Running the race – discipline and hardship

It’s time for me to be brave and join the world of fruity blog-dom.

Down here in the ‘quake zone’ in Canterbury, it has been a challenging few months as we each live with our own experiences of the BIG quake and the hundreds of aftershocks. It’s been hard. Hard to see friends suffer great personal terror from the quake. Hard to see great loss from friend’s houses that will be demolished. It’s been sad to hear of terrified children who thought monsters were in the ground shaking it. But great to hear of children, like my daughter, who thought Jesus was returning. Children, can put us to shame! That wasn’t my first thought.

The trials are not finished yet, as it will take a long time until the damaged buildings and parks will be rebuilt. Some will never be. And as Geoff Robson rightly pointed out there are many lessons to be learnt about our need to seek first the kingdom of God, having heavenly treasure, not earthly treasure.

But faced with ongoing trials, how are we as Christians to face them? This has been brought home to me in the last two weeks in our little neck of the woods, our family. My youngest son got a broken arm from a goalie injury one week, my husband got a cracked cheekbone from another football related injury the next week and my daughter has a sprained rib from a friendly rumble at a sleepover yesterday! So the punches keep rolling. In the midst of this there were other very difficult issues to handle as well. Even though my trials are minor, what should my response be? Those friends of ours with chronic pain and mental health issues, how should they deal with their ongoing trials?

This morning I was drawn again to Hebrews 12, one of my all time favourite passages. It starts off reminding us that because we are surrounded, historically speaking, by a host of great brothers and sisters who have believed in God through great trials(even when they did not receive in their lifetime what they had been promised), we are to throw off sin and any hindrance and run with perseverance the race marked out for us with our eyes stuck on Jesus (verses 1-2).

We are challenged to look to Jesus, who was opposed, killed, raised and is now ruling with God, reflecting on the opposition He received from sinful men, so we will not grow weary and lose heart in our race. The writer then encourages us to consider that God disciplines those He loves (verse 5-6, 10). We are challenged in verse 7, to endure hardship as discipline, God is treating us as sons, as children of the Living God. So it’s a good thing to undergo hardship. God is training us for our good (verse 10).

I know from my meager experience in triathlons, that knowing where the finish line is, is so important. I need to change my pace accordingly. This passage challenges me to be encouraged from others who have gone before and have faced persecution and hardship to press on to the goal.

But what is the goal of the race? Why the need to persevere, face hardship, persecution for Jesus? Clearly, with our eyes stuck on Jesus, we will remember that He suffered so we could be saved. But where are we going? Verse 12 struck me as unusual, ‘Therefore, strengthen you feeble arms and weak knees. Make level paths for your feet, so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.’ Why was this here?

This is a reference to Isaiah 35, where there is an amazing picture of the desert and wilderness bursting with life, when God will come to save and heal, and all the holy, ransomed people of God will return to Zion. Clearly Jesus, started to bring in this Kingdom, in His earthly ministry, but this will only fully happen on that last day, when Jesus comes for the final time. So the goal of our race is being with God and His Son in the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22)

As we face these trials and hardships, we can take comfort that God is using them to change His beloved children to be more like Him. So too, we must realize our goal is seeing God, face to face, the pierced Lamb upon the throne and singing songs to Him.

So in hardships, let’s keep our eyes stuck on Jesus and our certain heavenly future, just like those kids in the earthquake who thought Jesus had returned. Let’s expect it and soon. Come Lord Jesus!