“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” Hebrews 12:1. Written to Jewish Christians under persecution who wanted to return to their lives before they obeyed the gospel, Hebrews shows how life in Christ is better. By showing them many Old Testament greats who were all looking forward to what was better and were even mistreated or killed for their faith, these Christians could add them to those they knew who had already endured much for their faith. And so today, we who feel the pressure from an increasingly hostile culture to our faith and romanticize a return to our old lives that were “easier” than living faithfully before Christ, might add many we know who persevered to the great cloud of witnesses given to us. As we remember their names and recall their faces, we must use their stories to lay aside spiritual weights and sins and run our race set before us with endurance. Then, we must tell their stories to new generations so their clouds of witnesses might be enriched. Who has encouraged you in Christ by their faithful lives in Him?
“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” Psalm 17:8. David, in his prayer of this psalm, wrestles with living for God as it leaves him exposed and vulnerable to his enemies that have surrounded those who have also chosen Him. They have determined to destroy God’s people and lurk like lions in ambush. No doubt that Christians today, whose hearts have also been tested by God, feel the exact same way. This world is not a friendly place to the meek. We need God just for daily survival. David first asks God to keep him as the most precious possession before Him—the apple of His eye. In His steadfast love God desires to do this for those who seek refuge in Him. He hides them in the shadow of His wings. From this verse, Keith Lancaster penned the comforting lyrics of a song: “Hide me away, O Lord; Hide me away, O Lord; In the day of trouble ‘Neath the shelter of Your wings, Hide me away, O Lord ….” Rather than compromising with the world to hopefully make the world leave us alone, we stand out in our words and deeds while taking refuge in our Savior, trusting in Him fully. Where are you taking refuge—in God or camouflaged as the world?
“And the Lord turned to him and said, ‘Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do I not send you?’” Judges 6:14. In every age, people have always struggled with evil in the world and expecting that God will just eradicate it. After doing so once through a global flood, though, He promised not to do so again … until a final judgment through fire. He still combats evil—but now through His people and their influence for good in the world. Gideon was a typical follower, just a man trying to get through life in the best way that he could. When the angel of the LORD comes to him, he questions why God allows evil—not at all considering that it’s man’s sin that causes it or that God may have a purpose for allowing it to exist. Then, he finds out that he is God’s purpose, that God intends to save His people through him. Gideon rightly expresses his limitations, as we each would do, but God says that he is to go in this might of his. Might? What might does Gideon have? None that he can see. But, God adds, “Do I not send you?” His might is the LORD—as is ours! Does not Jesus command us to go and make disciples, sending us out with the promise of His presence?
“For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” Psalm 16:10. We are uncomfortable with the unknown—and what happens to us after death is one of those subjects. Perhaps we identify with Thomas when he said, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” But, we must trust that God would give us all that we need to get to the place Jesus has gone to prepare for us. A lack of trust was Thomas’ struggle. So, we must be content not understanding the details of how we will get to the place prepared—but trust that Jesus has prepared a place! Before my wife passed in 2020, she had this trust. Expressing concern about the process of dying, we spoke much about the transition from this life to the next. I told her that I didn’t know how it would happen, but when she saw Jesus, she should no longer concern herself with the things of this temporary existence but run into His arms. When Peter aptly applied this verse to Jesus on Pentecost, that He would not see corruption or His soul not be abandoned to the grave. But, in the context of the rest of the psalm, this verse is meant for our benefit. Are you encouraged by this promise?
“And I said to you, ‘I am the Lord you God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice” Judges 6:10. We tend to seek God, not when life is going well, but when we’re facing adversity. This truth is lived out in God’s people at the time of Judges when they repeatedly cycle from falling into sin in the peace God gave them by raising up a judge to crying out to Him when their enslavement became too much. The danger is believing that God’s inaction is the cause of their distress—as is evidenced by Gideon’s question when the angel of the LORD first comes to him. So, God sent a prophet to help them understand the true cause: they feared the world. And, that’s the church’s struggle today. Because we fear the one who can kill the body more than the One who can destroy both body and soul in hell, we also do not obey His voice. And, because we do this, we find ourselves in our own cycle of sin waiting for a judge to rescue us. But He already has! We live, though, as if He doesn’t always live to intercede for us, and so we fall back into sin and fear of the world around us. How can we live as overcomers for He who’s set us free?