Hebrews 12:1-2 (TLB)
Since we have such a huge crowd of men of faith watching us from the grandstands, let us strip off anything that slows us down or holds us back, and especially those sins that wrap themselves so tightly around our feet and trip us up; and let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us. Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy he knew would be his afterwards; and now he sits in the place of honor by the throne of God.
Living most of my life in Florida, I cannot count the number of trips to the ocean I have taken. Stepping into the salty surf, waves crashing over me as I wade along digging my toes in the sand and shells. My children run out calling to their dad to go with them. He is fearless when it comes to such things and will go well past where he can feel the bottom beneath him. I am always wondering what might be just below the surface beyond where my eyes can see. Not a fan of things that may be below, I tread cautiously. There have been times when it seems like the bottom falls out and suddenly I cannot touch anymore. Rather than gradually getting deeper, the current has made the drop more dramatic and I go from waist deep to up to my shoulders. Catching my breath, I can feel the cooler water that comes with it and sometimes I panic a bit as I make my way back to where my feet can touch again. It may only be six or seven feet deep but it feels like I have fallen into a great abyss.
An abyss is a deep immeasurable space, gulf or cavity. A vast chasm. It can be anything profound, unfathomable or infinite. Okay, here is where I find myself. In the deep, profound, unfathomable, and infinite things of God. Sometimes it is too profound for my mind to fully comprehend, too unfathomable to see from my perspective and too infinite to fully wrap my head and heart around. This is the life of faith. The place where we feel called but treading into seems a bit overwhelming. Wading out yet running back when the unknown and unseen greets us. Let us run with patience the particular race that God has set before us. I am finding that this race of faith is no Boston Marathon. I do not see other runners on this course. There is no crushing crowd. Most days it is just the Lord and I some days running, walking and crawling along. We want the things of God. We strive to live God’s Way. We want more faith and confident hope that will cause us to endure to the end. We want to be saved. Lord, help me brave this abyss.
I Corinthians 9:24-27 (TLB)
In a race everyone runs, but only one person gets first prize. So run your race to win. To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best. An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I fight to win. I’m not just shadow-boxing or playing around. Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to. Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside.
There are days when the most dedicated in life reevaluate their course. There are no regrets just wonderings. What if I had done this? Why am I going in this direction? Is there more to life than this? Even in the race of faith, we can get so deep that our sanity is in question. Am I running to win today? Do I want it all? Or am I just jogging along because it is what I do or have always done? Training is rigorous and with a goal in mind. Exercise is a good habit to build a healthy life. But for those who want to win a race, a game or a bout, it must be a lifestyle. Training is their daily routine. Committed to their goal, they do not look to the right or left and cannot be distracted. Sometimes as believers, we forget that salvation and redemption is a life goal not a momentary choice. When I meet Jesus, I do not want to be disqualified. I do not want to be moved aside so others may be ushered in. I want the Lord to greet me, glad that I arrived.
I am an unlikely candidate for this thing called grace. I know me. I have lived this life with many mistakes and imperfections, but yet I dare hope. I can win this race if I keep committed and keep running – you can too. But what about the days when we seem too far gone, finding ourselves seemingly alone in life yet surrounded by many people, when the Voice of God seems still and silent. We feel the cold current moving beneath our feet. Knowing something is happening, but not sure what. We step into the abyss of waiting on the Lord. Will our faith be enough to stay? Will our hope keep us anchored? Will we make it through the test of trust? It is a never ending process. It is the conditioning of our soul to be the sons and daughters of God. If you never feel alone in your waiting, you probably need to move a little deeper. This is not condemnation just conviction speaking from the heart. We are in a rigorous training process that requires leaving it all on the field. If we do not feel empty sometimes we can never be filled. If we do not become weak than we will never be strong. If we do nothing wrong (ha!), where is the need for grace. We have all fallen short, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay there. We just have to wait it out.
Romans 5:1-5 (TLB)
So now, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith in his promises, we can have real peace with him because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us—they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character in us and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady. Then, when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
For many years now, our family has been engaged in a battle for our son’s life. We have fought the good fight of faith and won. He is in remission. I am so overcome with thankfulness. To see him finally living his life again brings joy to this mother’s heart that is overwhelming. Yet, in this time of great rejoicing, I am somewhat lost. Though this challenge is over, I still want to grow. Growth comes through the problems and trials in life endured by faith. I am perplexed because this last one undid me completely. I am not the same. I want more of God but don’t want to go through anything like that again. I came as close as I ever want to be to losing one of my precious children. What will going deeper in the Lord require this time? Trust. I have to trust Him. The same power that brought Jesus out of the grave giving Him total victory over sin, death and the grave is what He has given me to overcome the things of this world. No matter how scary, profound, unfathomable or seemingly infinite the trial, test or problem may be. No matter how deep, unyielding or unending the abyss of waiting may be. My patience have developed a strength of character that I will not know until it is tested over and over again. The goal of this is genuine faith. Faith without holes that will cause me to sink in the storm. Hope that believes until the very end. Trust that is unending even when I am completely undone. All of this leads to many things but it will never lead to disappointment. There is purpose to our struggles. There is meaning to every test.
Ephesians 3:17-19 (TLB)
And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.
The purpose of all this is simple. Jesus wants us to know and experience just how long, how wide, how deep and how high His Love for us really is. He wants us to experience just how profound, unfathomable, and infinite it is so that we will not be moved by life but press deeper into His Love even when we cannot see, understand or breathe through our trials. I am more comfortable and confident in the storm because I know what I am fighting. It is in the quiet abyss of waiting that I am challenged. How about you? God is not silent, He is Sovereign. When He said it, He meant every word. His Love is not changed or challenged by anything we face or our inability to stand. It is revealed in our complete and total weakness that causes us to trust Him just a little bit more day by day. There is purpose in every situation that we face in the course of a moment, day, year and lifetime. God wants to further convince us of the magnitude of His Love. His Ways are not like ours so bear with Him because the Lord cannot change. He must do what He says and His Word will not ever return void. We just have to wait on Him. No matter how long, how alone or how tired we get…just wait a little longer, endure a little harder. Though I may be uncomfortable in the quiet, I know that I have confident hope. He anchors my soul when I just want to run. The Lord holds me in position so He can wrap me tighter in His Love. It’s all about waiting for those who endure to the end will be saved. Following Jesus is not always an adrenaline rush, those are the times that our humanity gets it because we can feel Him. The real test is in the quiet, stillness of waiting…will we trust Him more?
Romans 8:38-39 (TLB)
For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us.