It’s been said that the race of faith isn’t a sprint but a marathon. However, I submit that it’s neither sprint nor marathon, because in truth it’s more like an endurance race. To be clear, I mean no disrespect to anyone’s appreciation of the marathon illustration, but for me, after revisiting Hebrews chapters 11-12, the racing visual took on new meaning. Unlike a marathon course that requires runners to steadily work their way through an urban or country landscape, the race of faith is more like one of those off-road races that go on for nearly a 1,000 miles, or a team obstacle course with different stages, contrasting venues, varying challenges, and weather difficulty. There can be times of great fatigue, welcome moments of rest and refueling, daunting challenges that require a teammate, cuts, bruises, and a nagging temptation to quit.
Perhaps today, you feel like you’ve been grinding through an endurance race, if so, the writer of Hebrews has some encouraging words for you:
“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” Hebrews 12:1b-2a NKJV
Let me also encourage you to take the race one-day-at-a-time, find joy in the little things, set small achievable goals, and trust the Lord with the results.
The idea of “the future” invokes many emotions, hopes, worries, dreams, and personal questions. Some try not to think about it at all, while others are captivated by its promise. To be clear, there’s a certain end result as revealed to John, but there are also many choices to be made in-between. With that in mind, I once-again offer this simple poem as encouragement to “set your sails” according to the truth and trust the Lord for the destination.
“One ship drives east and another drives west
With the selfsame winds that blow.
“Tis the set of the sails and not the gales
Which tells us the way to go.
Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate,
As we voyage along through life:
“Tis the set of the soul
That decides its goal,
And not the calm or the strife.”
– Ella Wheeler Wilcox
Today, another story broke of a Christian leader stepping into the darkness of apostasy. Former pastor Joshua Harris (“I Kissed Dating Goodbye” fame) publicly renounced his faith (Fox News). As a stand-alone story, it’s a tragedy, but as part of a bigger trend, it’s a wake-up call. To be honest, I write this post reluctantly, because I have no desire to point a finger. However, I do feel compelled to speak of what’s true. I’ve never witnessed so many faith leaders piling onto the bandwagon of cultural acceptance. At this rate, several wagons will be needed to handle the crowd, but then again, crowds don’t define truth…God does. If you’re interested, here’s a reminder of something Paul fearfully pointed out to the Corinthians. He wrote, “as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your minds may be seduced from a complete and pure devotion to Christ.” (2 Cor. 11:3)
There are four elements of the enemy’s deception and they’re always important to remember:
- First, the enemy patiently waits for moments of opportunity (Eve by the tree) – when we’re down, the enemy comes along with whispers and suggestions
- Second, the enemy subtlety questions God’s instructions (Has God said..?) – with sophisticated sounding logic, simple truths are questioned as old-fashioned, out-of-date and irrelevant
- Third, the enemy denies the clear meaning of God’s warnings (You will not surely die.) – the readily understandable scriptures are denied on the basis of hidden wisdom, secret knowledge and enlightened thought
- Fourth, the enemy substitutes a lie for the truth (you will be like God) – “half-truths” are crafted into phrases made for easy consumption
There will always be those trying to cheapen, add-to, twist or deny the gospel. In these changing times, may we hold onto the hope of the biblical truth with every ounce of our being; not only for our own sake, but for those we influence too.
It’s been said, “What’s true in the light is true in the dark.” and it’s a timely reminder. Not only is there a push now to accept immorality, but an increasing demand to celebrate it. Even some prominent church leaders have compromised and embraced various lies being sold as enlightenment. We must hold fast to the standard of God’s word, even as the light dims around us. Yes, there will be those who call us judgmental, discriminatory or backward. There may also be some who say we lack love for others, but it’s just an effort to bully us into submission. The rhetoric can be loud, obnoxious, personal and vindictive, but we must remember, “What’s true in the light is true in the dark”. If you’re experiencing this in your circle of life, remember you’re not alone. Hang in there and remember this verse:
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” – 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
Each year, I’m reminded of a Friday in 2012 when a small group of us were in Munich, Germany visiting the grounds of the Dachau Concentration Camp. After walking through the various displays, I looked out across the main part of the camp and wondered “Why would they do such a thing?” It’s one thing to read about in history books, but something totally different to see in person and stand in the rooms where such horrible atrocities happened. It was a powerfully moving and sobering reminder that sin is incredibly ugly. It is the sickness we struggle with and scripture tells us in James 1:15 that sin fully grown brings death. Man’s capacity to do hurtful things is often shocking because we desperately want to believe we’re inherently good, but the evidence reveals otherwise. We need serious help and thankfully it came…
On another Friday 2,000 years ago, the unimaginable weight of mankind’s darkest sins and cruelties were laid on Jesus in a crushing blow of blunt force trauma. The Bible says in Romans 5:8 that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus knew the full scope of sin’s price tag and still chose to pay it. He was literally “crushed and bruised” for our transgressions. Our world has been affected in every way by sin entering creation and only Jesus has the ability to bring peace at the soul level (John 14:17).
May we always remember that Easter Sunday is a celebration because Jesus came out of the tomb having paid our debt in full!
Do you ever wonder if it’s worth it to do what’s right? To act right? To parent right? To do business right? To coach right? Daily routines and disappointments can undermine our resolve, but there’s a powerful verse to be held onto. It isn’t poetry written for greeting cards, it’s rock solid truth to be stood on:
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” – I Corinthians 15:58 NKJV
That really does mean:
Trying to live in a Christ-like way is NOT IN VAIN.
Trying to parent according to the Bible is NOT IN VAIN.
Trying to conduct business with integrity is NOT IN VAIN.
Trying to coach for character-building is NOT IN VAIN.
Trying to show love to those who don’t is NOT IN VAIN.
The world says “quit”, but our Lord says, “Keep going, it really is worth it!”
Those were common words “back in the day” and Mike Huckabee rightly applied them to the sudden competition between state legislatures to see who can legalize the most abortions. I must agree, it’s like the race is on to see who can get to the lowest moral common denominator first. Although the abortion debate isn’t new, there does seem to be a more brazen, lifeless spirit taking over the pro-abortion side. The willingness to even debate trimester limits and viability has been replaced with a demand for the right to sacrifice ANY baby on the altar of women rights if the one carrying it so chooses.
For those of us on the pro-life side, we must steady our resolve on the point that life is a gift from God. We are created in His image and life is a sacred, precious treasure. The simple question remains, “Is an unborn child a person?” For various reasons, many try to argue that it’s not (at least until it reaches some point the one debating prefers), but the truth is, “life” means “person” and “persons” have a right to live. May we continue to teach, preach, counsel, and love people in a way that values all life…born and unborn.