Words From The Heart: Special Weekly Reflection #23

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“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 (NIV)

A few days back I listened to a podcast interview of Pastor Andrew Brunson and his wife Norine. Church planters in Turkey for over 20 years, they were arrested in 2016 and charged with taking part in the failed coup attempt against President Erdogan. Norine was held for only a few days, but Andrew spent two years in a Turkish prison cell, until he was finally released two years later. It was a very moving interview.

At one of his lowest points, his mother was allowed to visit him. To his “woe is me” complaint, his mother said to him, “Andrew, listen. There is a long line of people who have suffered for Jesus Christ, and it’s a line that goes way back, back 2000 years. It is now your turn to stand in that line.” That really sobered me up. I thought, “Yeah, there are many who have gone before me and have been faithful. I thought there are many who are coming after me and if I’m weak and I don’t hold on, what kind of witness is that to those who will suffer after me.”

It is quite likely that you are not imprisoned for your faith in Jesus Christ. But living the Christian life, standing up for Jesus in every situation is not always easy. Living through these days of COVID-19, and making decisions based on Kingdom of God principles, is really challenging, particularly when those decisions stand in sharp contrast to the myriad of opinions expressed in these times. Sometimes, it feels overwhelming.

In these days we need to remember the words that came to Andrew Brunson at the challenge his mother gave him in that prison cell – Hebrews 12:1: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

The previous chapter, Hebrews 11, is the Godly Hall of Faith. It lists by name 16 men and women of faith in the Hebrew Scriptures and ends by describing a throng of others who were persecuted for their faith. The author of Hebrews then goes on to address all those who would follow after them, including us.

As we live out our faith, as we stand for Jesus and His Kingdom in our day, we are surrounded by all those who have gone before. They are cheering us on and they call us to throw off anything in our lives that would get in the way as we “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called [us] heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

The day will come when we will be those in the cheering section. But now, even in this day of COVID-19, we are the ones called to run the Christian race, and cross the finish line with joy and victory. Let’s listen for the cheering section as we do.

I’m Bob Beasley, and these have been words from the heart.

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