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EBWU Devotional for January 2009,[b]Margaret Brown[/b]Margaret Brown

"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.  Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."   (Hebrews 12:1-3).

We have just celebrated the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  What a wonderful event that was – a real demonstration of God’s love for us and His desire to identify with His people.  But even more wonderful than sending His Son to earth is the fact that when Jesus had grown to manhood He gave his life as a substitution for us.  He died in our place on the cross, suffering an agonising death, which we remember every time we sit around the Lord’s table.  That was His supreme act of love.  Praise God that was not the end.  God raised up Jesus from the dead and He now lives in heaven, seated at the right hand of His Father.  He also lives in the life of every true believer.  Words cannot adequately express the depth of gratitude and love we feel for our Saviour.  We just want to live our lives for Him, to serve Him in obedience to His Word and will.  He is the One upon Whom our faith depends from start to finish.

As we face another year ‘let us run with perseverance’; ‘let us fix our eyes on Jesus’; ‘let us consider Him’ so that we can go forward into the year with confidence in our Lord and Saviour.  There is much going on in the world, both near and far, that would cause us to be afraid.  Maybe some of you reading this are facing real problems and trials.  On a daily basis we hear of some tragedy or another; we hear reports of evil deeds of darkness, often with tremendous loss of life.  We hear of great persecution and often death of our Christian brothers and sisters.  I think the evil one knows that his time is becoming ever more limited and he is out to cause as much havoc as he can in an attempt to get the Lord’s people to renounce Him, to go back on their faith and return to the world.

‘Let us run with perseverance’ – we must be aware of what is happening around the world as well as in our communities and also in our own lives.  We must not bury our head in the sand and hope that the evil goes away – it won’t.  We must pray for our brothers and sisters caught up in the onslaught of persecution who constantly live in fear for their lives and yet are glad that they are counted worthy to suffer for the name of Christ.  May they consciously be aware of the presence of the risen Lord standing with them in the midst of their trouble.  Many have gone before us (see Hebrews 11) and together with the saints down through the centuries they are witnesses, not just observers but active participants in the race and examples for us to look to and follow.  We are to take courage from them and throw off everything which would hinder us from running and persevering.  Our sin must be repented of; our fear; our lack of confidence; things we are holding on to but which we need to let go – all must be discarded for the sake of winning the race.  The race is marked out for us; we must stick to the track and stay within the guidelines.

‘Let us fix our eyes on Jesus’ – an athlete has his eyes on the tape at the end of the race and the medals and he runs to win the prize.  Jesus is the objective of our faith and all who run in this race win the prize.  Jesus has already run the race and has overcome and won, so we know that with him we also can overcome and win.  Jesus, although He has finished the race, runs alongside us,  What encouragement that is to us.  Jesus was able to face crucifixion because he knew the goal ahead of Him – joy that awaited Him on completion of His mission, the great task of redemption.  He gave Himself in selfless sacrifice because He knew what His death would accomplish.  We have joy at present, in our faith and salvation but there is much more joy awaiting us in heaven.  With our eyes constantly on Jesus we can run straight and true.

‘Let us consider Him’ – Jesus suffered more than any of us ever will be asked to endure.  From the gospels we see how He conducted Himself during these sufferings.  He was totally focused on Calvary and nothing and no-one would deter Him from it.  I wonder if that is how we conduct ourselves in our daily walk with the Lord?  We know His purpose for us and we are determined that nothing and no-one will distract us from that purpose.  Surely that is what is required of us as followers of the Lord Jesus.

We often have trials to face and if we are honest there are times when we do grow weary but we must never lose heart.  Let us endeavour at the threshold of another year to give our trials and troubles over to Jesus and let us press on in our Christian lives.  Any suffering we may be called upon to endure is certainly outweighed  by the glory of what awaits us in heaven where we will be  received and welcomed by the Lord Jesus and where we will be forever with Him and all the saints.

Take some time at the beginning of 2009 to sit with Jesus and be in His presence.  Let us fix our eyes on Him and consider Him.  Let us be aware that Jesus shares our lives with us and is fully committed to us; He shares our joy and our pain, our happiness and disappointment, our acceptance and rejection.  He endures everything we face with us.  We can know that even when we have failed and hurt the Lord, He is ready to forgive us with arms wide open to receive us to Himself.  Let us be assured that the Lord is for us, so let us go into this new year determined to follow Jesus, to run with perseverance, to have our eyes firmly fixed on Him, to have our minds always considering Him and letting His example give us strength and courage.  Jesus knows exactly what He wants to do in your life this year as He also knows what He wants to do in mine.  He has plans for us and He wants them to be realised.  Let us give ourselves afresh to Him to-day and let us allow Him to lead us out into 2009 and to what it holds for us.  To Him be all the praise and honour and glory!

I trust that you will all experience God’s rich abiding blessings on your lives daily.

Margaret Brown, Scotland