Gami Ortiz is joining the elder team at Kossuth as the Pastor of Worship and Connections. Gami, Cathi, and their family are currently transitioning out of their current ministry and preparing to move to Lafayette next month. We are looking forward to their arrival and are grateful for Gami's willingness to serve by writing this week's elder blog post.
As February hits, we’re now one month into the new year. Some of us may have made some “New Year’s Resolutions” to better ourselves or improve some skills. Unfortunately, a lot of times we find that the goals we set for last year were abandoned half-way through the year (if that long) and we fell short of what we’d set out to do. That’s one thing when it comes to weight-loss or exercise or even academia. However, it’s a completely different thing when it comes to our pursuit of and walk with God. Our relationship with him is depicted several times as a type of marathon race that requires endurance and perseverance.
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, 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.
The author of Hebrews gives us two things in order to run with endurance. First, he says to lay aside every weight or throw off anything that hinders. If you think of marathon runners, they don’t wear restrictive clothing. They’ve got the little shorts and tank tops in order to make sure they’re not hindered in their running. This passage in Hebrews adds “and sin which clings so closely.” We already think of confessing and repenting from our sins, but this author indicates that there are things that aren’t inherently sinful that can keep us from running well. The reality is when we put anything above our pursuit of God, it becomes a hindrance. Even good things, like family, security, and comfort can hinder us if we allow them to become more important than God.
The second thing we see is that we look to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. As founder, he made it possible for us to even run this race! But he is also the perfecter of our faith in that he modeled for us what perfect trust in the heavenly Father looks like. His whole life was characterized by unbroken and unquestioning faith in the Father, especially in Gethsemane when he says, “Not my will, Father, but yours be done.” He endured the cross, which was the course laid out for him. In doing so, he cleared a path for us to run our race. There may be hurdles we have to navigate, but the roadblocks have been removed. Jesus took on our sin and gave us his righteousness so that we could be God’s own. He endured the cross “for the joy set before him.” Jesus looked beyond the cross to the joy of being “seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” I pray that motivates us as well.
In 1952, Florence Chadwick set out to swim the 26 miles between the California coastline and Catalina Island. She’d already achieved the world record for swimming the English Channel in each direction. In this swim, after 15 hours, a thick fog set in. She started to get tired and began to doubt her ability. After another hour, she called it quits, not being able to even see her goal. However, after getting into the boat that was accompanying her, she realized she only had one more mile until she would have reached the shore. Two months later, she tried again. Though the same fog set in, she completed the swim. When asked what made the difference, she said she kept an image of the shoreline in her mind and pressed on.
This is what the author of Hebrews is talking about when he says to fix our eyes on Jesus. Keep your eyes on the goal, on our prize – he IS our reward! That’s the only way to run the race well and persevere. Because there will be obstacles, there will be trouble. But none of that compares to our joy in Christ.