Tag Archives: Hebrews 12:2

When Suffering, Focus Your Faith (Part 2)

This is part two in a three part series.  If you didn’t get a chance to read last week’s blog on dealing with suffering, you can do so by clicking here.  I would recommend it since these thoughts build on top of each other.

The question is how did those witnesses come out on the other side? The answer: their focus was on their promise. I’m not saying there weren’t times they lost focus; they did. We all do. Those are the moments they and we begin to stumble in the run. Yet there is a place for our focus: Jesus. He is our focus. “Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus,” (Heb 12.1c-2, HCSB).

“Keeping our eyes on Jesus,” putting our focus on Him. What we like to do in our lives is look at everything and everyone but Jesus. Maybe like is the wrong word. Most people don’t like to look at the problems, but we are drawn toward the looking at our problems. My brother used to be in the army and he, for whatever reason, wanted to jump out of planes so he went to airborne school at Fort Benning, GA. He trained relentlessly
for weeks. One of the main instructions that they give time and again is to never look down. Which seems counterintuitive. Why would he not look at the ground? He was on a collision course with the ground. But he was told never look at the ground; always look at the horizon. He graduated. He was now one of an elite class of soldiers. On his first official jump, as he neared the ground his mind told him to look toward the horizon, but his eyes told him to look down. He looked down, anticipated the fall, and broke his ankle. He had to have plates and screws put in.  His jumping days were over nearly before they began.

Here’s the thing, Gene would have hit the ground no matter what. It would have been painful no matter what. But because he took his eyes off the target (the horizon), and put his eyes on the obstacle (the ground) he broke his ankle. It’s so easy for us to focus on the object right in front of us. It’s so easy for us to focus on that which we are headed straight for. And yet our focus, as the writer of Hebrews wrote, must be on Jesus. “Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus,” (Heb 12.1c-2, HCSB).

It is when your focus is on Jesus that you are able to shed the rucksack. Do you know what ruck sacks are for? They are for supplies. Hikers or soldiers or whoever that goes around with rucksacks use them to carry supplies because they want to be able to handle whatever comes upon them. While they have a destination in mind, their focus is on what lies between them and the destination. So they fill that rucksack with a flashlight, a canteen, a bedroll, a change of clothes and boots, a knife, and so on.

You never see a marathoner running with a rucksack. You never see a mudder running the obstacle course with a rucksack. They have a goal in mind. They want to finish the race as best they can, and not let anyone or anything slow them down. Often though what slows our race down is sin. John wrote in his first epistle: “Everything that belongs to the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of one’s
lifestyle—is not from the Father, but is from the world,” (1 John 2.16, HCSB). Those are the three main categories of sin.

The lust of the flesh: It will feel so good to have this. The lust of the eyes: that looks too good not to have. The pride of one’s lifestyle: keeping up with the Jones, keeping the image up, wanting more, more, more. That’s the issue. Sometimes these desires aren’t necessarily bad desires, but when we want them too much that we start focusing on them rather than Jesus, they become idols. That’s why the writer of Hebrews wrote, “Let us lay aside every weight and sin that so easily ensnares us,” (Heb 12.1b, HCSB). Some of you are carrying around rucksacks filled with the cares of this world, and those cares inevitably bring suffering.  They tell you and your body that you need them, that you can’t live without them.  When you try to live without them, the yearnings become nearly too great to bear.  But the truth is that they are weighing you down and you’re moving at a snail’s pace. Those things have to be laid aside.

How do we lay those weights and sins aside? You give them the place they deserve. Keep Jesus as your focus. We simply stop looking to them. Turn our focus away. That’s hard to do. What I’m asking you to do is harder than asking you to stop looking at your smart phone, and we all know that seems impossible. I’ve heard that if you walk the length of the Appalachian Trail you will find a bunch of stuff: clothes, pots, pans, etc. That’s because newbies will start their hike with a rucksack filled with items they think they will need. Before long they are shedding their gear and just leaving it on the side of the
trail. Within a few weeks, they have gotten down to the bare necessities. They either bought or brought their things for the trip. Imagine how difficult it would be mentally to let go of those items. Their hard-earned money was spent on those things.  But the only way to successfully complete the journey they have embarked on is to let them go. Not easy, but necessary. After all, Jesus is “the source and perfecter of our faith,”

