(Adapted by our team from Pastor Ben’s message, How Will We Make It?)
These days are hard. They aren’t what we planned, and there’s no end in sight. So how are we supposed to not only live through these days but to live well in the midst of them?
The answer can be found in the book of Hebrews.
But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, (you came out of the blocks strong!) sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
Endurance, we need endurance.
Here’s the good news. You can have it.
So how do we gain the endurance we are going to need in order not only to endure the days ahead but to excel in them?
1. We gain endurance through drawing inspiration from the past and gaining perspective from it.
Think about this; your heroes went through this. In fact, it is the journey through a crisis that makes them your heroes! No one watches a movie without drama!
Noah, in the face of unspeakable evil, facing a disaster never before seen, built an ark.
Abraham had to leave everything he knew and set out not knowing where exactly his journey would end.
Moses had a choice: live in comfort in Pharaoh’s house or choose mistreatment along with his people.
Rahab risked her life because she refused to give up the Israelites to the authorities who would kill them.
Our history is full of suffering, but it is also full of people who overcame that suffering!
The legends of our faith like Gideon, Barak, Samson, David and Samuel – they conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, and obtained promises, their stories jump off the pages of scripture and give us hope and encouragement to preserve. But if we are inspired by their triumph, we have to gain perspective from their truth. For many of them, the story contained mocking, suffering, and imprisonment. For some of them, their part to play ended before the fulfillment of the larger story God was weaving around them… but they were in the story nonetheless.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Hebrews 11:39-40
None of us know how our story will end, but we can have faith that by living with endurance for the things of God, we will be a part of His eternal story of redemption.
2. We gain endurance by drawing inspiration from the past and accepting our place in the present.
You can think about it like this; our heroes were faithful in their time, now it’s our turn.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us… Hebrews 12:1
You and I are not alone in this race. We are surrounded by those who have gone before us, who met their crisis with confidence and faith in God. They know the challenge of facing the fire with faith. They are not just spectators, watching and critiquing our form in silence; instead, they are actively confirming and confessing what God has done and will do again. They are cheering us on!
This is the time for which you were brought into the fold of faith; this path has been laid out and appointed for us! We don’t get to choose the time we’ve been given, but we do get to choose what we do with it.
Don’t burn yourself out dwelling on the things you can’t control, trust your heavenly Father with them. Cast off the things holding you back, and seek after Him wholeheartedly. He is the reward for those who run after Him.
3. We gain endurance and motivation by looking to the future with confidence.
…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2
So many of us grew up hearing the story of Palm Sunday, of Jesus riding into Jerusalem as the people laid branches before Him and sang songs of celebration. We looked at this amazing spectacle as a time of unbridled joy, but is that what was going through the mind of Jesus? Or is it possible that Palm Sunday represented a choice for Jesus, and acceptance of a path that would lead Him far from comfort?
It’s a powerful reminder that when Jesus chose to enter into the city, He knew what lay before Him. He knew the darkness in the hearts of His enemies, and he saw in full the torture that awaited him. In His mind, He could feel the senseless beating, the spit on His face and the force of nails driven through His hands and feet.
But Jesus saw the other side, and He knew the will of His Father. He knew that at the cost of His endurance was the purchase of life for His brothers and sisters. And so Jesus didn’t get halfway and stop. He didn’t enter the grave and quit. He hacked a path through Hell, and then he called back to us: “I did it! C’mon, It’s your turn. You don’t have to have every step figured out. Just keep your eyes locked on me. Take a step. Just look at me. I’ll be with you.”
So how will we endure? We’ll fix our eyes on our hero, on Jesus. Because He made it, we’ll make it.
What does all of this mean for us? What are we supposed to do? How can we make a difference when the world is seemingly frozen in place by fear in the grips of a global pandemic?
It’s simple; our call is to do what the Church has always done in times like this. Respond in ways that arrest the attention of a petrified world, and point them towards Jesus.
1. Let brotherly love continue.
2. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
3. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body.
4. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.
5. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
6. So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
7. Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
This is our time. It looks, and sounds and seems different than we probably ever dreamed, but it’s our time and our story. It’s time to step into it.