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Surrounded by Encouragers

Surrounded by Encouragers Philippians 3:10-14 Hebrews 12:1-3

Anyone in sports (regardless to whether they’re an athlete, fan, coach or commentator) can testify to the reality of “home field” advantage. And it doesn’t really matter what “sport” we’re talking about... Home field advantage can literally be a game changer.

And stats bear this fact out. Most established teams post a much better winning percentage at home - on their home court or field... compared to games played away or on a neutral site. When a team has a crowd of fanatics (which is where the term “fan” comes from, by the way) cheering them on, they can often outplay their ability.

We’ve all witnessed it... to some degree.

If you followed the Green Bay Packers back in the 1960's then you know how dreaded Lambeau Field was for visiting teams.

The New England Patriots have won almost 85% of their home games at Gillette Stadium over the past 10 years... which is now the #1 home field advantage in the NFL. (October 16, 2018... USA Today)

Who hasn’t heard of Texas A&M... and their tradition of the "12th Man" - the loud and ruckus student section, at Kyle Field.

A couple of the greatest home field victories in all of sports took place less than 30 miles from here, at a cosy little place that seats 87,451 fans... The "Miracle at Jordan-Hare" and the "Kick-Six" we're both credited to home field advantage for Auburn.

Of course, God's Word tells us, that we, too, have a “home field advantage” - we have an audience - a “great crowd” cheering us on - as followers of Christ.

Our main scripture for today, Hebrews 12:1 says (when translated into everyday conversation), “since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (NLT).

Paul was fond of the “running” motif (it was a sports metaphor)... he stressed that living ones life for Christ was more of a marathon than a sprint! It requires endurance... as pretty much anything worth doing, does!

And in keeping with the “sports motif” so-to-speak, have you ever noticed that whether it’s running a race, or playing golf - if it’s football or baseball or basketball - most of the time, people are watching? Lots of eyes are looking on as the contestants - the competitors - are playing. And when you complete a pass, or score a run, or hit a hole-in-one, the crowd goes wild! But... it’s also true, that when you trip, or drop a pass, or fumble the ball... your gaffe/blunder is right there in front of “God and everyone” to see!

Nothing you do is private. You & I always have an audience. The eyes of others are surely upon us... and that can be intimidating for sure.

But heaven is watching, too. Psalm 34:15 & 1 Peter 3:12 tell us, “The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous.” Now I know, such a thought may give us heartburn from time-to-time... but that’s not the intent. God’s ever watchful eye is not meant to freak us out. It’s intended to encourage us... as we “press on toward the goal” of our faith. It’s the Bible’s way of reminding us that we have support... we have a “12th Man”... we have a “fanbase” on our side, that’s pulling for us through thick and thin!

Of course, God knows everything - our reformed faith stresses this in the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. The Bible says, “the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). The Lord doesn’t miss a thing. He knows your ups and your downs, every thought you have, every concern, every victory... everything little thing. And his purpose is to strengthen you... to encourage you!

But you and I are also surrounded by “a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith.”

Moses is watching you. Elijah is cheering you on.

Abraham is on your side. Matthew, Mark, Luke & John are looking on in support! Every believer who has ever lived, are now up in the stands watching you, cheering you on, as you live out your faith. Who comes to mind? Who can you see among all those who gone before us... whose life and love and prayer... are still encouraging us today?

They’re not booing, or heckling, or trying to intimidate us! They’re our fans! They’re intent on seeing us across the finish line!

*When you’re scared, that “Great Cloud of Witnesses” is there, rooting for you to be courageous.

*When you want to give up, they’re urging you to keep going.

*When you feel insignificant and forgotten, they’re in your corner.

Everyone at some point feels like no one believes in them, like they can’t seem to get a break or do anything right. When you feel like that, remember you’re never alone. Your heavenly cheering squad believes you can do hard things with God’s help.

I wonder... how many of the thing we’ve longed to do, and have felt called to do, could be accomplished if we’d only listen to our encouragers instead of our distractors.

Which reminds me, by the way! We don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to see the crowd cheering us on. They’re right here, too. In this church. Isn’t it our job to encourage and support and love one another - as we strive to serve Christ with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength?

I wonder if there’s someone beside us right now who needs our support... who needs some encouragement... a prayer... a pat on the back? Surely we all know someone (a friend, relative, or neighbor) who needs us to just let them know, they’re not alone. They can make it... that joy... and hope... and victory... are right in front of us, if we don’t give up.

“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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he 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 sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

This is the Word of God for the people of God... Thanks be to God. Amen.

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