Thoughts for the New Year from Hebrews 12:1-3

 [b]Margaret Brown [/b] Margaret Brown

At the end of the year we often look back; we see the good times and the bad times, we see our successes and our failures, we see the laughter and the tears, the joys and the sorrows, and we give thanks to God for being with us no matter what.  We are grateful to Him for being beside us whatever we have had to face.

As we stand on the threshold of 2014 and contemplate another year, we can be absolutely confident in our God, knowing that He goes before us into this New Year. It is He Who asks us to step over the threshold with Him.

The Christian life is often pictured as a race which we begin when we first put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. This race is not a short sprint, but a long distance marathon, and we are in it for the long haul. We are to press on with the prize in our sights. Our goal to reach our full potential and fulfil the plans God has for us, and ultimately to arrive in heaven and be with our Saviour for ever. As we run we are to show the love and truth of the good news of Jesus to all who would hear it. But in order to take hold of all that God has in store for us we must forget the past – all the failures and sins as well as all our achievements and honours. They are all behind us and are to be laid down and forgotten. It is much more important to reach out to what the Lord is asking of us than to be looking back at what has been and hankering for the past. We must move on with Jesus. Of course there may be things which have to be dealt with, things which need to be put right, maybe we need to be forgiven or to ask for forgiveness before we can move on. If that is so then do it now, don’t delay. Put things right as far as it depends on you.

The ancient athletes ran to receive a wreath of leaves and sometimes a cash reward. Modern athletes run to receive medals and fame. But these are nothing in comparison ‘to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus my Lord’ (Philippians 3:8). We run to receive and know the Lord Jesus. Eric Liddell, the well-known Scottish Olympic athlete is reputed to have said, ‘So where does the power come from to see the race through to the end? From within.’ The One Who bids us run in the race is the One Who gives us the power and strength to run for He lives within us through His Holy Spirit. Eric also said, ‘God made me for a purpose. He also made me fast. When I run I feel His pleasure.’ I like that quote so very much. To me it means that when I am fulfilling God’s purpose for me, doing His will for me, I can know and sense His pleasure in my life. That’s amazing! God delights in us when we are obedient to Him. Praise His name!

In Hebrews 12:1-3 we have the image of an enormous crowd filling a great stadium, waiting for the closing stages of the marathon race when the athletes enter the arena to finish the race. The audience are not just spectators but inspiring examples giving testimony to the faithfulness of God and to what faith can accomplish in the lives of believers. Picture the scene – the crowd are shouting, spurring you on in the last laps of the race. It’s been long and strength is flagging, but the goal is in sight. Fix your eyes on it. Hear the cheers of the audience, willing you on. Feel that extra burst of energy needed to carry you over the finish line. You feel the weakness of your muscles as you pass the finish and as you collapse on the track you hear the applause and the shouts of the crowd and your heart is bursting with joy and satisfaction that you have won the race.

The athlete runs with the minimum of clothing, unencumbered, eyes ahead focussed on the finish line and the prize. That is how we are to run if we are serious about our life with Christ Jesus.

Sometimes in the running we may trip up or be tripped up, we may fall and skin our knees. Occasionally the injury may be a little more serious and may require treatment, but a good athlete is always straining to get fit and get back into the race. As we run there will be times of discouragement along the route; often temptations to give up came across our path, particularly when persecution shows itself, or when things are not going well. At such times we must raise our head and look to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. Often we can become weary when it would be so easy to lose heart, but we need to have determination to stay toe course. So again we lift our eyes to Jesus and look into His face and see there all we need to reject those distractions and discouragements. He enables us to resist them and to have confidence to continue to run. Ahead of us is the joy of seeing our Lord face to face. Jesus suffered much more that we will ever be asked to endure and surely that too, is encouragement enough when we are tired and zeal flags. Keep on, keep running.

Let me share a story with you. When my granddaughter, Kiani, was four years old, I collected her from nursery one day. My husband had the car and so we had to walk home (about 15 minutes). It was cold and damp and rain was threatening, so I told her we would have to hurry so as not to be caught in the rain and get wet. She said, “You’ll have to run, Grandma!” I said, “Oh, I can’t run, we’ll just have to walk fast.” Kiani said, “Grandma, put your fingers to my fingers and I’ll give you the power and you can run.” Well, we touched fingers and I held her hand and she said, “Grandma, can you feel it? The power – now you can run!” Well I had to make some attempt at running so that I did not disappoint Kiani. This is an amusing story of a young child’s perception, but it is a good illustration of what can be accomplished when we put our hand into the hand of God.

In this race we are running as Christians, everyone receives the prize and everyone is given the ability to run by the Lord. The picture in my mind is of us as individuals and perhaps more importantly as EBWU standing poised at the starting line. We are straining and ready to go. The Lord is standing just to the side of us, to our right. The starter raises his hand and the gun goes off and we are off and running, and as we do the Lord reaches out and takes hold of our right hand and He is running with us, and we are achieving all that the Lord Jesus asks of us. We are sensing his power within us and we feel His pleasure in the running. But we have to be together, running as one in unity with each other and with Him. We can overcome our differences and lay down our fears. Let us lay aside all hindrances. We can run with Jesus and put on love for one another.

We can step out into 2014 with our hand in God’s hand to face whatever comes our way. We can confidently follow Him into the unknown future without fear, knowing that He loves us and has good plans for us. May He take us to places we never dreamed of and accomplish things we never thought possible as we make ourselves more available and obedient to Him. May he be honoured and glorified in all we seek to do.

Margaret Brown