Sunday, January 2, 2022

"The Race That Is Set Before Us" (Heb. 12:1-3)

In his message today from Heb. 12:1-3, Chuck Swindoll gave us five guidelines for running the race of life. 

The first was this:

"Remember that God has prearranged the course we are to take. You don't set your course. You run the course he sets for you." 

Sometimes, said Chuck, the course isn't the one you would have chosen. Of course not! It was chosen for you. Says Chuck:

"The journey pleases him. And since that's true, it would be an awfully good idea for us this year to learn to adjust our lives to his plan. To be frank about it, and to be a little blunt, isn't it about time that you gave in and stopped the pushback of fighting, resisting his plan for your life?"

He adds:

"How good it is when we can simply say, 'Lord, this is obviously your will for me. I wouldn't have chosen it. But I accept it. And I ask for strength to go through it. You have chosen it for me ahead of time, and now that I'm in this race may I learn in the process to accept it and to yield to it."

I'll let you discover the other four guidelines for yourself. Needless to say, they are just as poignant as this one. Let me just add this. Being a Christian is an acceptance of the fact that God has a good and perfect plan for our lives. It's not an effort to plan out our own lives, a ceaseless pushback against God's plan. It's a letting go. And slowly we begin to notice that God is working on us from the inside out to give us a new sense of purpose in life. I know that's been true in my life during the past two years. 

Several years ago I had the opportunity to start a Greek class where I grew up, on the Windward side of Oahu. I worked with a local pastor who opened his church one evening each week for anyone who wanted to come and study Greek with me. 

Nothing brought me more joy than to be able to return to the place of my birth and begin repaying all that Hawaii had given me during my formative years. In the past two years, I planned to return in the month of August for more ministry, not once but twice, but Covid prevented that. I don't even know whether I will be able to return this year. Later this year I am scheduled to teach a New Testament survey class in one of our local churches on Sunday night. Will that happen? This very month of January I was scheduled to teach an in-person Greek class in Israel. That has been postponed to the summer, but now that we have Omicron, that too is up in the air. What Chuck Swindoll is trying to say is this: It's not merely a possibility that in 2022 we will face heartache and disappointment. That will happen. But when failure or unfortunate incidents occur in our lives, we have a choice. We can shake our fist and blame God, or we can trust God to help us fight off our self-pity and discouragement.

My friend, I can't know what 2022 holds for you. Or for me. My prayer is simply this: Whatever adversity comes our way this year, may these adverse times be extravagantly and outrageously joyful. If Jesus didn't flaunt an attitude of independence and self-sufficiency, how in the world can I? 

God isn't just watching my life or yours -- he is directing it. I am a new creation of his whom he will lovingly guide through every "detour." He already sees each valley I must travel through and every mountain I must climb in 2022. Will I trust him? As a Christian, I face that choice every day.