This week’s devotional is written by a man that I personally admire. His commitment to his faith, wisdom, steadfast work ethic, positive attitude and humor amaze me everyday. Ron Richter is a retired UMC Pastor who spent time in prison ministry. He wears many hats here at the Coop, working hard to live his ministry. Thank you, Ron, for all that you do. Especially those things we may not see or recognize!
Nobody knows who wrote the book of Hebrews, where it was written, or who was the intended audience. Because the writer refers to the Temple in the present tense, it is assumed that it was written before the destruction of the Temple in AD 70. Some think that Hebrews was written by believers to Jews, explaining the theology of Christ. In this book, Christ is seen as a spiritual king, rather than as the warrior Messiah that the Jewish people were expecting. Another theory is that this unnamed author may have been Priscilla, encouraging the Christians in Rome. Because this passage talks about sacrifice and perseverance, we can assume that it may well have been written during a time of Christian persecution. Many scholars date the book around AD 64.
The text raises several questions for the modern reader. The most obvious one is: What is the race that we are called to? What does the finish line or the goal look like? What do we need in order to prepare for this race? What do we need to do to get in shape for this race? How long is the race going to be? And how does it change our preparation if we know that we are not going to finish in a day or a week?
Our faith is often more of a journey than a race. A race implies a fixed course, but in life, we don’t often have a set course. We embark without really knowing where we are headed or how long the journey will be. This makes preparation far more challenging. It’s like backpacking. We have to prepare for a long, uncertain hike over unfamiliar terrain with only what we can carry on our back. How do we chose what we take along? How do we keep from getting lost? What markers do we use to guide us? And what do we do if … heaven forbid … we do get lost?
This passage encourages us to follow the example of those who have gone before us, to continue on when we’d rather drop out of the journey, and to trust the Holy Spirit to help us make the right choices along the way.
“A theology of weakness challenges us to look at weakness … as a total and unconditional dependence on God that opens us to be true channels of the divine power that heals the wounds of humanity and renews the face of the earth.” -Henri Nouwen
“It’s the steady, quiet, plodding ones who win in the lifelong race.” -Robert W. Service
“The road to success is dotted with many tempting parking places.” -Author Unknown
“In racing, they say that your car goes where your eyes go. The driver who cannot tear his eyes away from the wall as he spins out of control will meet that wall; the driver who looks down the track as he feels his tires break free will regain control of his vehicle.” -Garth Stein
Hebrews 12:1-6 NRSV
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children— ‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.’
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION
Do you feel that Christians are being persecuted in our culture?
What obstacles must you overcome in your daily journey? What is slowing you down?
Do you know someone who exemplifies spiritual discipline? What does that look like?