“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
As Christians we are called to live this life with purpose; seeking and serving God in all that we do. Confidently expecting that He will supply to us the power necessary to accomplish His commands and the instructions and wisdom needed to move forward in truth. In His grace, and as encouragement, God also gives us many examples – past and present – of how He has moved in the lives of other faithful servants.
When life begins to overwhelm or discourage us we need only turn back to the Scriptures to find encouragement and direction to increase our endurance, and help us to persevere. Hebrews 12:1-2 packs five powerful commands into two sentences from which we can learn much.
1) We are surrounded by a host of encouragers who have endured long hardships and trials. We can find countless examples of these encouragers throughout the Bible (read Hebrews 11 for some shining examples), as well as those who walked in recent past or are in our midst today. Take time to find out about how God worked in their lives, conformed them to Christ, and worked through them to accomplish His purpose.
2) Lay aside the law and works. Stop trying to please God (and people) and attempting to earn His favor (Galatians 2:15-5:24). You don’t feel worthy because you aren’t. You aren’t measuring up because you can’t. God knows this and meets us exactly where we are at. Relish this freedom. Submit yourself to God, marinade yourself in His grace, lay down your pride and repent of it (James 4:6-10). His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
3) If you aren’t killing sin, sin is killing you. Jesus instructed us that if we are going to pursue Him we must deny ourselves, take up our crosses daily, and then follow Him (Luke 9:23). A cross is an instrument of death. Every day we must be seeking to mortify the sin in our lives. We must acknowledge it, repent of it, and purposely seek to kill it every day. When we don’t it is like putting today’s shirt over yesterday’s shirt, which was placed over the day before yesterday’s shirt, and so on. Sin weighs us down and becomes a hindrance to running our race.
4) In Scripture after Scripture we are called to continue moving forward (walk, run, pursue, follow) in the race that God has set before us. Sometimes however, life gets hard. And our instinct is to seek relief or rest from the stress of the daily grind. We cannot do this. God has you exactly where you are today for a purpose. He has all of the details figured out and has equipped you to fulfill His purpose. You must keep moving forward in His strength and wisdom. Run the race he has set before with joy and don’t worry about how things will conclude or how others seem to have it easier (John 21:18-23). God will see you through and bless you in the doing (James 1:2-8, 25).
5) Keep your eyes focused on Jesus and remember your hope and your home is with Him (John 14:1-3). The wind and the waves of this current storm in your life are but for a moment. Jesus knows all about it and He is with you (Luke 8:22-25). Keep pursuing Him to the very end of your race and your reward will be great.
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 ESV)
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© 2016 Michael Martin