Having been a pastor for 15 years, I have experienced many things. More than some and less than others. One constant is that the saints of God go through uncomfortable and difficult things rather regularly. It has been my privilege to walk with many followers of Jesus during these times, as well as navigating my own.
Today I would like to share some simple truths to aid you and enable a proper perspective on dealing with difficulty. The reason this is so important is the redeemed of the Lord have not only been granted to believe on His name, but to suffer for Him as well. In fact, not only does our Christ-like actions in affliction glorify Jesus, the trouble itself also fuels our sanctification (Philippians 1:29). Knowing this, we ought to wonder why we often whine so much in difficulty. I offer an element to mitigate our difficulties with grace in Hebrews 12:1-4.
Hebrews 12:1-5 1 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, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross. 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
IN DIFFICULTY TIE UP LOOSE ENDS: Although verse one uses the metaphor of an ancient foot race in a large Colosseum and with countless witnesses, it applies perfectly to our life with Christ. I realize most of us don’t run anywhere other than to be first in line at Chick-fil-a, or to the bathroom, but our life with Christ is a marathon, which we are to be training for continually and running at the same time. In I Corinthians 9:24-27 the apostle opens his training and running the race regiment before us, where he declares “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection (make my body my slave)”.
Paul is revealing by the Holy Spirit, that he sought to master the fruit of the Spirit, especially self-control through self-denial. For American Christians self denial seems to be one of our greatest struggles, even though Jesus declares, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up their cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). It matters little the ease of the environment a believer lives in. Like all we are called to deny ourselves, like a highly trained athlete would deny themselves to be a winner.
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.
Specific to our passage, we need to remove anything from our walk that weighs us down and tie up the loose ends of the things that lead to our being entangled in sin. In both of these areas be encouraged to wait on the Lord in prayer, having asked Him to reveal the things that weigh you down and the loose ends of your old man that trip you into sin. Let me be clear, a lack of dealing with these is the largest producer of Christian whiners and those who give in to despair.
LET PATIENCE HAVE ITS PERFECT WORK:
“and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”
When dealing with the word “endurance” we understand it is translated “patience” as well in James 1:2-4 where it says “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience“. Whether we use the word endurance or patience we get the idea of a long race, with many difficulties, so don’t give up or give in, stay the course, let endurance grow by being patient in difficulties.
I am certain that the whine coming from us when the going gets tough is often related, at least in America, to the culture of instant gratification we have. When we itch we scratch and if it does not go away fast enough, we apply cortisone cream. When we are hungry (or think we are) we declare “I’m starving” or automatically, like having innate food GPS, we look for something to shove in our mouth. When we want a new thing, rather than asking if we even need it or have the money to buy it we will grab some plastic and purchase.
Let’s be honest, because this is our cultural training, it is easy to do all of the above without much thought, if we are not careful. It is also to treat affliction and trials, which are a source of sanctification and glory for Jesus, in the same manner. When they hurt, make us uncomfortable, feel inadequate, or threaten our life the way we want it, we look for a way out. When there is no way out, we whine or worse try to make a way where there is none.
Let us remember that even the best of His saints go through periods of whining and wanting to avoid the pain. Eventually, though we must remember that our race is a life lived for Him, not for us. We must remember that Abba knows what we are going through and although He has not promised to take us out of trouble early, He has promised that He is running with us. Let us also remember that We follow the One who won His race for us.
LET THE ONE WHO WON BE YOUR FUEL:
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
Jesus’ fuel for overcoming, when the going got to be its toughest, was JOY. This Joy arose from His perfect faith in what was to come to pass, when He finished His race. It is true that this JOY arose from His knowing He would rise from the dead, ascend into heaven, and be reunited with His Father. His JOY arose by knowing He would reunite with His disciples after He would rise from the dead. Being that He is God and knows the end from the beginning, His joy was fueled by the transformation of His disciples as the Holy Spirit would be poured out. His joy was for the souls that would believe on Him until He would return and brings us with Him to heaven. Much of the fuel of His joy was Him seeing you and I by faith, long before we were even born.
I think His trial was much greater than anything we have faced and as most of us can agree…
“For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin:”
When the going gets tough we are supposed to
- Look unto Jesus
- Consider how He endured
- Refuse to be discouraged
- Know our trial is able to be endured.
When we are in trying times let us look unto Jesus. Let us meditate on how He suffered in the shame of nakedness and mockery. Let us remember the spiteful pain inflicted on Him by wicked torturers, as our sin was torture into His holy frame. Let us remember His JOY, or part of it, was seeing you and I through the annuls of time and eternity redeemed and in His presence. Let us endure with JOY, as Jesus’ love and endurance on our behalf, powers us through any trouble.
My firm belief is that you and I will have multiple opportunities with trial and affliction as Christians. Commit with me to discipline yourself gazing upon our Savior in trial. When He suffered, the eyes of His perfect faith were on you.