The writer of Hebrews wrote a chapter that defined faith, he wrote that faith pleases God, and he wrote of many who have gone before us who lived by faith.
Then he used their examples of faith as the incentive to strip off everything that weighs us down and hinders the race God has called us to.
If they could do it, so can you!
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1-2
The dictionary defines Faith – Complete trust or confidence in someone or something. – Strong belief in God.
Hebrews 11 is filled with stories of those who lived out what they believed, who put their faith in God into action. They chose to be obedient to the call of God instead of allowing their flesh to hinder them and hold them back.
Their beliefs determined their direction.
Faith is what sets God’s people apart from those of the world. Those who love and trust God will hear the voice of God. They will be guided and empowered by the word of God and by the Holy Spirit to run the race God calls them to.
God’s calls us to things bigger than ourselves.
One thing these stories of faith have in common is a contradiction, a foolishness, that just doesn’t make sense. There is something in each story that causes human understanding to ask, “How could they do that?”
But it is that very contradiction, that very question, that defines faith.
Believing without seeing.
Doing without understanding.
That’s where the flesh and the spirit collide. That is where trust in God and trust in man becomes a matter of the will. Which will you choose?
From the very beginning God has called His people to live by faith, to live bigger than themselves! Though time and culture are different, God and human nature haven’t changed. We can apply the principles and truths no matter how much time has passed. I believe God wants to use His stories of faith to challenge us, and to transform us more and more into the image of His Son. Stories of faith in the Bible show us that with God, nothing is impossible, and they give us the confidence to trust Him with our impossible situations.
By reading the stories of those who have gone before us we can be encouraged and allow their acts of obedience to be as a sword that cuts away the things of our flesh that keep us from loving, trusting, and obeying what God is calling us to accomplish for His kingdom, for His glory.
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” Hebrews 4:12
The call God has for us, the race He wants us to run, will draw out different thoughts, different questions, and perhaps different excuses, but bottom line, no matter what our flesh says, we are created to love God, trust Him, and to obey Him.
Our love for God, our trust in Him, and responding in obedience to His call determine whether or not we are willing to strip off the things that hinder our race.
Our beliefs determine our direction…
Will we live a life of faith, a life bigger than ourselves?
Okay, I know you are wondering…this is the Pity Party part…
Just this week I faced a situation that tested my faith. The other morning I was singing a song about surrender. I asked God what He wanted me to surrender to Him. I didn’t really hear a response, so I left the question unanswered in my journal. Later that day I shared something with some friends that I really thought was profound and would be helpful for them. It went over like a lead balloon. They totally didn’t get it or appreciate it. I was hurt. When I came home and was in my room deciding whether or not to plan a pity party my eyes caught my unanswered question… “What do You want me to surrender?” I felt the Lord finally answered… “Your pity party.” “No, not this, I deserve to feel sorry for myself. It was a good word that should have been received. It would be very helpful.”
I hate to admit it, but I said “Okay,” there on my bed, I even wrote “Okay” in my journal, but I didn’t hold to it.
That evening as I continued to replay the event and all the interactions of our time together I went right back into my pity party. That night and the following morning I continued my pity party. My hurt and my rejection were keeping my mind busy putting the blame on the others. The thing about pity parties is that they tend to invite more guests. I found myself looking back to other situations that were similar that I could bring into this party. Now it wasn’t just about the situation the day before, it included things that happened years ago!
Pity parties are a mental process meant to console a wounded self by…
reliving the memories of every word, every look that brought hurt and rejection,
these memories are carefully analyzed to justify blaming others for their wrongs, and by proclaiming judgements and accusations towards others,
and so proving the innocence of self,
and eventually convincing self to give up and to never let that happen again.
Wow, no wonder God asked me to surrender my pity party!
I wish I would have truly surrendered my pity party. It would have saved so much emotional stress and so many hurtful words.
I can’t go back and have a re-do. I can’t take back the words I spoke. But I did talk to God about it. I asked His forgiveness for my sin; for my self-righteousness, my self pity, my wrong thoughts and judgements, and my hurtful words. I told Him I was sorry for not obeying when He asked me to surrender my pity party.
But then I also asked God why the response of the others upset me so much. Why was this so hurtful to me? What was it that I needed to strip off?
He reminded me of 1 Corinthians 13. In those first verses, 1-3, Paul wrote about those who have great abilities and gifts that can be used to bring God much glory, but they can also lead to great pride. He showed me that I while I love to share God’s truth with others, I don’t always do it with the pure motivation of love. In some ways it was a hard word to receive. I want to think my motives are pure, that sharing the truth is loving others. Yet, I know deep down inside I do like to be right. I do want to be appreciated for knowing the truth. As I read the following verses it became very clear… “love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged…love never gives up.” So, I’m pretty sure that love doesn’t have pity parties! If my motive was pure I would have been able to surrender my pity party, and trust that even though what I shared wasn’t received I could trust God with the results. Yes, I need to learn to love.
So, I asked God to forgive me for my pride. My pride that wanted others to receive and appreciate the truth I shared with them. The pride in me that wanted to have the right answers for others. The pride that responded in self pity when not appreciated.
Lord, show me how to love as You love. Show me how to lovingly share Your truth with others with a pure heart so they will see only You. And let me trust Your Holy Spirit to do the work within their hearts no matter what kind of response I receive.
I choose to strip off my pride and look to You, Jesus, so I can run this race unhindered and lovingly share Your truth with others.
And, yes, please give me the grace to surrender any future pity parties! In Jesus name, Amen!