Happy New Year!
I woke up this first day of 2020 with a verse from Hebrews pulsing through my mind. I think of the passage as, the great ‘Ta da!” moment in history, when God’s ultimate plan was revealed to all mankind. I offer it to encourage you as we enter into this new year together:
“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 . . . .”
To maximize the impact of what the writer is pronouncing in his letter, it is needful to consider its context–what it was placed there for:
In what is referred to as,“the by faith chapter” (Hebrews 11)–the lineup of those who proved themselves faithful to God begins with the Bible’s first martyr, Abel: “By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.” (Verse 4)
The passage continues with a grand, hall-of-fame lineup of people who proved themselves faithful to God. Hebrews 11 concludes with these words:
“They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two;
they were killed by the sword.
They went about in sheepskins and goatskins,
destitute, persecuted and mistreated—
the world was not worthy of them.
They wandered in deserts and mountains,
living in caves and in holes in the ground.
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.*
Living in a world today where Christians are suffering persecution, unimaginable hardship, torture and even death because of their faith**, I am humbled, challenged and yet encouraged by their steadfast courage as I reflect on what follows Hebrews 12:1,
“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 hostility from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
To be sure, we miss the point of Hebrews when we focus on those who have gone before us or on those who suffer today. Instead, we find direction and courage when we see Jesus looking beyond the cross to His Father.
Where was His focus?
- First and foremost, He sought to honor His Father.
- Secondarily, to redeem all who look to, follow and trust in Him for the salvation of their souls.
No matter what you may be facing in this new year:
- Be it the loss of a loved one,
- Health issues,
- Or perhaps just mustering the courage to keep up with the daily news,
be encouraged by your identity that is established in Christ:
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved,
clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,
gentleness and patience.
Bear with each other and forgive one another . . . .
Forgive as the Lord forgave you.
And over all these virtues put on love,
which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
As we enter this new year together:
- Be encouraged as you remember that you were chosen by God and are holy and dearly loved by Him.
- Be strengthen each day as you look to Him for the courage you lack to be compassionate, kind, humble, gentle and patient as He helps you to forgive in the same way He has forgiven you.
- Be intentional in loving those He places on your path as your means of honoring and glorifying Him.
All to His Glory!
**I consider Open Doors, USA a viable resource to keep up what is happening to fellow Christians around the world. .