This week I found out Betty's latest message almost didn't get sent. Her latest piece of encouragement was a Word she tried to stuff back inside.... but out it came! I knew in that moment that God was at work here and I better stop trying to make excuses and start whole-heartedly accepting His plan.... or it would not be a good outcome.
Betty and I don't know each other, we have never met. Our correspondence is based on a singular event she was, at first, interested in being part of. For very good reasons, she isn't participating... yet I think God placed her in my life, in this time, for a purpose.
After Betty and I realized we were each part of a bigger plan God was using us to communicate, she shared this passage on her heart for me this week:
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.
- Hebrews 12:1-3
I'm not sure, but I think her encouragement was meant to hinge on verse 3, but little did either of us know, it would become so much more than that. She recommended I print it, put it on my fridge during this season of life.... and, as I have mentioned, I have learned to really sit up and listen when Betty speaks because I am pretty sure God is speaking through her (and I know she takes that quite seriously too).
I love Hebrews, especially 11 and 12. It is such a great encouragement to us in the faith, to remember those who have walked in faith before us and the great things God did as a result. I could have glazed over this passage recommendation, I know this one, BUT.... yeah, "but", I knew I needed something to pull me from my slump of negativity and wanting to find ways of giving up. So, the next morning I took my Bible and journal in hand, I set aside my Sermon on the Mount study I've been working on, and I dug in. I mean really dug in.
The first thing I asked: "who is this cloud of witness".... turning back to Chapter 11, there were many. All of them by faith believed God, trusted Him, did as He asked (even when it seemed crazy). Hebrews 11 points out that not all of them got to see the fruit of their obedience in this life.... but they still all obeyed.
I asked: "am I believing God?"
The truth was, no, I wasn't willing to believe Him that such a simple project could be used by him, however it is going to be used by Him, and my place is to simply trust Him by faith.
Second question came about after reading lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely: "God, do I have sin that needs rooting out? Is there something in my life keeping me from being able to run with endurance?"
God said YES.
I thought it was complaining, especially since it had to do with something God asked me to do.... where is my witness when I complain? That was part of it, God reminded me of a verse which had hung around me from the day before:
8 You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9 Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
- James 5:8-11
... and just the night before, my girls and I had been talking about appropriate speech and conduct and they replied in agreeance with the scripture I made them memorize back when bickering was a problem in our house:
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
I suddenly realized, my complaining, was a bi-product of the root of the problem: I was disobeying God and not believing Him by faith alone. I thought how my bad attitude and complaining were tainting my view and, while not everything was rosy, a simple change of heart would lesson the burden a GREAT deal. To focus on God's call in this activity would turn every issue that popped up into and opportunity.
An opportunity to show God's love.
An opportunity to shine peace in seemingly perils situations
An opportunity to be a light to the down-trodden.
An opportunity to show grace.
And most of all... an opportunity to GROW.
All-in-all, my sin is unbelief. In Hebrews chapter 11 the author shares the hall of faith. It is by faith each is counted righteous. Abraham's story being on of the really greats, Paul pulls this into his letter to the Romans, trying to encourage the believers there to walk rightly.
[re: Abraham] In hope he believed against hope.... He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body....
Romans 4:18a & 19a
His own body... I saw this as his own weaknesses or challenges. What was Abraham's great step of faith? Believing God to produce heirs through him and Sarah when they were old... too old to really have kids. It goes on....
No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.
- Romans 4:20-21
James sums it up like this:
Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness and he was called a friend of God.
- James 2:24b
I want to be called a friend of God!! But I can't as long as I argue with his plan and taint it with my spewing. I need to believe God...which is more than believing in God, it is trusting what He says and does and commands us to do.... even when it doesn't make sense.
Why me? Why this activity? Why Betty in the midst of it all? I.have.no.clue!! But suddenly I feel like I have set aside every weight which clung so closely and I am ready to run this race with endurance... to consider all that Jesus did so so that I may not grow weary or fainthearted!
What tasks or situations are you trying to manage right now that seem really overwhelming? I pray you will find the area where you need to place your grace and simply believe God has a plan in the midst of it all... no matter how messy or chaotic it might seem right now.
*"Betty's" name has been changed to protect her identity.