Run Christian Run!

Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us,

Hebrews 12:1

The Bible lets us know that life is not easy. The Christian life can be and will be even more difficult. So if you are in the middle of a trial or testing then do not be surprised. Life is rough and it is like a long, arduous race.

This phrase in Hebrews 12:1 shows us that:

1. The Christian life is like a marathon and takes endurance 

2. The Christian life has a route which God is leading us

We are running a marathon and not a quick sprint. 

Following Jesus is a long, difficult journey. Think of the good, sweet things in life… a good reputation, a good relationship, a good character….  Those things take time… lots of time to develop. They need to be tested, strengthened, and developed by difficult circumstances. Good, sweet, eternal qualities are the things that God is developing and strengthening in us. Therefore, it is a long distance or long term project. 

Those things that come easy are typically the things that we take for granted and are not of eternal value. The trials and tears or pains and problems typically produce what is most meaningful and eternal. God wants to work in you His likeness and that is not some cheap, easy, quick project. Your life’s difficult circumstances are to train you, make you, craft you, and develop you, by God, to be more like Him.

Knowing this Christian life will take time and endurance should help us to not be surprised by the difficulties that come but where does this endurance come from? Endurance comes from God. He is our strength. Life’s circumstances strip us of the notion that we can do it on our own and reveal that we need… we need God! 
God has a route planned for you. We know it will take time and endurance but where is it going? 

The goal is eternal and is about us becoming more like God so the paths, hurdles, and track are all leading that direction. What does that look like in our living it?  God uses physical, relational, and circumstantial hurdles to direct us toward Him. When bad health, trying marriages, or job loss are a part of our life that is the track God is using to develop and strengthen His character and presence in us.

We can say that we believe all the glories and blessings of the Bible or Gospel all we want but our belief only SHOWS when it is tested. Do you believe God loves you even when your health is failing or you lose a loved one? Do you believe that God is your rock and salvation when your marriage is falling apart or you get fired from your job? Do you believe that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords when you have struggles with your child’s behavior or a friend betrays you? 

Life’s circumstances display what our faith is really made of… but they can also help us develop and grow in faith and holiness as well. Any of those horrible circumstances could knock us on our rear and disorient our devotion but it is how we respond to the failure that matters. 

In order to keep running and develop that endurance…

Keep coming to God! Psalm 13 and 88 show very distraught individuals but they keep coming even though they are sad, confused, mad, rejected, and hurting. This demonstrates your faith, in that, even though you don’t see it or feel it, you still believe God may show up.

Keep reminding yourself of that large cloud of witnesses!  You are not the only one who has gone through this. We have example after example of those who have gone before us and wrestled through. We see their good and bad but always God’s faithfulness. 

Train and prepare! Every good athlete practices and conditions their body for the sport they are in. How does a Christian do this? 

  • Read, meditate, study, and memorize the Word of God- this is how you know God’s promises and presence.
  • Walk with Godly people- much like trainers, godly believers can help point out weaknesses, help us develop godly practices, and always cheer us on.
  • Eliminate the distractions- evaluate your entertainment and hobbies… do they cause you to put on the worldly weight or do they help you run faster and longer?

Take It Off!

​let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us.                             Hebrews 12:1

Think On It…

We have a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, but even closer, we have weight and ensnaring sins surrounding us. The word picture here is of running a race, a marathon, an arduous competition probably much like in those ancient Olympics. This race takes discipline, determination, and training as well as the encouragement and support of the “great cloud of witnesses” but also it takes unrestraint.

The runner MUST be free of anything that will hold down or hold back. Back then, some even ran naked and today they wear the skimpiest clothing and even shave body hair. They do what it takes to free themselves from any hindrances so that they can help their speed and endurance. Their race is trivial and insignificant compared to the “race” of the Christian life; so how much more should we lay aside any encumbrances?

Make It Happen…

Every Weight

What are the weights in our lives that weigh us down? These may not be bad things but good things that hold us down and hold us back in the race.

