February 17, 2009

With Endurance

Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

I’ve read this passage a good many times, but today I picked up on some things that seemed more obvious to me this time. I thought I’d share those thoughts with you today.

“let us lay aside every encumbrance AND the sin...” In the past, I’ve always thought about the sin that so easily entangles me. But today I spent time thinking about “every encumbrance” that entangles me. Sometimes we have to set aside good things or things that are “benign” when they become encumbrances. Elsewhere, the apostle Paul writes, All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. There’s going to be a lot more prayer and thought given to this today, but I’m afraid I’m going to be asked to give up some things I like a lot so that I can be equipped to run more swiftly.

I also thought about this race that I’m running. The focus here is the word endurance. Like most Americans, I want results right now. Our industrial culture has really brainwashed us into thinking that the only results worth working for are the ones that can be measured in time and volume—too much time, not worth it; not enough volume (or instant reward), not worth it. In a more agrarian society there was the planting, the cultivating, and the harvest. Endurance was a daily principle understood by all.

One area where I constantly have to remind myself of the endurance principle is parenting. I struggle to remember that learning is a process not an event. I may need to teach a lesson several times before that lightbulb goes off. It is unrealistic of me to think that the first time (or the fortieth, in some instances) that I teach my children a principle that they should immediately grasp and start utilizing that concept. After all, that’s how I am spiritually in my learning. How many times has the Lord confronted me with the same issues that need my attention? Jesus spent three years with his disciples, teaching them the same things over and over, and they still didn’t get it until after He left them.  

That’s why it’s so important for us to remember that our spiritual race doesn’t have a series of finish lines—just one. We aren’t done until it’s completely over. The real rewards come at the end of the race. We exhaust ourselves looking for rewards every few feet, and we also cause ourselves to stumble. When we don’t master it in the first fifteen kilometers of the race, it doesn’t mean it’s over.

I also thought about the fact that the goal of this race isn’t to finish first. Finishing well is the goal. That takes a little pressure off, doesn’t it? I can focus on the things God brings to my attention without looking around to see if I’m ahead of the rest of the pack. In fact, looking around is what causes us to stumble. We need to “Fix our eyes.” That word, fix, reminds me of glue. You put your eyes on Jesus and just leave them there. Don’t look around at the crowd to be sure they’re cheering you on. Don’t look to see where you are in the standings with the other racers. Just fix your eyes on Jesus. WOW!! How much easier this race would be if I could just do that thing alone!

Finally, I remembered why this passage is so precious to me. “who for the joy set before Him.” What was that joy? It was US. He endured all that so that He could have eternal fellowship with us. How absolutely amazing! So what is there in this life that I cannot endure when it means that my prize is HIM?

If I meditate on these principles today for more time than it takes to write this post, then perhaps my day will have more eternal value than most days. I am notorious for doing what is in front of me, not necessarily the most profitable thing. I want to see immediate fruit for my efforts, too. Hopefully, having been reminded of these principles, today will be a little different. If not, I’ll keep running anyway!!

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