"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. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:1-2
A frequent theme in recent conversations with dear friends has centered on the difficulties and pain of living. Hard words like cancer, loss, divorce, death of parents, tragedy, foreclosure, difficult family relationships, and job loss are spoken. However, parallel themes in the same conversations have been full of faith: the determination to persevere, to be thankful for God's gifts, to fully trust in the Lord, and to finish strong.
This weekend, I had the privilege of worshiping with good friends in a different setting. The sermon was based on the above scripture. It is a familiar passage and a good reminder of a few things.
The first is that running the race of faith involves moving in a "long obedience in the same direction" (borrowing a title from a book by Eugene Peterson). This doesn't mean our journey is free of detours or pain, but that that we continue with our eyes fixed our goal: honoring God by following Christ and the example he gave in life and death. Living life gracefully with joy and thanksgiving despite the hard things is one way we can do this.
The second reminder is being aware of those things that "so easily entangles," the things that keep us from becoming everything God wants us to be. It is easier for me to hang onto the habits that slows my spiritual growth than examine myself for the things that do not honor God. Also, in our busy lives, it is easy to settle for "good" rather than seeking "best," especially when it means waiting. We are more comfortable with an abundance of good things rather than the simplicity of God's best.
Praying today for myself and others that we will continue find God's grace each day to continue on the race that God has set before us. May we learn to honor God by embracing life with joy and thankfulness!