Working– Activity, achievement, programs, and planning are all good things but they can also distract us from God’s work in us and through us in this race. Our work can be just that, OUR WORK not God’s work. If we are so busy doing, then we can miss out on being. 
God is making us into His likeness. 
This means that whatever work we are doing should have Christ likeness as its function. We are growing in love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self control. Work is not the goal but the goal shouuld be becoming like Jesus. Therefore, our activities should draw us to God  and display God’s glory, not distract us.

Watching– There are many avenues of watching and enjoying in this world that are good but these may also impede us in the race. We watch TV, movies, sports, art, and other entertainments. Sometimes these use up our time, influence us toward sinful thinking, or distract us from what is best.

Wallowing– Experiencing pain or pleasure is natural and necessary in life. When we lose a friend or loved one, we must grieve. When we are hurt by gossip, slander, or betrayal, we must process this pain. When we are blessed with the good things in life, we must enjoy and appreciate them. But these moments of interaction with the experiences of life can turn into distraction and opposition in the race. 

Relationships can swallow us up.  Our response to people can be a huge weight. From infatuation to infuriation, bonding to bitterness, and codependency to conniption, people can exhaust us and deplete our devotion so that we stop running the race. The affect people have on us must be evaluated. Are we wallowing in relationships to the point of standstill? 

How do we lay aside this weights?

Consider whether your activities, enjoyments, pains, pleasures, and people keep you from hearing God, loving others, and growing in Christ likeness? Is so, it’s time to move from these by the disciplines of meditation on God’s word, prayer, and waiting.
Meditation on God’s word means that we study it, memorize it, and consider how it applies to our situations. It is listening to God’s voice and sifting out the other competing voices. Prayer is talking to God and realizing that He is always with you. Prayer is looking at life together with God by expressing your questions, hurts, requests, and responses honestly and openly. Waiting is that space between the promise and fulfillment. God works on us most in periods of waiting. Waiting is silence when we want to speak, resting when we want to react, and trusting when we want to take over. 

Sin that so easily ensnares 

Then there are the bad things that hold us down and hold us back… temptations, addictions, and habits that are just wrong. These things are so close to us, wrapped around us, and intertwined in us that it is difficult to be released from them. We could list the many sins that are close to our hearts and perhaps there are some that we are oblivious to but the truth is that EVERYONE has ensnaring sins. 
Again, the way to get free of these is meditation on God’s word, prayer, and waiting. This is a heart issue and not something that we can beat on our own strength and devices. We must draw near to God and allow Him to set us free of these intimate shackles.

I Don’t Have To Be Jesus

A coworker mentioned in the midst of frustration and busyness that she was “trying to be Jesus” to those around her. As I thought about it, I thought that “being Jesus” was quite a tall order. No wonder we could get so busy, frustrated, and overwhelmed if we are trying to be Jesus. So I messaged her this:

“You got me thinking about that phrase ‘being Jesus to people’ and like you I’ve heard and used it a lot. But I got thinking that maybe a better way to think of it is being ourselves and pointing people to Jesus. Only Jesus can be Jesus, and we have a long way to go and a heavy burden trying to fill that order (at least I do). I think we can demonstrate the amazing work that Jesus had done in our lives and point them to Jesus. Jesus can be Jeus to them and not let them down like we might… or at least I will. Maybe it’s better to take the pressure of being a perfect and holy God off ourselves and give that back to Jesus. Perhaps we are better at displaying His amazing work in our transformed lives. Maybe I’m just weird but it’s just a thought… ”

I’ve heard the phrase several times since and still think that we overburden ourselves with trying to be Jesus to others. Although the sentiment is to share Jesus’ love, kindness, and goodness to others, it is still a daunting task. All Jesus asks us to be are His followers. We submit to Him and He makes us, sends us, speaks through us, heals us, saves us, changes us… the list could go on and on but the point is that HE DOES IT. We just need to come and allow God to do what He do in and through us. Many times it is in our frailty, weakness, inability, hardship, struggle, and imperfections that God shows Himself. 

