Lesley Grindrod, contributor for today’s blog post
Years ago while Neal and I attended Bible College in California, one of our worship leaders wrote a song called “Joy for the Battle.” It became the ‘theme song’ for our class throughout the two year course, and just before we graduated we even made a CD with this as the title song!
The song’s very simple chorus lodged itself deep in our hearts, and still bubbles up whenever the journey gets tough, when life’s battles seem overwhelming:
“He gives me joy for the battle, joy for the journey,
Joy for the battle, joy for the journey…..”
The Bible is packed with references about the power of joy. The text we’re considering in Hebrews 12: 1-3 talks about the joy that was set before Jesus enabling him to run his race, to endure even the horror of the cross! And it urges us to ‘consider Him’ to imitate Him, to follow His example as we run our race.
In the book of Psalms one of the most repeated phrases is “Shout for joy!” Nehemiah told the Israelites that the joy of the Lord was their strength! In Philippians 4:4 the apostle Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” It’s a command.
Finding joy has been a challenge for me. I’m not naturally an upbeat person; I’m more of a melancholy, so when I talk about joy, I’m not doing so from the perspective of someone who never has a bad day!
My problem was my definition of joy. I thought joy meant feeling good all the time. That’s impossible – even for those who are naturally upbeat and optimistic! I found this definition from Kay Warren very helpful:
Joy is the settled assurance that God is in control of all the details of my life, the quiet confidence that ultimately everything is going to be alright, and the determined choice to praise God in every situation.
There’s nothing in that definition about happy feelings, because happiness is fleeting and temporary.
In reality, life is much more like train tracks than hills and valleys. Every day, wonderful, good things happen that bring us pleasure, contentment and beauty. At the exact same time, painful things happen that disappoint, hurt, and fill us with sorrow. These tracks — both joy and sorrow — run parallel to each other every single moment of our lives.
That’s why, when you’re in the midst of an amazing experience, you have a nagging realization that it’s not perfect. And while you’re experiencing something painful, there’s the glorious realization that there’s still beauty and loveliness to be found. They’re inseparable.
If you look down train tracks into the brightness of the horizon, the tracks become one. You can’t distinguish them as two separate tracks. That’s how it will be for us, too. One day, our parallel tracks of joy and sorrow will merge into one. The day we meet Jesus in person and see the brightness of who he is, it will all come together for us. Then it will all make complete sense.
Hannah Spruijt, contributor of today’s post
During this summer break I’ve learned more about practical perseverance than I feel I’ve ever known before. Why? Well, in short, as soon my son turned two and half, it seems he found the ‘terrible twos’ button and pressed it hard! My oh my. I’d read about this stage in books; the tantrums, yelling, irrational behaviours etc, but had thought we’d already kinda covered that and I *thought* I had it nailed (ha!). Oh boy was I wrong. I can tell you I’ve cried in quiet corners more than I care to admit recently and have been driven to my knees telling God ‘I just don’t think I can do this anymore!’. The intense screaming and general craziness have made parenting with grace and consistent love a daily test in perseverance. I want to share some of what God has been teaching me.
We’ve already looked at a key passage in understanding godly perseverance; Hebrews 12 v 1-3 compares life to a race that must be run with endurance, with our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus. I quickly realised my eyes had been looking in the wrong direction; at me and my problem…not feeling capable of parenting my boy successfully. Yet I struggled to change the direction of my eyes, despite praying for help. And then I read a timely blog post a friend had put on Facebook (http://www.jenniferphillipsblog.com/2017/07/when-your-kids-wont-bow-to-your-idols.html) and was immediately convicted. I had made an idol of being the perfectly in-control mother of an obedient child. My heart squeezed as I realised I was struggling to persevere with godly parenting because my son would not bow to my idol. I could suddenly see how I was also taking the credit for his good behaviour rather than giving God the glory, and indulging in pride when falling into the comparison trap.
How often idolatry and pride cause us to stumble as we ‘run the race’! But what should we do about it once the Holy Spirit has convicted us? The author of the blog neatly gives three steps in her follow-up post; repent, believe and fight. Not just as a one off but as a moment-by-moment call to perseverance in godly living. We need to repent of loving something more than we love God, believe Him when He says we are forgiven and eternally loved by Him, and then ‘fight like crazy to walk in obedience to the calling he has given’. Peter writes in his letter to the early church that perseverance is one of the qualities we should be developing to supplement our faith (2 Peter 1 v 5-8). It IS a fight to persevere. Perseverance does not come automatically; it requires hard work. It is not optional; it should be a continual part of our Christian life.
The words of Paul are echoing in my mind as I close, in Philippians 3 v 12-14 ‘not that I have already reached the goal…’ I certainly have not reached there yet, but I’m so thankful to my Father for allowing the Holy Spirit to prompt me in this area so that I can ‘work towards the day when I will finally be all that Christ Jesus saved me for and wants me to be’ (v12 NLT).
I am now praying that the Holy Spirit will enable me to see other ‘unseen’ things in my life that need ‘throwing off’ in order to run this race without hindrance and with perseverance. Can you relate? Is there some idol you need to throw off? Let’s continue to pray and encourage each other as we run the race God has marked out for us to THROW OFF THOSE IDOLS!
