When you Grow Weary or Lose Heart
Hebrews 12.1-3 (NIV)
“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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he 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 sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
The title of today’s reflection is something that many of us will identify with after the last twelve months.
“When you grow weary or lose heart”
The last year has tested our resilience and our faith to breaking point. As my friends will testify; I have thrown my toys out of the pram on several occasions. I have felt like giving up more than once and all I’ve had to do is stay at home. Advised by the government, my GP and my nearest and dearest to shield as I am clinically extremely vulnerable.
I am not saying that shielding has been easy, but compared with those working on the front line, in hospitals, supermarkets, food banks, clinics. We have all experienced something of the wilderness of the desert and responded to it in different ways. As someone said early on in the pandemic; we may all be on the same sea, but we are not all in the same boat.
These opening verses of Hebrews chapter 12 are really a culmination of chapter 11’s discourse on faith. Chapter 11 begins with Paul’s definition of faith:
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see”. Heb 11.1
Paul then gives a historical summary of people of faith from Abel, the son of Adam, through Abraham, Moses, Joshua, the Judges, David, Samuel, and the Prophets. Having recounted the history Paul encourages the faithful of his day and future generations with sound advice for when we grow weary and lose heart.
A good place to start is our bible, that is where Paul started, reminding his audience of those giants of the faith who had gone before them. We might start with Paul’s letters to the early church, for instance:
Romans 8: 34
Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
But sometimes words of scripture are not enough and our cries to God appear to go unheard, when “let us fix ours eyes upon Jesus”, doesn’t seem to help!
Remember that “we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses”, cheering us on in our faith journey. People of faith who have gone before or are running with us today.
So often it is the negative voices that seem to shout loudest when we grow weary and lose heart. The conspiracy theorists on Social Media, the criticisms that put us down. The flaming arrows that so easily pierce our “shield of faith” Ephesians 6.16
It is these voices, the voices of the world that we hear, when we grow weary and lose heart.
Paul, in this passage from Hebrews, uses the example of an athlete preparing to run a race, probably a marathon as he speaks of endurance and perseverance that is needed to carry the runner through the long term rather than the quick dash of a sprinter.
Faith is like a marathon, not a quick dash to church on a Sunday morning when we get up late, but a lifelong daily exercise that needs training, perseverance and help along the way. Our winning tape is not the winner’s podium but a seat at the table in the Kingdom of Heaven, in the presence of Jesus who is sitting at the right hand of God.
If we want to win then we have to train, we have to read and learn the scriptures so that we can turn to them in all situations. To help ourselves and to help and encourage others.
If we want to win, we need to talk and walk with God every day. Take everything to God, our hopes and fears, our joys and pain, let him lead us, let him place us where he wants us to be in the race. Trust him, he knows what is best for us.
If we want to win, we need to talk and walk with other people. Marathon runners need other people, fellow runners who help them to measure their pace, improve their personal best. Onlookers to cheer them on, encourage them when spirits and energy flag.
How can we share the faith, build each other up and tell the Good News of Jesus without running with other people, those who have gone before, those who run with us, those who will run after us.
Whatever wilderness we may be facing, that “great cloud of witnesses” are those who have gone before us, those who are with us today and those who will look to us in the future as examples to follow. These are the voices that will keep us going when we grow weary and lose heart in the wilderness of life.
“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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power, and the glory
for ever and ever.
(North East Hub)