Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wednesday Words of Encouragement

Hebrews 12:1-12 ~ 

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.

And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as his children? He said, 

“My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and don’t give up when he corrects you.
For the Lord disciplines those he loves,
    and he punishes each one he accepts as his child.”

As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as his own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as he does all of his children, it means that you are illegitimate and are not really his children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of our spirits, and live forever?

For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in his holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.

So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.

One of my favorite passages in the Bible are chapters 11 and 12 of Hebrews.  Chapter 11 is like a Who's Who among those of the Christian faith.  Their lives inspire me to do better.  However, chapter 12 goes on to further challenge us.  We are not to just sit by the sidelines and watch these giants in the faith run the race.  We're supposed to be in there with them.  We are running the very same race that those men and women did more than 2,000 years ago.

We desire to do that and often start out on the course well, but the minute things get hard or we think we don't see God answering, we swerve off course.  Yet these verses remind us that God allows hardships in our lives to discipline us.  Notice, the passage doesn't say "punish!"  We are being trained for this race we are in.  

Just like runners have to train and prepare and work hard to run a race, we must do the same.  Instead of viewing every difficulty that comes along with dismay and discouragement and then giving up, let's view these things as obstacles put in our way which will  strengthen and train us.  When we work through the obstacles, keeping our eyes on the Lord and trusting him, we will be stronger.

It's also very difficult to run a race when you are weighed down by a burden.  When we hold onto anxieties and worries, instead of giving them to the Lord, we are slowing down our race.  How can we run well when we are struggling with a cumbersome burden on our shoulders? 

Finally, we are to strengthen ourselves.  To strengthen our resolve.  To continue to run.  Why?  Because there are others coming behind.    We are in a great race with other runners.  Some of them have weaker faith and need our strength to continue to run.  When we begin to view our Christian walk this way, we realize that it's not all about "us".  Our faith or lack of it does affect those running with us.

Let's make sure we are keeping our eyes on Jesus, running the race, accepting the obstacles in our way as tools to train us. and then not wavering so that those behind won't either.

We are in this race together and we are in it to win it!