I read the book of Hebrews through this morning in THE MESSAGE, a translation by the legendary and wise, brilliant pastor and author Eugene Peterson. All these thoughts come directly from that reading. When I used Peterson’s words, I tried to give “credit” but this is completely my interpretation of his translation. Don’t blame him for my ignorance or lack of understanding. This is written to myself but you can listen in.
The book of Hebrews likens life to a race. I’m not that competent at running. Last summer, I started running trying the Couch Potato to 5k program. At first I barely stumbled around the block, untrained and unprepared. But it didn’t take long before I was running three miles. Today, after static winter, I’d have to start all over again. I would have to start from the beginning and mature into a runner, again.
Like those listed in the book of Hebrews, our faith Story, should point people toward their true home. We can please God through our Story by believing that God exists and that he cares enough to respond when we cry out to him.
“Be confident that you are presentable inside and out.”
Even with wickedness in our back story, in the book of Hebrews we learn that in the final review this is the point—that we are unworthy and that through the actions of Jesus, we become presentable again.
How are we to live now, today?
The Message translates that we are to “make our way as best we can on the cruel edges of the world.” That’s dramatic, but I can relate. Life has felt more than a little cruel of late.
Hebrews holds a roster of pioneers of faith, people like my father, imperfect – whose lives were unfinished and incomplete when they died, even if they were exemplary; or whether they tripped up over and over, even if they had to learn how to run many times throughout their lives. They are all at the last finish line, shouting and cheering us on.
Hebrews says their lives combined with ours becomes The Story—a completed whole.
So, even when you feel inadequate, knowing that you’re broken, feeling you’re too lame to run, you are commanded TO RUN!
But how are we to carry out this impossible feat?
Key your eyes on Jesus. Know Jesus. Study Jesus.
When you feel most down trodden and unable to run, go back to the basics to who he was and is, how he behaved, how he treated people, how he fashioned his time and priorities and days (and nights). Study him.
And, if you begin to feel life is unfair, that yours in particular is full of suffering and pain. Consider these things to be ways for God to love you. We are disciplined and corrected by love.
This is growing up spiritually.
Know that your pain is God’s training ground! Life isn’t hard because you’re bad, or undeserving of good things, or even unrepentant. No, life hurts because God the father LOVES YOU! It’s the University of Spiritual Development.
And so, stop resisting. Stop complaining. Wipe your tears. Wake up to God’s love! These hard moments, this unimaginable pain in your life or those you love, is making you not breaking.
Hebrews is a heavenly warning. “God himself is fire!” He’s burning, aware of…our immaturity, our gracelessness, our negativity, our tearing one another down.
He’s looking at you and me – challenging us to care for one another.
It is simple things.
- “Be ready with a meal or a bed when needed. Why some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it.
- Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them.
- Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them happened to you.
- Guard your marriage, your relationships.
- Don’t be obsessed with getting material things.
- Watch how your pastors live and let their lives instruct you.
- Share what you have with others. Worship God with your generosity and love.
- And pray that God, who put all this together, who makes all things whole, who gave us Jesus, may he train you, put you together—providing you with everything you need—in Jesus.”
Sometimes, truth is so simple that we ignore it thinking that can’t be all. That can’t be it. It’s not spiritual enough. It’s not complicated enough.
But the book of Hebrews makes it pretty clear. We are to love one another in the daily race of life, look to Jesus as our example for how to live, trust him, be trained by him … Grow up.