(Heb 12.2b, HCSB). He is the one who put that faith in you. He is the source of your faith, but He is also the perfecter of it. He is taking it all the way to completion. By the time Jesus gets done with you, there will be no more work to be done. It will be complete and perfect. Or as Paul told the Colossians, “Set your minds on what is above, not on what is on the earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with the Messiah in God. When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory,” (Col 3.2-4, HCSB).

When tempted to look at the things this world has to offer, ask yourself these two simple questions: will this bring me to perfection? Will this bring me to glory?

Church Bombings in Surabaya, Indonesia

Last Sunday, in Indonesia’s second largest city of Surabaya, three churches were bombed by one family.  At one location a father, Dita Oepriarto, detonated a car bomb.  At another church, his two sons drove a motorcycle into the church courtyard and detonated their explosives.  And at a third location, the mother and two daughters (ages 9 and 12), detonated their suicide vests.  Besides these six souls–deceived by the wiles of Satan–perishing, another twelve souls entered into eternity.

According to reports, this family was just like any other family.  They lived an upper-middle class lifestyle, visited their Christian neighbors, and did nothing that would cause anyone to suspect they were planning on killing as many Christians as they could. One of their neighbors said, “There was nothing strange about the family, they were like other devout Muslim families,” (AP).  Another man who lived close by said, “We really didn’t see it coming,” (AP).

Eighteen people walking around on Saturday, are now either in a place of glorious bliss in the presence of God whom they loved in Christ or they are in eternal torment–still in the presence of the God whom they despised.  Twelve of them never saw it coming.  They had no clue that the day of death and judgment was at hand.

James wrote that life is a mist; it is a vapor that is here for but a moment.  This is your time, but it isn’t a long time if we think about it.  In light of eternity, it’s not even a blip on the radar.  You and I are mists; we’re vapors; we’re smoke.  We’re here one minute and gone the next if we are speaking in an eternal perspective.  Charles Spurgeon said, “Unless we purposely live with a view to the next world, we cannot make much out of our present existence,” (Spurgeon Study Bible).  That’s the perspective we need.  We need an eternal perspective.

Over forty other people are injured due to the attacks at the churches.  I can just about guarantee that none of them expected to be lying in the hospitals in pain or maimed or have their life suddenly and undeniably changed because of a suicide bombing.  Their life-long plans did not include paralysis or disfigurement or chronic pain.  Many will be angry.  Many scared.  Many confused.  My prayer is that these who were hurt will respond in faith, and not just some flimsy faith, but a steadfast faith.

It is easy to say we have faith.  It is altogether different to have to use that faith.  Think of your faith as a bridge.  You are on your way from point A to point B: say earth to heaven.  That’s a long journey for most of us; it typically takes years.  You make a profession of faith, and so the road is laid down.  The problem is that there is nothing to undergird the road.  There are no piers, no bearings, no beams.  You can walk on it for a while, but soon you can go nowhere.  Until beams and bearings and piers are built to hold the bridge steadfast you’re stuck.  That’s what steadfast means.  It means to remain under, to hold you up so you can go forward.  Trials are the builders of faith’s piers, bearings, and beams.

It is so easy to ask why we must face these trials.  We may never know.  But the question is not why, but what.  What is God doing in the midst of these trials and pains and heartaches?  Trials come, and what we tend to see as our enemy actually is what is making us stronger.  It strengthens our faith.  It strengthens our resolve.  But we have to let it do what God has designed it to do.  If we quit—if we walk away—we won’t become whole.  That’s what trials are.  Trials are that bitter medicine that God uses to make us whole.

So in the midst of these trials, I pray that these people will run to Jesus.  In the midst of your trials, I pray that you too will run to Jesus, who is our great example, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of God,” (Hebrews 12:2, ESV).  “So,” I pray, “teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom,” (Psalm 90:12, ESV).