Hebrews 12:1-4 (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. 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. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.
Are you having one of those days? Maybe it’s been a week? For some, it may even seem like one of those years? I have one of those days. Actually, it has been a week. In the midst of change, uncertainty and chaos it is clear that the Lord is doing something beyond my comprehension. Faith in my heart holds on to hope that doesn’t seem as confident but I must not let go. God is working out the details of my life for good. I want everything I do to reflect His Glory. However, my little light has been flickering with the turbulent wind blowing all around me. I woke up this morning and in the quiet I knew that the Lord was right there. He was waking me up with a Word for me. As I opened the Word of God today, it was like a bright and shiny arrow pointing to this passage. No wandering around or wondering what the Lord had to say – it was abundantly clear. Keep going. Don’t stop moving. Just one step each day will lead you to the destination. The only action deemed failure is to fall and refuse to get up or to throw up my hands and say, “I give up!” Not today devil – I am in a race for a prize that will be the key to the rich and satisfying life that Jesus promised me. It is called endurance. It is hard to obtain but worth overcoming each day that turns out to be “one of those days.”
I love days like this when in the quiet of the morning – the Holy Spirit is our encourager. He heard our prayers last night. I have a confession. This week has not been my week to get the gold star of perfection. In fact, it has been an ugly slugfest to keep my eyes on Jesus and keep moving in the right direction. Our leadership team was having prayer on Monday night. It seemed like I had been at church all weekend. Needing time to prepare for the Bible Study the very next night, longing for a family dinner followed by some snuggle time with Jesus and the study guide after a hectic day at work. I didn’t want to go. I wasn’t going to go. I went anyway. Tuesday night – the ladies of our church, the ones who I am supposed to lead, had their Bible Study. I left feeling like a complete and utter failure. I am no good at this whole organizing and executing thing. Ten times I almost text the pastor admitting defeat and telling him to find someone better for these sweet women. Instead, I went to bed. Wednesday morning, it was clear. I had nothing left. As I sat before my Savior with my head bowed, praying for the same people and situations, it seemed so redundant like water poured on a rock, I finally just admitted to the Father, “Lord, I need you today! I am stuck!” As the Lord, poured into me from His Word, I began to blog. His Words powerful and true cutting through my resolve to release a balm inside of me that I knew He was not only sharing with me but others, too. Yeah, so my computer shut down right then and there losing more than half of it. One of those days, now became one of those weeks… I could bore you with yesterday’s details but it ended with the same tired, worn-out believer dragging herself into church.
Today may be no different but my Father has prepared me in advance. He has given me these verses to hold on to and the Holy Spirit, the excellent life coach that He is, provided a detailed game plan for me that I am about to share with you. These are the things to remember not in the beginning of our race towards the prize called a satisfying life but in the midst of it. When you have come too far to turn back now, but struggle to find strength to take one more step. On those days when giving up seems more fruitful than pressing in, because your mind loudly whispers “what’s the point?” The Lord is making a point. We need to hear it and act on it today.
Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT) “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith…” My life is a light. To walk by faith and not by sight causes that light to shine a little brighter as the Jesus in me begins to attract people. When those challenging and overwhelming days come, I believe is when we have the most people watching us. They are looking for a difference. Has Jesus made a real difference? Is the Savior you are talking about really capable of saving people? The key is learning to respond to God’s Word rather than reacting to our situation or circumstance in life. People are watching. Faith without works is dead. Faith is for the things unseen not those things I can do. Faith makes the impossible possible. If you believe it, your light shines because you will keep following Christ even when it’s tough and seems pointless. My life is not about me. It is about shining so bright that His Glory lights the way for others to see His Great Love. God is good on the bad days. His Goodness is not influenced by anything in my life. I connect to His Goodness by faith in His Love for me and confident hope that nothing can separate me from it. This must be the evidence of my life to be a light.
Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT) Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
“Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” Jesus did not say, “Dump all your worries and cares on me including your sin and then go find something else to do.” No, He tells us to come…bring all our weariness and heavy burdens…and I will give you rest. Then the Lord says, “Take my yoke upon you.” Jesus is not a dump site. He is the ultimate recycler of everything but sin. My boss is an avid conservationist. He will literally retrieve recyclables from the garbage. The garbage cans in our office are small receptacles but the recycling bin is huge. We must come to know and understand the context of Matthew 11:28-30 in order to understand how the Lord works in us and through us. We chalk up bad days to experience and just move on. But Jesus full of life and resurrection power, digs through the refuse of our life, because He promises to make good of every detail even the rotten ones. (Romans 8:28) The key is to bring our burdens and sins considered the weight that slows us down and YOKE our life with Him. Jesus wants to be our life partner. He wants to be our constant source of instruction and motivation but He is not in the garbage business. The Lord promised to make us a new creation but it requires becoming connected to Him as our Source. Sin is the only thing that separates us from God. Grace allows us to overcome weakness, but Jesus is the Source of Grace that covers us so all the Father sees is a son or daughter. Having one of those days? Come to Jesus and give Him all of your worries and cares. Confess your sin even relinquishing any hidden sin that may be hidden the heart. Then, yoke or attach yourself to Jesus and say, “What can I do for you today, Lord?” It may be a simple (or not so simple) as just keeping your mouth shut which on bad days may take every ounce of effort I have left.
Matthew 24:12-14 (NLT) Sin will be rampant everywhere, and the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then the end will come.
“And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” The one who endures to the end will be saved. Salvation and redemption are possible only if we finish the race of faith. Endurance is achieved in each step. Do not take for granted the path set before you. Your hope is identified as the Plan of God for your life which is marked by good things but often a product of struggle. The same principle applies to changing lifestyle habits. Incorporating a new heathier lifestyle exhibits the same kind of struggle. You want the fatty, fried foods filled with carbs and calories but in order to have a healthy body – we must defy our physical desires and replace our intake with better choices. I need to exercise as well. I loathe it. Yet as I do it and see the results in my life the pain in my body and constant overcoming the longing to be a coach potato wane. I make myself follow the plan despite my grumbling, complaining and rebelling flesh. Why? I want to live a long, healthy life and chase after grandchildren one day. Our life in Christ is the same. We must flight our flesh to have the life God promised is possible if one believes. I must crucify my flesh in order to endure. Endurance is a successful step that becomes an amazing life. Too many times we cannot see the forest for the trees or the staircase for the steps. We have a prize called Eternity. It is worth fighting for and that is exactly what we must do each day. Those who are successful will claim a prize far greater than anything on earth can achieve. Each successful step taken is one less needed to God’s Heavenly Prize.
John 21:6-8 (NLT) Then the disciple Jesus loved said to Peter, “It’s the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his tunic (for he had stripped for work), jumped into the water, and headed to shore. The others stayed with the boat and pulled the loaded net to the shore, for they were only about a hundred yards from shore.
“We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.” I love this passage so much. Peter, what a character, who had undeniable passion for the Lord took quite a bit of discipline to get to the man who jumped in the water and swam about a hundred yards to shore. The same Peter who couldn’t make it a few steps walking on the water by faith would not let anything keep him from reaching Jesus. These steps of our journey to secure faith and confident hope in the Lord are not pointless but purposeful. The Promise and Plan of God for our life fills us with great potential that is impossible without faith in the Lord. Not only was Peter confident that it was Jesus, but he must have been confident in his love. Peter knew Jesus heard his denials the night before the Lord died for him. He saw Jesus looking at him through a window. Peter also remembered the day that He first recognized Jesus answering His Inquiry correctly. “But who do you say that I am?” He also knew all the things that Jesus told him like he would be the rock on which the church was built. I am sure during the three days that he thought Jesus was dead, Peter evaluated his whole life just as we do in the midst of the marathon called endurance.
Did I waste my time? Am I giving up my life for nothing? Jesus where are you? BUT when Jesus came to the beach that day – Peter knew that his faith and confident hope was alive and well. Faith will never be logical according to the conditions in life. The world is completely consumed by sin and self. Faith puts our sin in the Blood of Jesus and our self in the Person of Christ. We must strive to remain there. Jesus is our champion. I cannot produce anything good let alone prosper from the inside out apart from Him. It is in Jesus that I live, move, and exist. (Acts 17:28) “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
I Peter 1:8-9 (NLT) You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.
