07 February, 2014

Feb: Reflecting on Heb 12:1-3

I wrote early in January that I wanted to reflect at least monthly here on the passage at the beginning of Hebrews 12. So here goes.

Hebrews 12:1-3
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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Verse 3 from The Message:
When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Well reflecting on this in the midst of the wrestling season obviously colours my thoughts.

Cloud of witnesses
These two photos from 12 months ago come to mind when
I talk about perseverance and wrestling. This was a huge
6-minute match and both wrestlers scored lots of points.
This is the end of it, and you can see how exhausted they were.
I can see the guys trying their best on the shiny blue and gold mats on Saturday. Our team was "at home" so there were many urging them on. The noise of the crowd "witnesses" was loud. My son tells me he doesn't hear distinctive voices, but just the general noise of the crowd. He does, however, hear the coach. That was very obvious in one bout on Saturday when he was struggling to pin a guy and the coach gave him a specific instruction about changing his position. He did that and it had an almost immediate effect on the situation.
The good news of that match, was that our son won it. He
persevered through something very hard and won.

The verse tells us that as we live our lives we too are surrounded by a crowd of witnesses. They would be people who've gone before us who watch us from heaven, and people who are walking alongside us here on earth. 

Obviously the voices we hear are usually the ones of those walking alongside us. Sometimes we can hear the crowd, sometimes we can only hear specific voices. In thinking about this, however, I realise how important it is to pay attention to our most important "witness", God himself. Our "coach" if you like. There are times in supporting our son wrestling when, in my naive enthusiasm, I've shouted the wrong advice. At those times I'm glad my son hasn't headed my advice, but rather his coach's. Same for my life. There are many surrounding us who can give us wrong advice, but it it doesn't agree with God, our "Coach", then we shouldn't heed it.

"let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us"

Wrestling not only takes explosive power, but it requires perseverance too. There are bouts that our son has won in only 30 seconds of action. But there have been others that have gone the full 6 minutes. Often in the longer bouts, it has been our son's endurance that has won the bout for him.

Same in life. There are times we need to sprint, or put some extra energy into a narrow space of time. But there are many other times when we need to keep our eyes on the longer-term, to carefully use our energy so that we can stick it out for a lot longer. That is what the author is urging us to do here. To have patience, to keep pressing onwards and not giving up too easily. 

I need to remind myself of this often, especially with parenting. Not that I want to give up, but that sometimes it seems like I'm getting no response to my repeated efforts and striving. This is a reminder that parenting is a long-distance event and I should continue to stick at it. 

Mission is the same. We want fast results and we want them now. But that isn't the reality, especially in Japan. The missionaries I admire the most are those who've stuck it out the long-term, not the ones who began with a great deal of energy and zeal, but who didn't stay.


I love verse 3 in The Messenger. Adrenaline. That's what keeps me going back to wrestling meets. It is a huge shot of adrenaline that goes coursing through me when one of the CAJ guys on the mat strives hard and then succeeds (especially when it is my own son). It is the reason that, though I've taken a small cross-stitch project to all the meets I've been to this year, I've only managed to complete a small portion of it. The adrenaline means I can't concentrate to stitch or count accurately enough to work on it once the bouts begin.

So this verse gives us a clue as to how to give our spiritual lives a shot of adrenaline! "That story" here particularly refers to the story of Jesus, I believe. But it also could be that we should reflect on the stories of those who have gone before us and persevered. Certainly I find it encouraging also to review how God has enabled me in my spiritual story to persevere in the past. Even to recall how he has provided for us to serve in this expensive land of Japan for the last 13 years is an encouragement to my soul and something of a spiritual adrenaline shot!

In conclusion
So, yesterday as we had our first "formal" planning meeting for home assignment, the hugeness of this year came into focus once again. Big changes, big decisions, tough things to do. 

But taking it back to these verses, I know that sticking at the course God has led us to is important, but not just that, that he will be with us in the change. That many have gone before us on this difficult journey of packing up a family and going "home" for deputation, and survived. Those witnesses are watching, and cheering us on. 

If I flag in the journey, all I need to do is consider, not just those missionaries who've done this and survived, but Jesus as he walked down the road of his life, fully knowing the big, hard thing he had coming up in his life.

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