God's Resilient People
The author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses (referring to the Biblical giants of the faith found in the Old Testament) let us throw off everything that hinders, the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance (read here as resilience) the race marked out for us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding it’s shame and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.” (Heb 12:1-3).
Although we don’t face the kind of struggles faced by the heroes of the Old Testament, the first Christians, or Jesus our Lord, following Christ in 21st century America is no walk in the park. The church no longer has center place in our culture. How do we persevere and how do we cultivate resiliency in the face of loss and temptation? How do we keep on keeping on being faithful in the midst of juggling the multiple demands on our time while, at the same time, coping with the accelerating rate of change?
I have always been drawn to the race metaphor for the Christian life. Perhaps it’s because I am a runner and was on the track team in junior and senior high school. I ran the hurdles, the 440, and was the anchor leg of the mile relay.
My track experiences planted seeds of resilience in my life. Through those experiences some of the things I learned which I have found transferable to running the “good race” of Christ, include the importance of developing and following a plan, giving my best and pushing myself beyond what I thought were my limits, learning from my mistakes and the mistakes of others and forgiving both; and, finishing strong.
Although the races I ran were relatively short distances, the Christian race of discipleship is more like a long distance run. It demands endurance, determination and a kick at the end. Resilient Christians, seek to understand God’s direction for their lives; do what is in their power to share the grace, peace and justice of God; learn from their mistakes and forgive easily; and often make their greatest contribution to God’s kingdom in the second half of life. During the month of July, I’ll be preaching a four week sermon series title “God’s Resilient People” focusing on each of these topics (See preaching schedule on Page one.).
Abraham and Sarah, Noah, Moses, Samuel, Esther, and all the disciples (students) of Christ (including you and me), listen for God’s direction in life. Resilient Christians prepare themselves so they will be ready to be used by God when needed, and living into their God-given potential, like the shepherd boy, David, Queen Esther and the Syrophonecian woman. All three stepped out in courage to do what is with-in their power to play their part in God’s salvation history.
Resilient Christians are people like Joseph, the youngest son of Jacob and another Joseph who became the husband of a peasant girl named Mary. Both, when betrayed, put their trust in God and made lemonade out of the lemons life had given them. They forgave easily though it cost them greatly. They somehow understood that there is no stronger expression of God’s love than the grace of forgiveness.
Finally, resilient Christians are people like the Biblical characters Caleb, Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simon and Anna. These are just a few of the many of God’s faith giants who finished strong by making their greatest contribution to God’s kingdom in the second half of life. They knew the truth of the saying, “It’s not over until it’s over.” They did NOT quit!
Resilient Christians hang in there claiming joy in all circumstances while giving their best to live faithful lives. We are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses of the faithful who have gone before us, who are with us now, and who will come. May we be encouraged by their legacies of faith so that one day, we too can join the writer of 2 Timothy who said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (4:7)
Looking forward to Sunday,