Daily Update #205

Hebrews 12:1-4.       Psalm 22:25-31.     Mark 5:21-45. 
Our short reading today from Hebrews 12 is truly a word for dark times. Hebrews was written to first century Christians undergoing great hardship and persecution. Its underlying theme is best summarised in verse 3: “Consider Him (Jesus) who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” Hebrews 11:39-40 had indicated that God’s promises to the Jewish heroes who had lived by faith were not fulfilled in their lifetimes. This perfect completion of their lives would only come through Jesus, who is described in Hebrews 12:2 as “the author and perfecter of our faith” – and theirs too of course! With the help of the Holy Spirit, our lives can become more obedient, joyful and victorious. Here are some thoughts about the uplifting teaching in Hebrews 12:1-4 which show how this will be achieved:
verse 1: the imagery here is of an athletics contest in a Roman amphitheatre. The “great cloud of witnesses” are the men of faith mentioned in Hebrews 11. They are not there as passive spectators. Their role is to be inspiring examples for all who trust in God’s promises and try to live their lives accordingly. The Greek word for ‘witnesses’ relates to testifiers and martyrs who give everything for their faith. We also are urged to be disciplined and to get rid of all that might weigh us down. Then we can “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” At school I enjoyed sprint races and even managed the occasional rapid break as a winger in rugby matches. However, when it came to the 440 yards (as it was then) I would complete the first 220 yards and then, as an asthmatic, would ‘hit the wall’ and slow right down. This is the opposite of the steady perseverance and endurance that God requires from us! Near the end of his life St Paul was able to say “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Each one of us will complete our earthly race with our faith intact if we do not slow down or drop out when the going gets tough.
verse 2: whilst we are called to persevere and to endure whatever life throws at us, we can remember that Jesus “for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” For Him there was joy in obeying His Father, in serving those in need and in being able to bring salvation to sinners like us. What courage and endurance Jesus revealed on our behalf at Calvary! What love and grace God poured out on our behalf by allowing His perfectly obedient Son to go through such suffering for us! It seems to me that this verse gives us the key for coping with any difficulties we might come across. I believe that it also gives us the key to completing with great joy our journey towards heaven. This is – 
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus.”The meaning here is to focus our eyes on Jesus exclusively, and to look away from any distractions. As we fix our eyes on Him, the cares and problems of this world are put into their proper focus. He is still in control.    
Today’s Prayer: Dear Father, in the words of the old song, please help us each day to  turn our eyes upon Jesus and to look full in His wonderful face. May the things of this earth grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace. Help us to be obedient to you as we seek to serve you and to love others as you do. Please strengthen us so that we never grow weary or lose heart. Instead, may our faith in you and in your promises endure so that each one of us will finish the race marked out for us. Amen.
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