Wednesday, April 12, 2017
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up.
The cheerleader of Hebrews certainly understood the difficulty of life, and the need we all have of encouragement. Who among Adam’s race has never been tempted to quit? But he says: Run with endurance; don’t give up; look at those who have gone before; strip down to bare essentials…and go on!
It’s one thing to make a momentary decision to give your life to God. Many an altar has been tear-stained with a first-time decision for Christ. But by the next Sunday somehow that decision has become a disillusioned, dried-up, demoralized and discarded statistic. The whole idea of endurance was never imagined, much less entertained. Like the seed falling on rocky ground in Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matthew 13) there wasn’t enough soil or water to support the seedling, and faith suffered a withering death.
The will and strength to go-on is often the only missing puzzle piece in the struggle for faith in this life. And yet, helping each other with that is within the grasp of every Christian. Certainly it is not simplistic, but the main ingredient in the strength to go-on is not miracles, money, health or physical strength; the critical factor is encouragement.
Trust me on this one; I’ve been there!
Nearing the end of 1981 we were about half-way through seminary. We had streamlined down from the middle class life to cram three growing kids in a two bedroom trailer on campus. Elizabeth and I both worked, she cleaning houses on campus, and I worked as a drive-thru afternoon/evening teller at a bank. Life was a blurry race that often included whether or not my paycheck was going to reach the bank before the rent check did. With three kids that ate like a small army, there were times when two eggs and a half-loaf of bread were all that stood between a week’s worth of hunger until the next payday.
And I had to study Greek on top of that!
It all came to a head when it was time to register for the next term. In those days it cost about $300 for an 8 week term including books; it might as well have been $3 million, because there was nothing left in the bank account, the rent was due, and the Brownworth refrigerator was on hunger watch…again!
I decided I had had enough of seeing my kids and wife suffer. I couldn’t see how we could make it, so I was going to quit and go back to my insurance job if they’d have me. When I informed Elizabeth I wouldn’t be registering for any more classes I got a look that said: Listen-up, Brownworth, we’re going to go to registration!
We went thru the process, selected classes and all that was left was going to the finance desk to pay. I turned towards the exit door; she said: Where are you going?
I replied: Hey…there’s no money in the bank; we can’t pay.
She said: Write a check.
I said: I can’t do that; there’s no money to cover it; besides, I didn’t even bring the checkbook.
She said: I’ll wait here; go home and get it.
I said: But…
That look reappeared, and I said: Yes, ma’am!
When I reached the trailer I noticed the mail had come. Among the bills there was a familiar pale green envelope. The Sunday School class back in Florida that had occasionally sent us a love offering showed up again! The amount was just a little over $300. It was enough for books, tuition, fees, and a little I told you I’d never leave you nor forsake you celebration lunch at Burger King.
Yes, MA’AM! That’s what I call encouragement!
Encouragement comes in many sizes, shapes and density. Mostly it comes in the size that says: my grace is sufficient for you. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
The writer of Hebrews said to keep your eyes on Jesus and think of all the suffering He endured; that will give you the strength to endure whatever life and evil can throw at you; it will be the difference you need to go-on!