Hebrews 12:1 (NLT) Therefore, 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.
Not really sure how it happened, I guess I was just one bowl of ice cream away from a binge. After working for a long time to establish a good diet and consistent exercise routine, I just stopped. The workout was the first to go. Three or four days at the gym turned to one here and there, which constituted good stewardship and ending our relationship. I quit the gym. But that’s okay, I still had a “good” diet right. I ate healthy for the most part. Well, I did anyway. It did not take long for old habits to come creeping in and late night snacking to take over. Now as I like to joke with others, I have noticed a waist line that resembles a “busted can of biscuits” so it is time to bet disciplined again. It is important to be a good steward in life and that includes our health. I will never be a 5’10” super model with abs of steel. In fact, as I shared with someone yesterday, I am not so sure this model came with abs. I believe that balance in life is mind, body and soul. We cannot be healthy in our soul and it not impact our mind and body. As my soul prospers, so will I in health and other things. (3 John 1:2)
It is with this thought that I am embarking on the journey once again to get my body back under control. I am not a runner. I aspire to be one day just because I believe it to be the ultimate endurance. If you see me running right now, should probably do the same because something is obviously chasing me. However, as I gain endurance, I have learned that running becomes a little bit easier. As my heart gets stronger and lungs learn to breathe under pressure, I am able to go longer and farther without stopping to catch my breath or ease a cramp. Hebrews 12:1 offers excellent advice to those who want to run a marathon or continue in the race of faith. I am interested in both.
“We are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to (our) life of faith…” If I profess with my mouth to be a Christian, the folks around me will immediately place new expectation on me as a person. They will indeed judge me. I know God is our judge, but if we use His Name I believe that to honor Him – we must be conscious of those around us just like Jesus. Jesus was always aware of those around Him. He took notice of the weak. He looked past infirmity to find their purpose. He did not discard those clothed in darkness and filled with hatred. He reached out to them – dismissing that which was hindering them to remind them who they really were. It is easy to build walls of righteousness around us. It is even easier to “work” ourselves in a frenzy in the Name of the Lord. But until we love others like crazy…we have missed the point. Yes, they are watching. Yes, they are evaluating. And yes, they are more than likely judging you. But does it really matter what they “think” as long as in the end they find that the love that never fails. We must be aware of the huge crowd of witnesses – it is every face that we encounter in life.
“Strip off every weight that slows us down…” Our life was very chaotic during the time it took to sell our old house and move into our new home. Our church life is very busy now too as we have become more involved than we were able to be in the past several years. Our kids are on the go. The transition period completely wrecked our schedule and routine. The ordered fell into disorder. When we finally began to establish a new routine, a hurricane came blowing through our community. Now as it all settles, it is time to examine our life and place new priorities on certain things.
I believe it is easy to become undisciplined in areas that once were under strict control. Discipline is not welcomed by our flesh so if we let our guard down it is easy to become distracted. We start eating bad again because fast food does not equal healthy diets. We stop exercising because there are too many other “things” we need to do. We stop reading the Bible because work is overloading us. The prayer closet door remains closed because there is not a moment for ourselves. Church is the last thing on our mind when home is the last place we go. If we do not check the weights in our life and seek the Lord to remain in good order, we will become overloaded, weary, and weak so we give up. People experience burnout not because the burden in their life is too heavy. They burnout because they do not balance their life according to God’s Word and His Way. You can have it all but are not called to do it all.
“Especially sin…” Sin is in everyone’s life no matter how hard one tries to avoid it. No one will ever be without sin. It is human nature. We escape sin only when fully redeemed. The perception of innocence is false. It is by grace we are saved by faith because we will never overcome our battle with sin without Jesus Christ. I find that if I focus on other people’s problems with sin that I somehow fall into it myself. If another person does wrong, and I choose to discuss it with other people – I am a gossip and I have sinned. If a new person comes to church who doesn’t look like a believer, act like a Christian, or dress like the rest of the religious folks, and I look down on them or think of ways to change them OTHER than introducing them to Jesus Christ, well then I sinned again…in church no less. Comparison with anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ will always open the door to sin and darkness. He is our example.
Finally, “run with endurance the race God has set before us…” I aspire to run the marathon at Disney one day called Disney Princess Half Marathon. It supports the Children’s Miracle Network. Participants don tutus and mouse ears running for an excellent charity. Why? I have no idea other than I feel like it is impossible for me to run that far. In order for me to successfully complete the event held in February each year, I must train and run for the other months in order to be prepared. When I (notice my optimism) arrive at the event, they will give me a map of the course and mark it out so that I can follow it. God has set a course for my life. It is in each step from the moment I am born until I leave this world behind and step into eternity. Nothing is wasted or forgotten. He makes good of every detail of my life. (Romans 8:28) There are days when I fall or fail but that is not the end. It is in the rising again that I discover a little more character where my flesh used to be. It is when I push and press against adversity that I discover the overcomer who lives in me. This life is a marathon. It has a clearly marked course. We find it in the Word of God. We work to claim the Will of God. Jesus is the Way of God.
