by Susan Sampson

As I was reading the weekly scripture verse from Hebrews 12:1-3 the Lord caught my attention.  The author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…”  The phrase “let us run with endurance” reminded me of our reading in Romans.  Paul writes, “Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope...” (Rom. 5:2-4).

As I’ve shared, I’m not a runner, but I am accustomed to running in one way — running from suffering.  Sadly in doing so I run away from the Lord and His purposes for me.  I run away from the gospel. I run from the very thing the Lord wants to use in my life to produce endurance, character, and hope.  In the gospel we are called to suffer, to put our flesh to death, to die to self as Christ died for us on the cross.  The Lord is sovereign, He is in control of all things at all times.  I must confess my unbelief and choose by faith to believe God’s Word that He uses all things together for good.  He allows suffering to come into our lives to bring us to the end of ourselves and to bring us to Him.  Remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 1:9: “Indeed we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves, but on God who raises the dead.”  Our suffering pushes us, tests our faith, strengthens our faith, proves our faith.  Our suffering pushes us to remember the gospel.  It brings us on eagles wings to Jesus.

When our lives are manageable and orderly we don’t think we need God.  When we are in control (or think we are in control — because the truth is that we’re not at all) we don’t think we need God.  Dare I believe suffering is a gift?!  This is true.  Look at what Paul writes in Philippians 1:29-30: “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”  Lord, I want to believe, help my unbelief!  Deliver me from my wrong thinking, my human thinking.  Your ways are not our ways — they are far higher.  So high I cannot see.  Give us eyes to see and hearts that understand.  Humble us, Lord, that we would stop relying on our own understanding, perceptions, feelings, or logic!

I was wondering what the opposite of endurance was — quitting? stopping? giving in?  Remember Laurie said when she was running she heard, “Stop.”  She testified that it was the grace of God that allowed her to endure.  We are not called to quit, we are called to follow.  Praise God we are not left to ourselves to accomplish this.  Praise God for the amazing gift of the Holy Spirit — “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).  Lord, we need you.  We are weak and unable apart from you.  Please give us much grace.  Help us to remember the gospel and preach the gospel to ourselves in those moments that come everyday when we are tempted to unbelief, pride, anger, fear, being ashamed, and giving in.  Help us to fan the flame, guard the treasure, and follow the pattern of the sound Word — the Living Word, Jesus Christ by the faith and love that are in Jesus, who dwells in each believer.

Help us, Father, take your truth to our hearts continually throughout every day.  Bring your truth to life in our hearts.  Enable us by your love and grace to live the gospel.  “For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever.  Amen” (Rom. 11:36).

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