Sharon Durant, contributor for today’s blog
“… fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.” (NIV)
I love this description of Jesus. It reminds me that, like pioneers going off to America or Australia, he has gone ahead of me and blazed a trail. The future is not a terrifying landscape, uncharted and unknown. Jesus, my pioneer, went there first. And even better, he finishes every job he starts, because he is the ‘perfecter’, too, adding all the final touches to present me as perfect in Him.
Jesus is the pioneer because he is the only one who has died and been raised into new life. He is the pioneer who gives us the Holy Spirit. He is the pioneer who is even now in heaven with the Father.
If I fix my eyes on him, I can follow his pioneering trail. Whatever I face in my life, I know that he was there first:
Rejected by those you love? Jesus was rejected first.
Physically suffering? Jesus suffered first.
Abandoned by friends? Jesus was totally deserted first.
People tell lies about you? Jesus was wrongly accused first.
Feeling the pain of giving things up? Jesus gave up everything.
But the path Jesus has set for us to follow is also pioneering in other areas:
Want to please God? Jesus shows us how.
How to get to heaven? Jesus himself is the way.
Staring at Jesus all the time gives me the best example. Whenever I’m unsure, I can look to him for the way forward.
But sometimes it’s an overwhelming example because I can’t live up to it. This is why the second half of the verse is so amazing. Not just an example, Jesus is the “pioneer… of our faith”. He went ahead of us, making a way for us to have faith.
Jesus’ death and resurrection is the pioneering treatment for our heart disease, so that we can confidently say, ‘Yes Father God, I believe your promises, that in Jesus Christ you will save me, keep me, transform me, glorify me, just as you promised, because you keep your promises; you sent Jesus and he died and rose again just like you promised.”
Jesus is also the ‘perfecter’. He doesn’t just start off the work of faith and abandon us to become holy by our own efforts. He stays with us and sees the job through. He perfects us. He doesn’t leave us half-finished but sticks with us right to the end – just as he promised, “I will never leave you, nor abandon you.” (Hebrews 13:5)
So fix your eyes on Jesus. He goes ahead of us and he sticks with us to the end. You won’t have to look far to find him. He is always speaking to us in the Bible, through Christian songs and friends, and his Holy Spirit lives in us. He leads us through whatever joys and sorrows come our way. We can be confident that our faith is not misplaced – God keeps his promises – because Jesus the pioneer went there first and Jesus the perfecter sticks with us to the end.
Lesley Grindrod, contributor for today’s blog post
Sisters, like it or not, if we’re alive and breathing right now, we’re all part of a huge marathon race – a race that will not be over until we take our final breath. The course is full of twists and turns, mountains and valleys. There are many hidden obstacles, challenges and even giants on the way, many opportunities to fail; trip up; fall over; be hurt, humiliated or discouraged.
Hebrews 12:1 says we should “… run life’s marathon race with passion and determination, for the path has been already marked out before us.” (The Passion Translation)
I’ve often asked the Lord why my life’s marathon seems to have been so full of obstacles and challenges. I’m not alone – I’m sure we’ve all had times when our race has felt particularly tough and we’ve pitifully cried “Why me, Lord?”
I remember on one of these occasions He led me to the Old Testament stories of how the Children of Israel took possession of the Promised Land. He showed me that to get into my ‘promised land’ I’d have to navigate my way through some wildernesses and fight some pretty ferocious battles. And that my attitude and responses to those obstacles would have a direct bearing on how long they lasted and what fruit they produced!
So sisters, I have a question for you. In running your race, do you see your daily challenges as obstacles or opportunities? I believe the Lord wants us to see obstacles as a call to strengthen, not to quit! Between you and anything significant there will be giants in your path. No one is immune to problems. Even the lion has to fight off flies! Louisa May Alcott famously said “I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.”
James 1:2-3 says “…. When it seems as though you’re facing nothing but difficulties see it as an invaluable opportunity to experience all the joy that you can. For you know that when your faith is tested it stirs up power within you to endure all things. And then as your endurance grows even stronger it will release perfection into every part of your being until there is nothing missing and nothing lacking.”
Let’s refuse to become discouraged by temporary setbacks. If you’re encountering some hard bumps, don’t worry – at least you’re out of a rut! Circumstances are not your master – Jesus is! As we run our race, we may encounter puddles on our path, but those puddles can actually be telling us where to step. Remember our Saviour has promised to be our constant companion and guide, even through the darkest of valleys.
The Apostle Paul wrote “We are pressed on every side by troubles, but not crushed and broken. We are perplexed because we don’t know why things happen as they do, but we don’t give up and quit. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going.”
So keep on running sisters – the entire hosts of heaven are cheering for you!
One of my contemporary heroes of the faith is Joni Eareckson Tada. She has exemplified to the world through the years the amazing grace and godly perseverance that our Lord has given her.
This last Sunday (30 July), marks the 5oth anniversary of her diving accident which left her a quadriplegic at the age of 17.
She has written a reflection of this milestone. As Grace Place contributors are reflecting on running the race God has marked out for us with godly perseverance, I thought it fitting to share it. Just click on the link below and take the time to read and ponder. May you find comfort, hope, and a deep peace from our Lord through this precious sister.
Love, Kathy xo
JONI EARKECKSON TADA-REFLECTIONS 50 YEARS ON