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 12:1b-2
Running a race takes two things, perseverance and focus. There are many runners who have one or the other of these traits, however, it takes both. The person must be willing to keep pushing forward when the run gets rough and he is weary and worn-out. However, he must also stay focused on the end goal to keep moving forward correctly.
People who drive down a road, must stayed focused. If they take their eyes off of the road, they will begin to wander across the lanes or off the road. The majority of accidents that occur are because someone was not focusing on what they were doing, and so they began to wander of the path. Sometimes it is off the road, other times it is into the path of someone else, causing a collision.
In life, there are people who are focused on getting wealthy, or purchasing some item, or getting a certain position. Those who do not focus on anything in life, just wander around, not really accomplishing anything.
Believers have the same struggle. They must keep their eyes focused on Jesus. This will give encouragement to keep moving forward and to turn away from all sin.
The path to heaven is narrow and is only found through Jesus. If one is not focused on Jesus it will be easy to move off the path and lose the gift God is giving you of forgiveness and eternal life.
Focusing on Jesus is an easy thing to do, if you are willing to do it. Read the Bible daily and memorize some verses. Keep your mind focused on what God says about how to live life on this earth.
Take time throughout the day to sing a song of praise to God. Worship Him and your eyes will automatically focus on Jesus.
Looking at this world will take your eyes off of Jesus and cause you to leave the path. It will bring you into the path of sin and death, not the eternal life God has for you.
Where are your eyes focused today?
I pray that you will know Jesus as your Savior; that you will focus your life on Jesus; that you will live your life as God desires; and that you will keep running the race God has for you.
Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring. 2 Thessalonians 1:4
Persecutions and trials are not something most people look forward to. No one wants to be persecuted or put on trial for anything. This becomes especially true when someone is innocent of doing anything wrong.
When a person is summoned for a court hearing to be tried, he usually gets very nervous, especially if innocent. He runs out quickly to find a good lawyer to defend him. He wonders if he will be able to prove his innocence. Many will start to fight back saying that they are innocent. In the process of fighting back, some will end up committing a crime.
It is common to hear of people slandering or cursing their accusers. They run to the media to try and clear their name. Or they try to flee and never face their accuser.
Paul tells the people of the Thessalonian church that he boasts about what they are doing in the face of persecution and trials. They are staying strong and true to God’s word and holding on to their faith.
Over the years, not every believer has acted liked the Thessalonian church. The trials can be real court trials against them, but often they are just trials in life to test their faith. The little day-to-day struggles are trials that test what a person is really like. Slander and lies are the persecutions that many face.
As believers are faced with these types of persecutions or worse and the many types of trials in life, they are given a choice as to how to react to them. Many begin to curse the person or situation, or they get angry with God for allowing it to happen.
Believers are to hold on to their faith and trust God through every situation. They are to not give up on God and take the way of the world.
Persecutions and trials will come your way. Jesus promised them. You have a choice as to how you will react to those situations. They may be big and grand persecutions, but usually they will be the little things in life each day.
Will you give into the trial and act like the world?
Or will you hold on to your faith that God is in control?
Hang on to God and the trial will come to an end in His time.
I pray today that you will have faith in God’s abilities; that you will hold on to God during trials; that you will focus on God and His promises in persecutions; and that you will shine as a witness of Jesus in this world.
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.” James 1:2-3
James starts out his letter with a very powerful, hard-hitting, and not so cheerful statement about being joyful. Everyone loves to hear about being joyful and wants to hear good news. Yet, at first, James’ statement does not sound like it was said correctly and is not really good news. He tells the people to have pure joy when going through a trial.
No one likes to go through a hard time. Most people will be complaining about having to go through a difficult time. Every believer will be crying out to God to remove a difficult trial in their life. They will be seeking any way possible to get out from under that challenge that is going on.
Yet, James is telling the people to consider it pure joy to be going through the trial. Pure joy is an extreme excitement.
Think about what you feel when you are suddenly promoted to a position you have long desired and worked for. Or when you graduated high school, or college and earned your degree. Or the day you proposed and she said yes, or he proposed and you said yes. Or the day you got married. These are all days where you experienced pure joy. You were excited.
