weekly on the Hillsong Channel and TBN. He has authored thirteen books, including the most recent, Modern Day Psalms and Good Good Father. To learn more about Pastor Frank and this ministry, please visit www.franksantora.cc. Photo by Michele Roman.