Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV) 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.
New Year’s Resolutions. Making better choices. Forming new habits. After the first of the year, I am going to (fill in the blank). Some are preparing to do the annual Daniel Fast that many churches participate in each year. Considering my life and the coming year, there are some things that I would like to do better and become more disciplined in. Personal choices that will benefit my life in positive ways. However, as I consider the spiritual aspect of my life, it is here that I am led. Hebrews 12 doesn’t talk about God doing a new thing in my life or even in me. It is about endurance. To continue the course already laid before us and finish the race of faith. Oh, but new beginnings are much more exciting. New people. New places. Fresh starts.
We are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. This reminds me of marathon races where there are people along the way watching at checkpoints. They do not hear the pistol shot at the start or see the finish line, but still wait and watch for the runners to pass by. These are the witnesses of the struggle as flesh rivals faith. When runners consider giving up, and must dig deep to carry on. The place where sweat is overcome by tears as muscles scream and chests heave. What do these witnesses see in God’s People?
As 2018 approaches, I feel the need for change. There are some cycles that need to be broken so new seasons will emerge. However, the Lord is not instructing us to leave the present course. Give up on this race and enter another. He is not telling us to move on but keep going. We must set aside the heavy burdens and weights to yoke our life to Christ. (Matthew 11:28-30) It is time to examine our heart for those sins that cling to us. (Psalm 26:2; 51:10) We must run with endurance the race that is set before us. I believe this could be a game changer for many people in the coming year… most of all me!
Endurance is the ability or strength to continue especially despite fatigue, stress or other adverse conditions. It is the power of enduring. To endure means to hold out against, sustain without yielding, to bear without resistance, to bear with patience, to continue, and to last. What if the problem is not in our willingness to begin but our ability to endure to the end? Jesus said, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Matthew 10:22) Endurance is a product of discipline. (Hebrews 12:7) There is no greater temptation than the one to quit. Our flesh identifies with it because it is a pardon for our sinful nature. It takes our flesh off the cross and allows it to live another day. There is no temptation that has overtaken me that is not common to man. Jesus endure temptation. Paul confides the inner struggle between our Spirit and flesh each day in Romans 7. A lack of discipline with no endurance doesn’t produce finishers but quitters.
Hebrews 12:3 (ESV) Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross…
Are you weary? Growing faint at heart? Discouraged by the lack of harvest? Are you considering something new? Me, too. The areas that lack productivity have gained my full attention. The source of discouragement, discontentment or maybe for some devastation are the areas of life where discipline is most important. These are emotional minefields. Our flesh argues with our faith. There are some important qualities about the Lord that may lend some encouragement and support the concept called endurance.
Psalm 100:5 (ESV) For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations. God is good. He is always good. His Steadfast love endures forever. His New Mercies given to us each day are evidence of His Love. It is not dependent on our acceptance for relevance. His Faithfulness never quits. He is always faithful even when we give up. He never stops working His Plan and Purpose in our life because His Absolute and Total Faithfulness will not allow Him to no matter what we do or do not do.
Psalm 119:160 (ESV) The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever. The Word of God is truth for my life. You can never be excluded from the Perfect Will of God. God had to consider the cost of our sin to pay the price necessary on the Cross to provide us with sufficient grace. God’s Word cannot return to Him void. In fact, He promises in Romans 8:28 that He works every detail of our life for His Good. The rules of righteousness always produce the reward – it doesn’t matter what it took to get you to the place of repentance and acceptance. God’s Word and His Will for you are still just as glorious.
Psalm 138:8 (ESV) The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. God’s Purpose for my life will be fulfilled. He prerecorded my life according to Psalm 139 and He will do exactly as He promised. It is not based on me at all but rather conditional according to unconditional love. Steadfast love. Love that endures forever. Never gives up on me. Never forsakes or forgets me. His Love and Goodness are always pursuing me. He will do exactly as He said.
Ecclesiastes 3:14 (ESV) I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him. God’s Plan and Purpose for my life is perfect. He will not change it. Nothing is to be added or taken from it. Christ completes me if I am willing to endure to the end. The divine character and nature of God is perfection. Christ is the founder and perfecter of faith. Faith must focus on the unseen reality of what is hope for rather than on all the temporary distractions along the way. God is an enduring God. Endurance is a quality that He is determined to give His Children so that we may have all that His Goodness and Grace provides.
2 Timothy 2:8-10 (ESV) Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.
Most of us will never undergo the persecution of the early church. The men and women who dared share the Gospel after the death and resurrection of Christ. They were hated. Imprisoned. Tortured and even put to death. The modern church struggles with comfort, convenience and control. As I consider this thing called endurance, I believe it is God’s Word for the coming year. I must endure. I should endure everything for the sake of the elect that they also may obtain salvation.
Have you ever been traveling with a GPS and lost the signal? Or maybe along the way began to doubt the integrity of the pleasant voice giving you instructions? Or perhaps found yourself caught up in road construction and detours that the satellite did not catch? Suddenly, you feel lost. Did I take a wrong turn? None of this looks or feels right? Am I going in the right direction? I believe that these are the exact feelings we get when God is teaching us endurance. Do we stay the course? Do we try our own way? Tough call. I have found that generally the GPS is right. I have also discovered that God’s Word will never return void. If God told you to do something or go somewhere, that is exactly what He meant for you to do. It is not my experience that He changes His Mind (even when I beg and plead) or that He lies (not once). What I have discovered is that when I have made it to the end of a thing it is exceedingly abundantly more than I thought it would be or imagined it could be. The key and essential quality was not enthusiasm or zeal but endurance to the end. No matter if I had to crawl to the finish – Christ, who is my victory, always met me there.
Considering the coming New Year, I encourage you to try something new. Better choices are always a good idea. Healthy habits preserve the Temple of the Living God. But also, pray and seek the Lord on those things you are considering giving up. Ask the Lord for guidance? Is this a place of new discipline? Are you really supposed to endure? You may be on the verge of breakthrough. Discouragement only leads to defeat if you quit or give up. I will probably never know the suffering of Paul or Timothy for Jesus Christ. I do know this. I have a plan and purpose that will bring the Lord honor and glory. To allow Him to complete the good work that He has begun in me will break through in glorious light through all my cracks and broken pieces that will show others His Unfailing Love. He endured the Cross for me. It is my turn to endure.
Psalm 145:13-16 (ESV) Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. [The Lord is faithful in all his words and kind in all his works.] The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season. You open your hand; you satisfy the desire of every living thing.