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Devotional: April 8, 2020

Do you see what this means - all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running - and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because, He never lost sight of where He was headed - that exhilarating finish in and with God - He could put up with anything along the way: cross, shame, whatever. And now He's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility He plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

Hebrews 12: 1-3 The Message


Yesterday morning, Bonnie Janssen, one of the dear saints from our church, was transferred to the church triumphant. Thus, she became part of the great cloud of witnesses- those pioneers and veterans of our faith, who are no longer with us physically, but who nonetheless cheer us on.


One of the themes of Holy Week is perseverance, in spite of suffering. This is a natural theme, given that Holy Week traces the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. Those days were marked with betrayal by a close friend, followed by His arrest, trial, public humiliation, abandonment by His friends, crucifixion, and death.


Perseverance in spite of suffering is a theme which resonates with many people. Throughout our own lives, there may be times when we suffer a personal, life-altering event. Today, I believe we all are experiencing and observing one such event on a scale we never seen before in our lifetimes. Even a brief glimpse at the news, and I recommend it be brief, reveals that there are unprecedented examples of suffering. People are losing loved ones. Others are fighting for their lives. Medical personnel are stressed, and exhausted. Unemployment claims are climbing. Even those who are in relatively good shape are beginning to suffer with cabin fever. Aside from physical suffering, some may be suffering from a sense of hopelessness.


Paul’s letter to the Hebrews provides inspiration for all of us. Here in the beginning of chapter 12, Paul reminds us to not focus on the suffering. Instead, he urges us to focus upon Christ. “Keep your eyes on Jesus!” This is great advice for us at all times, and in all situations. Why? Often our visual focus determines the direction that we will go. In the world of sports, players are urged to always keep their eye on the ball. Whether it's basketball, tennis, football/soccer or even baseball, keep your eyes on the ball! (Although when baseballs are traveling at 97 mph, that does seem like quite a challenge!)


Where is your focus these days? No matter what your actual vision is, we need to have 20/20 vision when it comes to looking at Jesus. Whenever we write the date of this year, let it be a little reminder of Paul’s encouragement to focus upon Christ. Holy Week should be a time for us to look at our lives, assessing where we are in our faith walk with Jesus. This year, perhaps more than other years, we have a deeper understanding of what true suffering looks like. Our suffering will never be the kind of suffering Christ did, but let us remember his ultimate example of perseverance in spite of immense suffering. Besides Jesus, there is a great cloud of witnesses, a vast number of saints in the grandstands, cheering us on, as we persevere in our walk of faith.


Prayer


Holy God,

In the race of life, we confess that we sometimes get discouraged, and lose heart. When that happens, remind us of Your son Jesus, the one who ran the race before us. He truly is the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. Help us to keep our eyes upon Him, so that we may perfectly love those around us. May we push on through every difficulty.

We pray this prayer in His holy name. Amen.


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