By Lisa Leidenfrost
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12.1)
Along the way, in the race of life, it helps to have people surround us to cheer us on, encourage us and walk with us through the rough spots, hence our prayer groups. We want to hear about the needs and it is a privilege to bring things to our Lord, and then to see His answers. This is how a thriving and healthy body works, it supports and encourages those who are suffering so that they do not feel they are going at it alone.
We’re not going to have it easy in this life. I think God wants it that way so that we will need Him. The verse above is concentrating on how to run your race well to the end. We need to lay aside anything that can trip us up or get us off course. The problem with having hard challenges, is that there are so many real temptations to sin that naturally go with them. The challenges are truly hard, and the temptation to give in to discontent or worry or depression are very real. This verse is a plea to keep going, and not to let these things weigh us down. How do we do this?
v2 “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
v3 “For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.”
Getting through the race intact is done by looking at Jesus. He gave you your faith, He is the One who nurtures it and will finish it. The One who is taking you by the hand has already gone before you victoriously in enduring the cross, despising the shame with the end result sitting at the right hand of God. He already achieved victory and He is now here to help you through life to do the same. All that you have to do is look to Him. With every concern that you have, every worry, every heart ache, every question, you look to Him. He suffered far more than you ever will so He knows suffering, and He did it victoriously, gaining salvation for the world. By looking to Him, you can gain courage and help to keep on course.
v6 “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives.”
All the hardship we go through is for a purpose. He is going somewhere with it and it is done out of love for His children. God knew that if we only lived a life of ease all the time that we would remain weak, never growing up to the fullness that He meant us to grow up to.
Look up. Look beyond. For the joy that was set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. We can do the same with our trials. Look at the joy to come with the victory that Christ has won. Look also at what He is doing now in the world. But if you ask, what about Tsunamis and Ebola and horrible wars? How could those possibly work for good? From your perspective, there may not appear to be a point or it may seem cruel, but from God’s perspective there is a glorious end that you can’t see yet.
Look at it this way, picture a map of the world with a little light for every human heart. These lights will either remain dark, or be a dull yellow, or be varying degrees of white light. Some will be the brightest of white lights that will overpower the others. If, the ‘light’ represented the light of the glory of God burning in human hearts, where do you expect on the map to see the greatest cluster of the brightest light? In the places of ease, or in the thickest of the disasters? I bet it will be in the most intense suffering, because there, people are forced to look up and grow, and when they do, God stamps His character upon them as they ‘struggle, learn, grow’.
We heard back from the people on the inside in Liberia during the worst of the Ebola outbreak, that there was hunger in the quarantined areas and the leaders of the church were going in to those areas to give food and offer help, putting their lives at risk to do so. Is their light burning bright? Is God’s goal ease, or is it to gain the most ‘bright lights’ to shine in the world? And, if intense suffering brings that about, can you begin to see why He does what He does? He has a different purpose than we. He is going somewhere with each trial, so don’t waste your trial.
If you can’t see it, you’ll just have to bank on the character of God and rest there by faith. He was faithful to save you and He’ll be faithful to see you through to the end. You have to look at all your disappointments, seeming failures, and dark future, and see it as a pathway to glory and better things to come, with a very bright ending. The path to glory is one where goodness and mercy shall follow you all your days of your life. But this goodness will just have to take another form right now that you may not initially recognize.
Picture yourself at the end of your life. When you look back, what was the most important thing about living it, and did you ‘really live’? To really live means to know God and become like Him. It means to give Him glory. Nothing else is really important or will last through eternity.
So, if this is your goal and God has chosen cancer, or MS, or some other hardship to attain this, shouldn’t you be grateful to Him for choosing the route that would best accomplish this? Wouldn’t you see it as a gift instead of as a curse? That is why you can look at something horrible, and seen through God’s eyes, call it ‘good’, because of How God will use it for His glory.