Just Like Jesus An Enduring Heart
Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Max likes the wording, “and never give up” for perseverance. The Contemporary English version for sin says, “especially that the sin that just won’t let go.” God’s Word translation reads, “especially sin that distracts us.” I believe we can relate to this verse. We have at least one sin that’s a real struggle for us. Throwing the sin off is not easy. Satan is coming after us constantly with that particular temptation or temptations in my case. He wants us to give up. The enduring heart keeps on fighting Satan and running the race.
Some people never realize there is a race. Some realize there is a race but don’t care to join it. Others enter in the race then quit or give up. Our race is living our life for God and building a strong relationship with Him and Christ by serving Him. Satan wants us out of the relationship and the race!
If you have a relationship with God but it’s not as good as it once was, God did not change it. You did! Hebrews 13:8 “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” When something bad happens in their lives, some people blame God and let that experience control their relationship with God. They quit the race. Others are too easily discouraged and don’t maintain their relationship. We need to take control and manage our relationship with God. Don’t let Satan have control or you will be out of the race. Be honest in analyzing the cause of the change in the relationship and pray for God’s help to return the race.
Please forgive this personal reference but I hope it will help others. During my late teens and early twenties, I gave up! I quit the race! I let what I saw as pious (making hypocritical display of virtue) people have too much effect on me. During the first week of my freshman year in college, five of us had one beer which was against the school rules. One of the five was a preacher student. The next night he went forward to confess his sin. The dean of students sent the dorm mother her to investigate why Gary had gone forward. After talking with Gary, the dorm mother called the rest of us in for a meeting. Gary’s story placed all the blame on the rest of us. I don’t remember what the dorm mother told the dean, but she did not give him the complete details. Later that semester another preacher student was kicked out of school and he spilled the beans about us. After a lengthy meeting with the discipline committee we were not kicked out. We were happy! There were five men on the committee, so we referred to them as the DC 5 but not to their face. The DC 5 were a popular singing group. Our attitude towards them and the school was in question!!!
The two main reasons we were not kicked out was Gary was a favorite of the dean and Monte was with us. Monte’s father was a well-known preacher and supporter of the college. We begin to pay attention to other discipline committee decisions in case we needed it in the future. Regardless of what the rule book said, who you or your parents were was the real decision maker about your continued stay with the college. Gary, the fine upstanding preacher student lied his way out of trouble. We also noted other discrepancies in applying discipline which I will not go into all of them. But students were rewarded for spying on others and turning their transgressions in to the dean.
My attitude at this point was that if this is a mecca of Christendom, then being a Christian is not for me. I did not return to regular church attendance until our son was four years old, about six years after leaving that school. The problem was mine. I let the dean, members of the committee and others have influence over my relationship with God and Christ. I did not have an enduring heart to run the race. Do not let others take you out of the race! Your relationship with God is not through other people but through Jesus. Fortunately, God was patient and allowed me time to return to the race. Max writes about finishing our race strong in this chapter.
Max talks about not completing things we start such as workout programs, diets or supplements that supposedly improve us. “You know as well as I, it’s one thing to start something. It’s something else entirely to complete it. My desire is not to convince you to finish everything. My desire is to encourage you to finish the right thing. Certain races are optional----like washboard abs and speed reading. Other races are essential---like the race of faith.”
Max writes:” The word race is from the Greek agon, from which we get the word agony. The Christian’s race is not a jog but rather a demanding and grueling, sometimes agonizing race. It takes a massive effort to finish strong.” We would do well to make sure people understand Max’s point, especially our children. At times, they commit before they really understand what they are committing to. There will be struggles! We will fail at times! Being a Christian is not for sissies, especially with the devil working against you!!
Max continues on finishing strong: “Likely you’ve noticed that many don’t? Surely, you’ve observed there are many on the side of the trail. They used to be running. There was a time they kept the pace. But then weariness set in. They didn’t think the run would be this tough. Or they were discouraged by a bump and daunted by a fellow runner. Whatever the reason, they don’t run anymore. They may be Christians. They may come to church. They may put a buck in the plate and warm a pew, but their hearts aren’t in the race. They retired before their time. Unless something changes, their best work will have been their first work, and they will finish with a whimper.” Do not spend any effort trying to think about others that Max’s description may fit! Spend time thinking about whether or not it fits you!
Are these people Max describes the same ones John describes in Revelation 3:15-16 ESV “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” If these descriptions are about the same people and I believe they are, recommitment to the race is necessary before you try to join it again! Don’t have an attitude that God will let me coast for the rest of the race. Pray for forgiveness and show recommitment! “Don't worry about having the right words; worry more about having the right heart. It's not eloquence he seeks, just honesty.” *
Max believes that Jesus is the classic example of one who endured. Hebrews 12:3, NIV: "Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
Max maintains that during the temptation of Christ in the desert Satan tried him every minute of the forty days. “Satan got on Jesus like a shirt and refused to leave. Every step, whispering in his ear. Every turn of the path, sowing doubt. A war raged within. Stress stormed without. And since he was tempted, he could have quit the race. But he didn’t. He kept on running.” Does Max’s description of Satan’s temptations of Christ sound familiar to his treatment of you?