Hebrews 12:2 (NLT) We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.
“Keeping (my) eyes on Jesus…” I am good at getting distracted…the Good Lord only knows. I am surprised that He never put blinders on me. If He did, I would never develop faith. We are called to walk by faith not by sight. A word of warning needs to be interjected here. This is not just about fellow believers or those living in sin and darkness around us. We must be very, very careful not to look at preachers and teachers as our example either. I have heard people quote famous preachers from Billy Graham, Jentzen Franklin, Steven Furtick, and Joel Osteen. I have heard young people quote their leaders, teachers and the like. I challenge you to quote Jesus. To make His Word the authority in your life. To make His Spirit the guide for your life. To stop listening to what everyone else says about Jesus and experience Him one-on-one for yourself. Our encounter with Jesus Christ must be personal to be credible.
“The champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” We are in a process. This process is not a sprint but a marathon. It will always require patience and endurance whether you have them or not. Jesus is the Source of all faith. He is the only way to God the Father. (John 14:6) We cannot bypass faith and collect grace. It is by grace I am saved THROUGH faith. I must believe. I must believe that Jesus Christ has given my victory or how will I ever sell my soul on commitment. What’s the point if the end is uncertain? I can certainly find ways to entertain myself until I die if there is no relevance to Heaven.
“For the joy awaiting Him, He endured the Cross…” We are the joy that awaited Jesus Christ on the other side of the Cross. Do we joy enough in Jesus Christ to endure this life to reach Him on the other side? He gave up everything just to be with me. Yet, on some days, I struggle to give up small things just to be with Him. We will never be committed if find no joy in Jesus Christ. He is ready to satisfy our soul. We must believe that to engage and endure in the marathon of life called the race of faith.
I Corinthians 9:23-26 (NLT) I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings. Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.
I must run with purpose in every step. My life has the potential for constant victory. I can live each day in full satisfaction without disappointment. It requires a discipline in faith that I have not yet achieved but have the potential to do if I give my life to Jesus in each step. My life is recorded by God moment by moment. (Psalm 139) Nothing escaped His Immediate and Divine Attention. It is my inability to remain disciplined and committed that keeps me from fullness and completion in Jesus Christ. He demands my full attention yet I constantly find myself looking to lesser than things and giving them what belongs to God including my energy and time. Thank you Jesus that your Grace is enough for me to get back on track again and again and again. You have a prize for me worth having if I will just discipline myself and devote this life to You.
Philippians 2:13-18 (NLT) For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.
Are you stuck in a rut? Is there a certain part of your life naturally or spiritually that has become a place of discontentment? Are you tired all the time? Do you feel weak and weary? Do you feel like God has moved away from you? Or that Jesus is no longer with you? That’s God. He is working in us giving us the desire and power to do what pleases Him. He will never force us to change but encourages us from deep within. How do I know? You came with a measure of faith that is purposed to grow. When we pray and seek the Lord, it nourishes that seed and it begins to press back against every oppressive thing in its way from full realization. We become discontent. We feel isolated. It seems like we just can’t get ahead. What happens? We begin to dig deeper in His Word, seek out His Face, call on His Name and He comes rushing in to lead us, guide us and direct us to better things. It is God’s Love moving inside of you telling you to get up, dust yourself off and start running again.
“Do everything without complaining and arguing.” Do not speak against the promise that is putting pressure on your life for change by griping all the time. Such conversation is a curse on that promise and alignment with the enemy’s declaration on your life. You are an overcomer. You are a winner. You are a runner. You are a mover. You’ve got things to do that require messing up your routine. You have a purpose that is not on the corporate ladder. You have people to reach so your arms must be emptied of all that extra weight and unnecessary burdens you picked up along the way. God is rearranging our lives to make room for the discipline and commitment that leads to revival and full redemption. “Hold firmly to the Word of Life.” You cannot give up! It is those who endure to the end who are saved. Most mamas want to give up in the process of labor just before the baby is born. It hurts. You are tired. You don’t think you can give any more to the process. It is with that last push something wonderful and perfect emerges in your life. The promise you have waited for all this time is here. God is doing the same in you, my friend. He is birthing a promise more wonderful than any child ever born. It is called faith. It is the one thing that can take you into Eternity to live in His Love forever. We must learn to run and not grow weary. Walk and not fall. We run this race of faith with purpose. Never giving up until we win!
Isaiah 40:30-31 (NLT) Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.