I’ve been reading Hebrews 11 and 12. Chapter 12 starts.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (TNIV)
Those three verses are killers. Read it. I did and it’s like God is saying, “The ball’s in your court Mike. I’ve surrounded you with support. Now, go and live in such a way that your life means something. So don’t mess with sin, run a good race, and keep Jesus locked in.”
It’s not. I have people who have deeply influenced my life. They have not been perfect but they have been faithful. And to a person they’ve understood what sin does, how important it is to stay the course, and they seem to know Jesus, not just about Him.
Have you ever thought of becoming a student of your sin? We all should. We need to know how sin entraps us, where it happens and why we’re so susceptible to it. When we know our sin and what it does to us we’re more willing to do whatever it takes so it doesn’t ensnare us. It’s the business man who asks for accountability on any overnight stay in a strange town. He knows where he’s weak. Too much free time, too much expense account, and too much temptation creates a perfect storm for sin to take root. So, accountability keeps him locked in. A mark of true maturity is to be able to identify and deal with the sin in our life, not explaining it away or justifying it.
What race are you running? We’re all called to run the race God wants us to run. My race isn’t yours. It’s not a comparison game. The common thread is that God wants us to persevere. Perseverance is about commitment, hard work, patience, and endurance. When we persevere we bear difficulties calmly and without complaining. It becomes a habit. I read recently abbreviated excerpts from the diary of John Wesley.
Sunday, A.M., May 5 Preached in St. Anne's. Was asked not to come back anymore.
Sunday, P.M., May 5 Preached in St. John's. Deacons said "Get out and stay out."
Sunday, A.M., May 12 Preached in St. Jude's. Can't go back there, either.
Sunday, A.M., May 19 Preached in St. Somebody Else's. Deacons called special meeting and said I couldn't return.
Sunday, P.M., May 19 Preached on street. Kicked off street.
Sunday, A.M., May 26 Preached in meadow. Chased out of meadow as bull was turned loose during service.
Sunday, A.M., June 2 Preached out at the edge of town. Kicked off the highway.
Sunday, P.M., June 2 Afternoon, preached in a pasture. Ten thousand people came out to hear me.
I guess you could call that perseverance, huh?
But you won’t be able to run the race unless your eyes are fixed on Jesus. He’s the author and perfector of faith. Eyes fixed on Jesus. Ever see a man in love with a woman? He’s locked in. She shows up in a room. And he can’t take his eyes off of her. Anita was like that with me. She met me and she was locked in. It was ‘Mike’ 24/7. :)
When I served on Young Life staff stories abounded about Jim Rayburn, the founder of that ministry. Once when faced with an important strategic decision key staff came together to talk about the issue. Rayburn said, “Let’s climb up the mountain and start talking to Jesus …and for three days they locked into Christ, pleading with Him to show up, to give direction to their decisions.
That’s what it’s like, I think, to have eyes fixed on Jesus. It’s that firm belief that He is the author and perfector of our faith. Acts 17: 28 says it well. “For in him we live and move and have our being.” Is that true for you?
I’ve still got a ways to go. Sometimes I embrace my sin. I’m prone towards ‘giving up and making excuses.’ And, if truth be known I seem to know more about God than really knowing Him. But there are times when I do sense that I’m in the right groove. That sin is being dealt with, that the race is being run at the right pace, in the right direction, and that I am locked into Jesus. Those are the good days. That’s when life feels good even if circumstances take their toll. I’m aiming for more good days. More and more of them.