This same excitement should be felt when you are going through a hard time. It goes against the nature of man to have that joy. The reason for that joy is that it is God’s way to build you up. God is working to build up your perseverance, your endurance to keep going forward for Him.
An athlete has pure joy when finishing a difficult workout. He feels invigorated and ready to compete because of the workout. The reason is because he knows the value of that workout.
Look beyond the pain of the moment and look to the value on the other side of the challenge. Think about how you will be able to tell that God was there with you and for you through it all. Think about the great testimony you will have afterwards.
Consider it pure joy this new year as you go through challenges and trust God in and through them. Grow closer to God and more like Jesus everyday.
I pray today that God will strengthen you in every challenge you have; that you will trust God through everything; that God will reveal Himself to you more in each trial; and that you will be more like Jesus each day.
“May the Lord direct your hearts into God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.” 1 Thessalonians 3:5
Paul had just finished stating that Jesus is faithful and will protect the people from the evil one and will strengthen them. In doing this they must continue to do the things that God has directed them to do. Now he has a prayer that the Lord will direct their hearts.
Directing is guiding or leading someone to the right path. This could be a physical path trying to get to a certain location, or it could be direction in getting something accomplished.
Directors that direct a play are guiding the actors in how to act, what to say, what to do, when to do, and where to do it. This is being done so that the various actors can come together to act out a story. This actors need clear direction from one head person, or they will not be able to get together.
God is at work at directing your heart. There are two things He is directing your heart in: God’s love and Christ’s perseverance.
God’s love covers all of the do’s and don’ts in life. His love is perfect. He loves every person, regardless of how good or bad they are or have been. When you love as God loves, you will not do anything to harm anyone or God in any way. Your heart has to be on the same path of love that God’s love is.
The perseverance of Jesus is beyond any measure. Think of the pain and suffering He went through, without murmuring one word of complaint or anger. He knew what His Father wanted Him to do. He knew what would be the outcome of it. He also knew He had to go through extreme unjust suffering.
You may be going through some rough times. It may not make any sense. It may not seem like it will ever end. Yet, you must hang in there as Jesus did. Keep going forward, trusting God. Go through the hard times, because that is what God wants you to do.
If your heart is following these two paths, the path of love and the path of perseverance, you will be on the path God has for your life. Allow God’s Holy Spirit to guide you. Allow Jesus to direct your heart. Don’t direct yourself.
I pray today that you will keep your heart under God’s direction; that you will have God’s heart of love; that you will have the perseverance of Jesus; and that God will use you to reach many people for Jesus.
“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-4
It is easy to rejoice in the salvation that Jesus provides by faith. It is an amazing grace that God loves people and wants to save them. Any person who realizes this will be rejoicing in the grace of God for their salvation.
Paul takes it a step further, however, with rejoicing in suffering. This is a difficult one for most people. Why would anyone want to rejoice in suffering? Why would anyone be glad for pain?
The reason is what suffering brings about in the end. First suffering produces perseverance. This is the ability to hang in there and keep going forward. It is not throwing in the towel and quitting when things get rough.
Once perseverance is accomplished, character starts to form. Everyone likes the person who keeps going forward, who has vision and hope despite the circumstances. This character will show a person who is honest, trustworthy, and loyal to God and others.
After the character is built there is hope. When there is a person who has a godly character one can see the vision of hope in his heart. He realizes that all the suffering happening is only for a short time. The suffering is only to keep one close to God and to be a witness to others. God has a purpose for all of the suffering allowed to happen.
It is easy to grumble and get upset when things go wrong and you start suffering. Seek God and ask Him to help you to change your view. Allow God to use the suffering to build you up and give you hope.
God uses everything to your benefit. Things are used to build you up and help you be a witness of God’s power and love.
Are you willing to allow God to do what is needed to be done to make you more like Jesus? Are you willing to allow God to use you to build His kingdom? Rejoice in everything. Rejoice in the suffering, because in the end it produces a better result, if you allow it to.
I pray today that God will give you a new vision of His work in your life; that you will see the end results of suffering; that you will allow God to make you more like Jesus; and that you will have the hope Jesus provides.