Week 9 February 25 - Mar 3, 2018

Our journey of following Jesus that first began after our initial conversion is often described as running a race.

And if there is one thing all believers can agree on, it is that this Christian race is a marathon and not a sprint.

At the beginning of the race when we first announce to the church that we want to give our lives to Christ, our baptism symbolizes a new number being pinned to our chest, and a new course that promises to lead us in a completely different direction. The excitement and encouragement we experience for entering this race is something most of us remember fondly during our first stages of Christian growth.

But, there does come a time if we run long enough that our lungs start to burn, and we no longer hear the cheers of the crowd who celebrated with us when we came out of the baptistry soaking wet.

This is why the writer of Hebrews wants to encourage all Christians to run our Christian race in a certain way that gives us the endurance necessary to cross the finish line.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith.”

In this passage, the writer is giving us all the basic instructions we need to run our race faithfully. He is simply calling us to do three things: (1) Learn from our saints (verse 1a); (2) Lay aside our sins (verse 1b); and (3) Look to our savior (verse 2).

First, to look to our saints means to find inspiration from the stories of other faithful Christians who have already finished their race well. Back one chapter in Hebrews 11, the author recounts the remarkable lives of biblical heroes such as Abraham, Moses, and David. These men are our “cloud of witnesses” who have blazed a trail for us and are beckoning us on to finish our course, so we can celebrate in eternity with them.

Second, we are called to lay aside our sins because everything we say, think, or do that disobeys the will of God sidetracks us from moving forward in the race. Sin is a weight that wears us down, and a distraction that destroys our focus. This passage is boldly charging us to cast aside every sin that would disqualify us for the race, and to keep running forward on the course that God has already set before us to complete.

Finally, we look to our savior Jesus Christ to help us in this race every step along the way. Only Christ can guide our tired legs through to the finish because He alone is our power, our perfecter, and our prize. This means that we get daily strength from Him to keep running; we get a promise that He will declare us perfect in the end because of His finished work on our behalf; and we get Christ himself as our ultimate prize when the race is over. We need to remember our race is primarily about pursuing a person and not a position. We were made to follow Jesus and to be with Jesus forever as His redeemed bride – the Church.

As the Apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 9:24: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.” Therefore, let us learn from God’s witnesses, by listening to God’s Word, and keep our eyes focused on God’s Son.

Learning How to Run for Your Life    

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A Fearful and Firm Heart

          Psalm 112 presents with an interesting paradox that is a key principle of the Christian life. Verse one reminds us, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who greatly delights in his commandments!” Later in verse 7, the psalmist says that this man who fears God “…is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord.”  We don’t typically associate people who are fearful with people who are firm. However, the Scriptures teach us that the more reverent fear we have of God, the less daily fear we will have of the world He created.

The Faith of a Full Mouth

          George Mueller was a famous eighteenth-century evangelist, pastor, and philanthropist in England, whose legendary faith in God led to the building of orphanages and schools for thousands of British orphans without ever financing a dime. His inspiration came from Psalm 81:10, which states, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.” According to Mueller, “Our gracious God speaks here to each one of His children: “Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.”  It is as if He said, “Now ask much at My hands, look for much from Me, bring great requests before Me.  I am God, and not man; it is the very joy and delight of My heart to give abundantly.

A Lesson for Ministry Leaders

          There is a sobering passage in Numbers 3:4 that reveals the ultimate fate of two careless priests. The passage states, “…Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord when they offered unauthorized fire before the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children.” Although we are covered by the wings of God’s grace today through Christ’s fulfillment of the law, God is as holy as He has ever been. This passage reminds us that ministry leaders should be careful to honor the Lord in everything, because God will hold us accountable at our day of judgement. James 3:1 says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

Tips to Keep You on Track

As we turn our attention this week to the first few chapters of Colossians, take some time to meditate on the richness and glory of chapter 1, verses 15-20. This passage beautifully describes the power, the nature, and the preeminence of Christ. Read these six verses slowly and repeatedly, and take time to let them soak in. Jesus Christ is supreme in His relationship with all of creation because all things were created through Him (verse 16a), for Him (verse 16b), and are still being held together by Him (verse 17a) every moment of the day.

Week 10 Readings:  March 4 - 10

-Day One:  Numbers 8-11; Colossians 1

-Day Two:  Numbers 12-14; Psalm 28; Colossians 2

-Day Three:  Numbers 15-18; Psalm 113; Colossians 3

-Day Four:  Numbers 19-21; Colossians 4

-Day Five:  Numbers 22-25; Luke 1