August 6, 2020
Hebrews 12:4-13
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
    and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
    and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children.  For what children are not disciplined by their father?  If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.  Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

New International Version (NIV)
I know, that is ten verses.  Why so many?  We know Romans 8 is one of the great mountain peaks of the New Testament.  Reading today I was reminded that Hebrews 11-12 is in the same range!  I hope you read the whole chapters.  The writer begins by portraying the Christians who have gone before us, surrounding us in a stadium as we run the race marked out for us.  Remember they are waiting for us to finish our race before the final celebration in the New Jerusalem starts (11:39-40). 

Remember that the Christian life is not a sprint.  Like the Olympic marathon runners who finish their 26.2 mile trek by entering a stadium full of cheering fans, in the stadium are former winners, cheering them on.  How do we prevail in the marathon of life?  The goal of the Christian life is not to please ourselves or others, but Jesus.  So we fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who saw the joy before him as he suffered the cross and scorned its shame.  With our eyes on Jesus we do not grow weary or lose heart. 

Wait, why would Christians ever suffer at all?  Aren’t we exempt because we believe?  No.  In fact, Christians endure hardship as discipline (11:7).  Quoting from Proverbs 3:11-12, the writer reminds us that the Lord only disciplines those he loves.  As we submit to the discipline of our parents, how much more to the discipline of our heavenly Father who disciplines us so that we may share in his holiness and reap the harvest of righteousness and peace.

Pandemics test our faith and try our souls.  Without an understanding of the way God works in our suffering, we are doomed to confusion, bitterness and despair.  Our relationship with God is not a quid pro quo relationship.  We scratch God’s back in order to obligate him to scratch ours.  This concept demeans and diminishes God.  Our Father is not some cosmic genie who must do what we tell him because we put him in our debt.  Romans 11:35 reminds us God can never be in our debt after he gave his only Son for us. 

God is working our pain together with our joy for our ultimate good, that is to conform us to the image of his only Son.  We strengthen our arms and our weak knees because suffering is part of life in a broken world.  But the promise is that we have come to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to Jesus.  We are receiving an unshakable kingdom from our unshakable God.  So when we face hard times, we never stop worshiping God acceptably with reverence and awe.  Our God is a consuming fire.  The great missionary Amy Carmichael responded a life of suffering by writing, “Make me your fuel, flame of God.”

Pray with me:         
Father, thank you for our loved ones who have preceded us in the great stadium of your presence.  It is good to know that we are not alone as we finish our race.  Grant us the ability to focus on Jesus first today.  Help us to keep our eyes on him, to set the Lord always before us.  May his story become our story.  Father, we pray for all those who are enduring hardships and suffering today.  Strengthen them we pray.  Since we do not know what will come our way today, give us the courage to trust you.  Make us unshakable, like you are.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.  
Join us in memorizing the Word.  Scripture for this week:    
Matthew 6:19-21
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Our 2020 Every Day with Jesus readings will follow the Foundations New Testament reading plan.  Copies of the reading plan are available at Tallowood Baptist Church, or download your copy at REPLICATE.ORG 
We would love for you to join us as we read the New Testament through this year, five chapters a week.  In addition I will continue my long-standing practice of reading one Psalm a day through the year.  Use Robby Gallaty’s H. E. A. R. plan to study each chapter (also found at REPLICATE.ORG). Highlight verses which speak to you, explain what they mean in your own words in a journal, apply them to your own life, then respond by doing what God tells you to do.  

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