“…Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” (from Hebrews 12:1 NIV)
The more I think about the narrow gate and the hard way (as mentioned in yesterday’s post), the more I realize how deeply it cuts against the grain of our “old self.”
The writer of Hebrews equates this narrow road to a competitive race (with a crowd of heavenly spectators, and everything!). It should be obvious that this journey that we are taking is nothing short of extraordinary. Almighty God has called us to run this race – and to run it for Him, to His glory.
Somehow, if we are not very careful we can get the notion that the Christian life is supposed to be easy and trouble-free. I mean, if God is in this thing with us, everything should be rosy, everything should be perfect, everything should be safe, care-free, and non-threatening.
I don’t know where we get this notion, but it is certainly not from the Bible. God never promises an easy or comfortable road – He never promises a life without struggles, hardship, troubles or afflictions. In fact He even warns us that: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous…” (Psalm 34:19a)
Well, that is not what we usually want to hear. We want a god that can keep us away from all harm and hardship – we want a god that prevents all bad things from happening to us, and all troubles from entering our lives.
But He never promised that.
What He did promise is that whatever we face in this life, He would face it with us. His promise is that He would “never leave us, or forsake us” (Deuteronomy 31:8; Hebrews 13:5). Certainly, God does act on our behalf. The second half of Psalm 34:19 (that we mentioned above) declares: “…but the LORD delivers him out of them all.” And the apostle Paul assures us that God “causes all things to work together for good.” (see Romans 8:28) But that means there will certainly be some rough and troubling times in the mix.
We need to understand that, in the process of running this race of our lives, we are going to go through some times when we would very much like to give up – on God, and upon our task at hand… Or to give in – to the pressure to find a less challenging race to run.
It is in that moment where our commitment to God’s care is surely tested. It is in that moment when we must choose to press on in our trust in God’s faithfulness – or turn aside to a less-demanding path for our journey.
We don’t talk about it much, but one of the most important aspects in the life of any Christian is the need to persevere. The race is hard. The journey is demanding. It is often far more difficult than we would often like.
But for those who set their hearts to persevere, the reward is unimaginable. And not just in the life to come (though, that is certainly amazing). We are encouraged to: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds (i.e. when the road gets really hard), because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4 NIV)
What would any of us give to have that as the description of our lives?
When I consider that lone goose (from yesterday’s post), struggling so mightily until he persevered on, and faded from view, I am reminded that those who persevere will reap the reward of their focus.
Prayer focus: God, give me a heart to persevere through every trial and hardship I will face.