Max uses John chapter 8 as further evidence for what Jesus endured for us. Jesus was going about his ministry of teaching when the Jews were claiming he was demon possessed. Luke 4 records an instance when Jesus’s teachings caused the people to try to throw him from a cliff. A lot of verbal badgering and discouragement for him to endure
Max continues his thought: Hebrews 12:1-3 9 (The Message Version) “Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. 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!”
What kept Jesus going during his temptation? Why didn’t he quit the race? Some writers believe Jesus used his supernatural powers in his battle with Satan. Others believe he used what God gives all of us, our will, determination and faith to serve him. They see it as an example and encouragement for us to stay in the race.
Max writes: “How? How did he endure such disgrace? What gave Jesus the strength to the shame of all the world? We need an answer, don’t we? Like Jesus we are tempted. Like Jesus we are accused. Like Jesus we are shamed. But unlike Jesus, we give up. We give out. We sit down. How can we keep running as Jesus did? How can our hearts have the endurance Jesus had?”
Max’s answer, “By focusing where Jesus focused: on ‘the joy that God had put before him’ Hebrews 12:2”. He focused on the prize of heaven. By focusing on the prize, he was not only able to finish the race but to finish it strong.”
Max closes the chapter writing about all the projects/races we run in our lives. One of his projects is writing one book each year then celebrating the completion of the race in various ways. One of them is to enjoy a great meal. He writes how Jesus focused on the feast that awaited him. Max: “Such a moment awaits us. In a world oblivious to power abs and speed reading, we’ll take our place at the table. In an hour that has no end, we will rest. Surrounded by saints and engulfed by Jesus himself, the work will, indeed, be finished. The final harvest will have been gathered, we will be seated, and Christ will christen the meal with these words: Well done, good and faithful servant” Matthew 25:23 KJV.
If focusing on the prize and looking forward to hearing Jesus’ words “well done” is not enough to keep you in the race, then you need a complete evaluation of what’s important to you. Try a prayer partner. Choose someone you respect and trust. Ask them to pray about your race.
Allen Jackson uses Hebrews 12:1 to write about our race in his daily devotional book, Standing Firm, Finding Courage in the Word of God. Allen writes: “This verse reminds us that sin is not something that we can easily walk into and out of-it entangles us. Sin reminds me of a cobweb. If you’re like me, you’ve walked into more than a few cobwebs that you didn’t see. In an instant, it seems, sticky filaments are wrapped around you. The threads are hard to find and difficult to pull off when they stick to your fingers. Very often you get more than a sticky web; you get the dead insects that got caught and came to a sticky end. If we had seen those webs, we would have avoided them; but we weren’t paying attention, and we walked into a mess. If we are to run our life’s race successfully, we need to keep our eyes open for sin that is waiting to entangle us. It’s much easier to avoid the sticky web completely than to clean ourselves up after we walk into it.”
“Have there been times when you have seen the web of sin in front of you but walked into it anyway? What was the result?”
Allen ends his thoughts with a prayer: “Heavenly Father, help me discard all that prevents me from persevering and running the race You have marked out for me. Help me increasingly gain the freedoms available to me, purchased through the cross and Jesus’ shed blood. In Jesus’ name, amen”
1. Question asked by a teen years ago: Do I get any credit for effort? First, you must have the desire for heaven. For me, no desire for something means every little if any effort. I don’t have an exact answer to the question, but I found this answer interesting:
The following is from an article in the Christian Examiner written by Mark Klages: “God knows the compounding damage sin has on our lives. He knows that repetitive sin hardens our hearts and damages our relationship with Him. He knows the longer and deeper we dive into a life of repetitive sin, the stronger the habit of sin becomes, and the harder it is for us to climb up out of that hole into His presence. The harder we cling to our selfish sins, the more likely we are to follow them away from God's burning holy light. So, God does acknowledge the little victories, the daily effort we give in contrast with the daily sin we suffer, on our journey to become more like Him. But He would rather we succeed.”
2. Question by a teen: Does God grade on the curve? I believe Revelation 3:15-16 answers the question: “‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.”
3. Yes, Mike, but you see I’m not as strong spiritually as others! I keep trying and failing! Then I become discouraged! What will God do? 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. This verse should provide encouragement.
You must build and maintain a close, loving and obedient relationship with God, then follow these two verses: “I run straight toward the goal to win the prize that God's heavenly call offers in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:14 Good News Translation
Hebrews 12:1 “Therefore, since we are surrounded by a such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
Just Like Jesus written by Max Lucado, Published by Word Publishing – 1998 – Used with permission
Standing Firm – Finding Courage in the Word Of God written by Allen Jackson – 2018 - Published by Intend Publishing – Used with permission
*Max Lucado, Cast of Characters: Common People in the Hands of an Uncommon God