“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.” You can live life looking ahead or with your eyes in the rearview mirror. Our future is either defined by our past or hope. Freedom allows us to decide. My past is over. Jesus was clear. Those who put a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God. Looking back will lead us back. Just as a batter must keep his eye on the ball, we must keep our eyes fixed on the future to maintain the right direction and stay on course. Jesus endured the Cross because of the joy waiting for Him. I will get to what His Definition of Joy is in a moment. God has given you dreams, desires and promises that requires faith to achieve in life. Total trust opens the windows of Heaven and the human heart. Once open to receive, inexpressible joy begins to bubble up and overflow not based on our circumstances but the potential of God’s Promises. If we endure one of those days, weeks or even years, by faith and nothing else, the full satisfaction called joy will well up in us so that we don’t need to depend on the world for happiness but the secret power of a prospering soul will satisfy us in the famine and cause us to grow through adversity to bear fruit in every season.
James 1:17-19 (NLT) Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow. He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession.
“Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.” I am His Prized Possession. You are the joy that awaited Jesus on the other side of the Cross. He endured the Cross because He desired us above anything else. God is sending good and perfect promise packages to His Beloved Children every day. Opportunities and possibilities that are often overlooked by the hardships of life. Even when we are weary, tired, wandering or just wondering, God still loves us and sends His Blessings to us. The world that He died to save remained hostile toward the One who only showed it love, compassion, mercy and grace. Compared to my struggles and troubles in life, it seems so small. His Grace is enough to overcome every insufficiency in my life. His Mercy comes new every morning to refresh, renew and reassure me. Every step I take labeled endurance is a step in the right direction. I have everything I need to win the race even on those days that all I can do is stand on the faith and not move an inch. Even Jesus dealt with exhausting and frustrating people, yet still managed to love them enough to die for them. To die for us. To die for me. He endured the process to have the people. Am I willing to endure the process to have the promise?
2 Corinthians 5:15-18 (NLT) He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them. So we have stopped evaluating others from a human point of view. At one time we thought of Christ merely from a human point of view. How differently we know him now! This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him.
This thing called life is not a sprint it is a marathon. The Lord has painted the perfect picture of encouragement for endurance in Hebrews 12. Endurance is the ability or strength to continue despite fatigue, stress, and other adverse conditions. It is marked by hardship and hostility that should be our expectation. When life gets hard, it is evidence that maybe just maybe we are getting somewhere. The enemy has no interest in a life that is unsuccessful in faith. It has not future. Those who endure will find that you may end up having more of “those days” than ever before. Instead of looking back, press forward. Society tells us to run across the finish line, but I think in our walk with Christ it is actually crawling across when we come to the end of self and rely fully on faith to get us there.
“After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” You are alive. It means that your full potential has not been reached and there is a promise waiting for you. In fact, our life is filled with promises and purpose that can only be reached when we choose to discipline our body, mind, will and emotions to hold fast to faith and confident hope rather than allowing the problems, people and persecution of life overtake us. We have the ability to overcome because greater is He who is in us. There is no power that can overtake the believer yoked to Christ. However, you will not get there apart from endurance. Endurance is the fuel that makes our light shines brighter. When all else fails, but faith in the Father prevails. I had a pastor tell me once, “Do not make permanent decisions in temporary circumstances.” Good advice.
Is it one of those days? Has it been one of those weeks? Is it shaping up to form one of those years? Be encourage today. God has not forgotten you – how could He? You are His Prized Possession. He is working a process in you that will lead to fulfillment and inexpressible joy! Stick with it. Struggles often release unknown burdens and hidden things unnecessary weight in our life. They cause us to press in deeper into the Presence of God striving for help to overcome. When I am overwhelmed, I look to Jesus the Author and Finisher of my faith. God’s Discipline in our life proves His Great Love for us. He is a Good Father on bad days. He is always cheering us on and focused on the good in us. Whether success for you today is running the race, crawling along, or just standing refusing to go back – the Lord loves you and sees that you have chosen to endure. He is Your Champion and you are His Prize. Endurance is not fun – it takes a great deal of discipline – but for those who choose to finish the race – it is absolutely essential to victory!
Here are some verses to accompany you today:
Romans 5:3-5 (NLT) We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.
Colossians 1:10-12 (NLT) Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light.
Hebrews 10:35-36 (NLT) So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
James 1:2-3 (NLT) Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.
2 Peter 1:5-7 (NLT) In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.