Monday, March 1, 2010

Going for the Gold

I love the Olympics! Whenever they start advertising for the games, I think, "Oh, I won't be interested this year." And then the opening ceremonies come and I am hooked. In these games you have all the makings of a great story: triumph and tragedy, poverty to riches, athletes overcoming obstacles and adversities to achieve glory! With each athlete the announcers draw you into a story of battle, hardship, and struggle to achieve that goal which has been set before them: the gold medal!

I can't help but see an analogy here with the Christian life. In fact, the author of Hebrews uses such an analogy to encourage those who are struggling in their faith. In Hebrews, the author is speaking to people who are struggling and being persecuted for their faith. They are likely Jews who had converted to Christianity, an illegal religion. If they go back to Judaism, a legal religion, they could be free of this oppression from the state and welcomed back to their friends and family who had likely rejected them. The author of Hebrews reminds them that the Christian life is one of battle, hardship, and struggle (Hebrews 12:1-17). Much like those who train for the Olympics, we will face hardships and adversities of many kinds. Unlike the Olympians, the hardships we face can prove to be deadly as Satan and the world hate us and want us to suffer. Sin, temptation, evil, tragedy, pain, strife, all of these things will cause us to doubt and stumble and, in our worst moments, cause us to feel like we are losing and want to quit altogether.

So, wisely, the author of Hebrews directs our eyes away from us and points them to Jesus. "[L]et 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" (Heb. 12:1b-3).

The author points us to Jesus and calls us to fix our eyes upon Him! Why? Because Jesus has endured such suffering as well. Everyone turned against Jesus. He was abandoned by friends and family. He was nailed to a cross by the very people he had created in love, at the will of the very nation he had chosen to be His people. Taking our sins upon Himself (being rejected by us), He suffered even God's wrath on the cross, crying out "My God, my God! Why have you forsaken me!" He endured the cross, despised its shame. It looked like Jesus lost. The suffering seemed to win. But (always a glorious word in the Bible!), because of such suffering, because He took the cross, He rose again and is now seated at the right hand of God! On a throne! Wearing a victor's crown, a gold medal if you will. His suffering and death saved you and me. And though we suffer with Jesus now, we know that He has won the race for us.

We know that at the end, there is a victor's crown of gold, the gold medal, waiting for us. For Christ has promised victory over the pains of this life and the trials we face. So, amidst our struggles, fix your eyes on Jesus! "Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees." (Heb. 12:12) Stand firm, your prize won by Jesus awaits you! As we remember our trials and struggles this Lenten season, let us always keep our eyes fixed upon Jesus and His empty tomb. And let us strive with great anticipation for the glory set before us!

Pastor Bob

Faith Lutheran Church • 123 Park Lane • Moorpark, CA 93021 • (805) 532 1049 • Send Email