Today’s reflection comes to us from Mike Barnett
12 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, 2 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. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
When Willie sent out the new rota at the end of March for us to continue contributing towards the daily reflections, I looked at my slot, saw the reading and thought, this is a strange coincidence. Why you may ask? Well, on our Parish Reader Commissioning Service, back in February 2018, (can’t believe it was two years ago) we were presented with a ribband Silver Medallion and engraved on one side was the inscription ‘Hebrews 12:1-3’.
The main point of these three verses being the command to: run the race with endurance, to consider the suffering of Jesus who endured the cross, and who completed the work of atonement.
It’s interesting to note how the author sets the stage for chapter 12 with a statement in chapter 10, when he says: ‘You need to persevere, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised’, (10:36). Later in 12:17, you see what happens if you don’t persevere in faith. I’ll let you look that up yourself. It’s also interesting that the repetition of the word “perseverance/endurance” is in each of the first three verses.
In verse 1, we are told that we are surrounded by a great cloud (crowd) of witnesses, this refers to the previous chapter when the writer encourages his readers, and us, by reminding them of previous men and women of great faith and how their lifestyles pleased God. He says that if they could persevere, then so can we. He explains that the great Saints in Hebrews 11, demonstrated that the life of faith really does work.
The Christian life is a race, and we are told that if we are going to run the Christian life, we should have no distractions to lead us off-track, (Sin), and that we should run well because that’s what God intended for us, and we should also run with perseverance. We have to understand that the Christian life isn’t a hundred-yard dash, it’s a marathon of endurance, done by putting aside all that hinders us, all that would slow us down. Sound advice, believe me, I’ve done a few marathons myself! We also need to remember that no one with the love of the world in their heart, will ever finish the race and reach the Kingdom of Heaven.
In Verse 2 we are told something extremely serious and important, and Willie mentioned part of verse 2 in last Wednesdays reflection when he said, ‘let us fix our eyes on Jesus’. And it has never been more important to be reminded to do this now. We all hear about the steady rise in infections and deaths from Covid-19. But we must never ever let our ears or our eyes be drawn continually to the statistics that we hear on news bulletins and TV broadcasts; yes, it is devastatingly sad and unnerving, but there is hope and that hope is provided by fixing our eyes on Jesus, who endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, for us, and by doing so, makes our faith complete. If we take our eyes off Him, we will stumble! And we must also do what verse 3 asks us to do, that is, to consider and keep our minds on Jesus, then we won’t get discouraged or give up.
We all know that this, ‘lock-down’ is going to continue for some time and I pray that everyone will display love, patients, understanding, self-control and not become complacent about staying at home and not feel, angry, fearful or disappointed because we can’t go about our normal activities, we have to remember this isn’t normal times. I pray that we all persevere and keep our eyes fixed, staying close to Jesus, especially when you are feeling confused or feeling alone and isolated. The reassurance of knowing God’s presence with you is amazingly heart-warming and comforting.
The hope that we have is steadfast, and as the psalmist says in ‘Psalm 46:1-2’, ‘God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea’.
Coronavirus aside, (dare I say that?), the uncertainties and fears that we are facing now, are very normal to numerous in many parts of the underdeveloped world. There will be many who will find it absolutely impossible to social distance themselves or isolate themselves, even if they become infected. For them, the permanent way of life is a continual battle to get the basics of food, clean water to drink and to wash with, obtain health care for the sick and injured, a roof over their heads, justice for the abused and vulnerable. So, while we worry about where our next roll of toilet tissue or packet of pasta is coming from, let’s say a prayer for those extremely less fortunate than us, and that the situation that we find ourselves in, will help us to understand theirs even better in the future. (See 1 John 3:17-18)
One of the basic teachings of Christianity is so simple: It’s not how you start to run the Christian life that matters; it’s how you run the race and how you finish it. Jesus made it quite clear, that those who endure to the end will be saved. ‘Matthew 24:13’. Jesus demonstrates the proper attitude we should all follow; He sets the pace and He leads us to victory!
These are difficult times for everyone, so let us continue to lean on Jesus, keep our eyes fixed on Him and trust Him in this time of emotional instability, ‘so that we will not grow weary and lose heart’. (v3) We will then all be able to say as Paul did to encourage Timothy; ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith’. (2 Timothy 4:7)
Blessings to all
Please continue and join with me in prayer, as we pay tribute to all medical and care staff, not just here in Northern Ireland, but throughout the UK and the world, for their unselfish perseverance and commitment in testing and treating everyone with coronavirus, and to all who are involved in the research into a cure. May the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ protect all of them and us. Amen