So perhaps a better way to say it and approach it is; I’m going to be me and hopefully showcase how wonderful and awesome Jesus is in me. It really comes down to surrender rather than performance. Jesus is the show and we are His stage. So it’s not so much “trying” but “surrendering” to God and watching Him do what He do in us and through us.

For since, in God’s wisdom, the world did not know God through wisdom, God was pleased to save those who believe through the foolishness of the message preached. Yet to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom, because God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength. Brothers, consider your calling: Not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen what is weak in the world to shame the strong. God has chosen what is insignificant and despised in the world — what is viewed as nothing — to bring to nothing what is viewed as something, so that no one can boast in His presence.
1 Corinthians 1:21‭, ‬24‭-‬29

Cloud Of Witnesses 

Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us,
Hebrews 12:1

Think On It…

“Therefore” shows us that Hebrews 12 picks up where chapter 11 leaves off with the the “cloud of witnesses” and their characteristics of faith that challenge us to run the race of life with Jesus in view. 

As you read Hebrews 11 there are several distinctives of these people of faith…

1. Devotion to God– These people wanted to please God even at the expense of troubles, torture,  and terror. 

2. Desire for Homeland– These people had their sights on the eternal over the temporal. This world was not their home and therefore not a place to find ultimate comfort. 

3. Denied receiving what was promised– These people waited and waited and waited until they died. God made promises to them that would be fulfilled in the future and they would only see the seeds. 

4. Deliverance in peril– These people occasionally witnessed God’s hand providing  and protecting them. 

5. Danger in this world– These people were NOT spared struggles or hardship. They were despised but not despairing.

Make It Happen…

So when you are weak, think about these people. Hear their voices speaking to us from their stories in the Scriptures…

God is your glory

Eternal over temporal

God can provide and protect 

I will be despised but not despairing 

You will face struggles in this life, temptations to quit, obsstacles to your faith, and persecution and pressures from others… Remember the cloud! All the encouragement and inspiration you need are already uploaded from history and ready to be downloaded in the moment. You must read their stories and remember their witness:

God is your glory

Eternal over temporal

God can provide and protect 

I will be despised but not despairing 

From Hear To There

We all face varied ways to think and live. How often do we evaluate whether we are on the right path? Typically only life jarring events wake us up to where we are in life, like death, bankruptcy, unemployment, divorce, and illness. We live, breathe, think, and act in a daze of monitony as we work out the routine of each day’s scheduled activity and urgent requests. But dare we stop in silence and scrutiny?

What dictates how we think, act, and speak? 

For the Christian it is to be the word of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit. But if we are honest, it is routine, worldly advice, and feelings that guides us each day. God seeks that we listen. In order to do this we must:

1. Slow down and make time to listen- Think of ways you can stop the busyness for time to listen to God. If we are always go go go then it is all the easier to just act and react out of routine and selfishness. Think of your week… each day… when can you MAKE time to listen to God? Understanding that God is always with us and always speaking should open our thoughts to the possibility of pausing frequently to ask, what is God speaking through this…whatever it may be?

2.  Open God’s word to listen- How diligent are you to reading the Bible? Studying the Bible?  Memorizing the Bible? Meditating on Scriptures?  God mainly speaks to us through His word in the Bible so it is very important that we get a handle on it. Commit to a reading program… commit to making time for study, memorization, and meditation of the Bible.

3.Mine the moment- God is with you and speaking to you through the events and experiences of your life. Nothing just happens but what happens it to reveal God’s character or our need for God or an example of Biblical truth.  Good or bad fun or  frustrating, life opens up understanding of God and His truth if we listen.

Listening to God will take us from this momentary situation to eternal glory. Each day, each moment, each experience will be filled with God’s presence and glory because we will see His hand at work providing, protecting, and preparing us for that which we were created.

Then He said, “Anyone who has ears to hear should listen! ”
Mark 4:9 HCSB