Perseverance is a word that matters when it comes to faith in God. How we finish is crucial in this life of faith, not just how we start. And what we fight for says a lot about what we really value.
Over the course of my life, I have seen too many people walk away from Jesus. For some it was because life got difficult. For some it was because of their love for the things of this world. Each of these people started well and had a real excitement for following Christ but over time gave up and walked away. When things got hard, they stopped running. When the cost went up, it was too much.
The reality, though, is that the Christian life truly is worth living. It is worth fighting for. It is worth sacrificing everything for. So why do so many people give up? Why do so many walk away? How do we persevere and make it to the end?
The letter of Hebrews was written to a group of people for that very purpose. The author was urging believers to persevere, to press on. These people were facing lots of difficulty and pressure to give up and go back to the life they had before Christ. Here are 4 insights from Hebrews 12 that help us fight for this life of faith and persevere to the end.
And what we fight for says a lot about what we really value.
1. We aren't the first ones to run the race.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith." Just before this chapter in Hebrews, the author lists all these different people throughout the Bible and history that have suffered for their faith and persevered. In a very real sense, he is saying that we can persevere, because they did. We need to look back and see the faithfulness of God in so many ways and so many lives, and we need to remember that the same God is working in us. The same God is with us. The same God will see us through till the end.
We aren't the first ones to be in the situations we are in. When we are tempted to think how will we make it? How will this ever work out? What can God do? This is such a simple but powerful reminder: God has done it before, and God will do it again. So press on. Keep pursuing Him. Keep your heart set on Him no matter what.The same God is working in us. The same God is with us. The same God will see us through till the end.
2. How we run the race matters.
When you run a race, whether it's a marathon or a 5k, you don't put on a ton of clothes and fill up a backpack full of your favorite things to take with you. You let go of what you don't need, and you get rid of the things that are going to get in your way.
This makes sense with running, but when it comes to our spiritual lives not so much. Here in Hebrews, we see that to persevere we need to let go of what weighs us down in our pursuit of Jesus. What is it that is slowing you down from obeying God? What is it that is tripping you up?
It may be sin in your life, things, relationships, attitudes, desires that are keeping your heart away from Jesus. Also, it may be good things. Sin is not the only things that slows us down in this race with God. Sometimes running this race is difficult because we are focused too much on things that don't matter. Imagine running a race and constantly staring off to the side. You are not going to run well, because you are distracted and not focused on the race.
We need to set our eyes, our perspective on eternity and let that determine how we see everything else. How we run the race matters, not just that we run it.We need to set our eyes, our perspective on eternity and let that determine how we see everything else.
3. The race requires endurance, so it will be difficult.
One unfortunate thing I see a lot is that people have an unrealistic idea of what following Jesus looks like. When you surrender your life to Christ, there will be incredible blessings and benefits. However, that does not mean that our lives will be easier. It does not mean that we will suffer less. It does not mean that everything will all fall into place, and life will be everything we've ever wanted it to be.
In fact, Scripture states the exact opposite. "In this world you will have trouble" (John 16:33). "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God." And here in Hebrews 12, "Let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). You don't need endurance for something easy and relaxing. You need endurance when things are hard, when you are stretched, when it hurts, when you feel like quitting, when you feel like you can't go any further.
The truth is that following Jesus is not easy. But if you prepare yourself with the right mindset (If you understand that you have to run with endurance, that it is going to be hard), you will not be surprised by hardship. We live in a fallen world, and we have a real enemy who hates God and hates us. But in Jesus Christ, we are victorious. We are more than conquerors. So run and run with endurance.You don't need endurance for something easy and relaxing. You need endurance when things are hard, when you are stretched, when it hurts, when you feel like quitting, when you feel like you can't go any further.
4. Jesus is the glorious prize.
Running with endurance is not us mustering up enough strength to make it on our own. I love that the author of Hebrews tells us exactly how to run with endurance, how to persevere.
"We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith."
We do this by seeing Jesus. By keeping our eyes on Jesus.
Why does that matter? Because true Christianity is not just a way to believe. It's not just a way to behave. It's not just a system to follow. Christianity at it's essence is a person. Becoming a Christian is being awakened to see Jesus Christ. To see what He has done, to be in awe of Him, to fall in love with Him, to treasure Him.
This changes everything about enduring to the end. What if the Christian life was a passionate pursuit for the One we love more than anything and anyone? What if all the suffering and all the pain we go through was a means to know Him more? What if every day we wake up, it's one more day closer to seeing Him face to face and hearing His voice call our names?
If Jesus is the end goal, the glorious prize, then that changes the whole race. I'm not running the race so that I can get to my eternal golf course. I'm not running the race so that I can escape cancer. I'm not running the race so that I feel better. I am running the race because at the end of it, I get Jesus Christ. He is the glorious prize, and an eternity with Him in His perfect Kingdom is worth it, no matter what I face in this life.
I have tasted and seen the goodness of God, and I can never go back. I pray you press on in this fight and run with endurance, setting your eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.Becoming a Christian is being awakened to see Jesus Christ.