Beginning the year well.
Every day is an opportunity to start over.
We all have our stories of starting over, maybe it has been after a bankruptcy, the loss of a spouse, a divorce or some other life change. Starting over has a certain appeal to it, leaving behind the past and beginning again. Starting over is not simply a reboot, as when you hit the reboot button on your computer, because after you reboot your computer it may start-up again and work well for a time, but the reality is that the problem caused by the virus or the spyware is still there, and your computer is going to crash again sooner or later.
The same principle applies to our lives, there is no point in simply trying to hit the reset button in our lives if we don’t address the root cause of the problem, the deep down issues that are causing our pain and the lack of victory in our Christian walk.
The writer of Hebrews uses a number of metaphors in chapter 12 pointing to the fact that the Christian life is a race, it is not a life of ease, rather it requires discipline. And the first discipline we have is the discipline of repentance and turning away from sin (Heb 12:1). Confession of sin is a discipline that needs to be done on a regular basis. As the writer to the Hebrews says, sin so easily entangles, and we get the picture that sin is like a creeping vine that wraps around a person’s legs and prevents them from walking and eventually chokes the life out of them. At the outset of the new year, have you spent time, confessing your sins, repenting and recommitting your life to following Jesus?
So as we throw off the sin, verse 1 continues; “And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,”. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 9, the Christian life is not a meandering in the forest, or a life of ease, it is a race that requires strict discipline. The reason is that there are eternal consequences for your daily life. The decisions you make today about how you spend your time, your money, the people you talk to, the places you go, all of these have eternal consequences.
So how do we run this race? Verse 2 starts with the crucial phrase for every Christian; “fixing our eyes on Jesus”. There is simply no other way to live the Christian life. A great picture we have in the Bible is when Peter walked on the water to Jesus. The moment Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. Taking your eyes off of Jesus is the moment your faith begins to waiver. Who or what are you looking to in life? Where is your faith? Jesus is the only security that we can trust for 2017 and beyond.
Verse 3 goes on; “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Jesus is not someone who is aloof and unfamiliar with our suffering and difficulties. The ESV version of the Bible says, “don’t become fainthearted”. In the last year did you feel weary or fainthearted? It is something that we all struggle with at one time or another, but the Bible says that the reason we grow weary and fainthearted is because we take our eyes off of Jesus, we begin to look at the storm clouds on the horizon. We get fainthearted when we look at the uncertain future for our children, we see the number of murders in our city, we look at the unstable financial markets, we get fainthearted because we take our eyes off of Jesus.
Going back to verse 2 again we read; “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith “. Jesus is not only our guide he is also the perfecter of faith. It is all about faith; believing that the blood of Jesus covers our sins, believing that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us, believing that all our earthly struggles are temporary because this is not our home.
But then Hebrews 12 goes on to talk about discipline (Hebrews 12:5-6). We need to have a clear understanding of the difference between discipline and punishment, there is so much confusion between these two words in the church today.
Punishment is a consequence of sin, whereas Discipline is preventative. If you study your Bible, everytime God punishes someone, there is an eternal consequence for sin. But discipline is a training or a correction in order to fulfill the promise of a better future. Discipline has nothing to do with retribution and everything to do with redemption.
If you have made Jesus Christ Lord of your life, you will experience the discipline of the Lord, simply because he loves you so much that he does not want you to struggle with the same sins day after day, week after week and year after year.
Then there is the fruit of this discipline (see Hebrews 12:11). Do you want to have peace in your life this year? Allow yourself to be under the discipline of God, don’t resist the corrections that God brings into your life. He is your perfect Heavenly Father and he will only do things in your life that will be for your good. (see also; Jeremiah 29:11, Luke 12:7, Romans 8:28).
Not only are we disciplined by God, but we are also taught to discipline ourselves. We need to practice disciplines in order to run the race God has planned for us. Over the next few weeks we will be looking at some of these spiritual disciplines that will help us in the running the Christian race in 2017.
Are you ready to commit to run the race that God has for us, throwing off all that hinders you in your personal life?