Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. Hebrews 11:1
I got a new perspective of this verse today. And it hit me as I was writing down some notes for this post. It's the word
H O P E. I feel hopeful. My spirit is full of hope. And it feels soooooo good. My circumstances have not changed, in fact, they are mounting.
1. I'm currently on day 11 of 30 on wearing a heart monitor. 2. I was given a list of 20 foods that I'm allergic to - not random, yucky foods, but ones I used to eat ALL THE TIME! 3. I've got a tendon issue with my right thumb. That little appendage of my hand is giving me fits. And the cortisone shot last week - yikes! It was awful. My thumb should get better. Good thing I'm left-handed. 4. I'm now carrying 2 Epi pens with me everywhere. These are all in the last month! 5. My ever-present rib injury. See what I mean? But I don't want to dwell there. I gave the list, so you would know, that I know, what it feels to suffer. There are times when I have told my husband, John, that I just can't hold it together anymore. The pain is so bad, I feel gross, I'm starving and I want to scream. And then to be nice to people?? I have a whole new appreciation for people who suffer. It's hard to be nice when you're in pain. So what changed? On the outside everything is the same. But, oh, it's the inside that's different. A black cloud had been hanging over me for over 3-plus years. I did not put that cloud there. It's a Job thing. I was minding my own business and then suddenly needed an umbrella. But today, the cloud has been lifted. HALLELUJAH!!!!! I did nothing. I have not changed anything in my life. I pray, study God's Word and wait on Him just as much as I did before. But......God did it. He removed the cloud. He removed this oppression that has been just hanging over me something fierce. I CAN BREATHE.
I am walking in faith before God. I am studying His Word. And it has been rich. I am currently studying Acts as well as the Holy Spirit. And a verse really struck me (it's the end of the verse that means the most, but I will give the whole verse for context): For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit, 2 Peter 1:21. I drew a little sailboat next to that verse in my Bible. I love the imagery of being "carried along by the Holy Spirit." The Spirit is the wind for my sail. And it makes all the difference. I can sail through this life with purpose, joy and peace because He is directing my course. Two sermons at church have really hit home as well. We are currently in Hebrews and the ones which struck me were about endurance and the throne room. Jesus endured suffering, temptations and much pain. What was said was about His time in the desert in Matthew 4. Satan had carried Him there. And he then began to pull out his tricks from his worn-out bag. Jesus did not fall. Not even for a second. The last temptation was a call by Satan for Jesus to bow down and worship him. He saved his best arsenal for last. His most powerful weapon. You do this Jesus, and I will give you all the kingdoms in the world. Ok. Satan was trying to give something to Jesus that he truly did not possess. He had pulled out what he thought was the best, because it was what HE wanted the most - worship. Jesus endured all the way to the end of this time of temptation and He did not give in. He let Satan pull out everything.
He let him play his full hand. In essence, the enemy played his trump card. But it did not effect Jesus, the Saviour of the world. Do you know why? Because Jesus had already won the game. He is the VICTOR! This interchange is important for us, because we too have a Victor, Jesus, and we have the victory. The battle has already been won. Our enemy wants us to forget it and engage in the game - the game of Life. But, we need to not even go there. I have a race to be running not a game to be playing. And if I engage in the game, I have jumped off the track.
Speaking of running - that's the other point that was made in a recent sermon. Hebrews 12:1-2 speaks of a race. Well, a race has a starting line and a finishing line. It can stretch on for miles, either a 5K, half marathon or a full marathon. Or something in between. What's amazing is that there are not off-shoots of the course. There are no benches along the way. To be engaged in the race means to STAY IN the race. One might need to slow down to a crawl, but that same runner is still in the race. He does not step off the course because he doesn't want to do it any more. (Well, not usually). He's trained too hard. She's got family rooting for her. There is encouragement on every side. There are water stations. Lots of people shouting out "You go girl!" To get to the finish line, you have got to stay in the race. No matter how long it takes to finish, the point is that you finish. There are times when a runner has his best time ever, or he is barely hanging on with every ounce of strength left - he's bleeding, toe nails have fallen off, his shoes are thrashed, he's completely and thoroughly EXHAUSTED. He has staggered/crawled to the finish line. He made it. That is the way it is with us in the Christian race. We may run, we may crawl. We may run out of steam. Get every distraction thrown at us. If one is going fast, Jesus is keeping up. The opposite is true - if one is going really, really slow, Jesus slows down His pace to keep in step with us. There are even times when you need to stop and just catch a breath. But not for long. A race is meant to be forward movement. I realized that I'm in the walking/crawling part of my race right now. I'm not sprinting, but there is forward movement. And Jesus has kept His pace with mine. Very, very comforting. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord has given me - the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace. Acts 20:24 I love this verse. Especially now. As I have had my time of being called aside to learn more of Jesus and the road of suffering He has been showing me that my life is to be one of testimony to His grace. I was just asked yesterday how I keep going. Honestly, in the flesh, I can't. Period. I actually wanted to give up when I was given all the foods that I could no longer eat. I was just done. How was I going to incorporate this new limitation in my life? I had had a whine session with God the Saturday after I got this list. I had told Him that I was truly willing to keep going, keep running, but I needed to know He was in this with me. I needed to see Him afresh and anew. I was stopped in the race and I really couldn't even catch my breath. The next day our Sunday School class started on the book of James. You know the verse that's right there in verse two - Consider it pure joy whenever you face trails of many kinds? Well, that hit me between the eyes. I had a hard time holding it together in class. Then, the sermon was the one about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. I was giving up before Satan had pulled out all his tricks. I was crumbling on the easy stuff. I was giving in. I needed to let my enemy pull it all out, then stand to let him know that my HOPE is in Jesus. And in Him alone. Only. These two lessons were for me. That's how I keep going. No matter how hard it gets, Jesus still gets me. He's for me. Even when I come to Him like a naughty little girl and demand to see Him, He answers me. Granted, it is with conviction. But it is with LOVE. He loves me with an everlasting love. He has marked out this race for me. He is there when I'm sprinting and now as I'm crawling. The point is, He is there. That truly is how I keep going. I have a hope, a Saviour, a race, a message, life, purpose, a finish line and a prize - my Jesus. It is worth it. All of it. I can't take the good stuff of the race - the outdoors, camaraderie, new running shoes, a beautiful course along the beach - and leave out the bad. The training, aching muscles, worn out body. It's a package deal. You really can't have one without the other. And victory would not be so sweet if there was not pain and endurance involved. Testing your body to the limit. Well, marathon runners say this, so I have to trust them. I don't like pain any more than the next guy. In fact, if I had my way, I'd get in the race labeled "Kiddie Run." But I'd look awful funny running around with a bunch of 4 year olds. "We fall to temptation long before,the tempter has put out the whole of his power. We never know temptation at its fiercest because we fall long before that stage is reached. But Jesus was tempted far beyond we are; for in His case the tempter put everything he possessed into each assault. We collapse in the face of temptation, but Jesus went to our limit and far beyond and still did not collapse."
William Barclay Enough said. Amen and amen.