I am planning a day hike with my daughter Solveig this upcoming Monday that will cover more miles than I have ever completed in a single day on the Superior Hiking Trail. To make this happen I will plan our route and we will stay on the right trail for many hours. I will also be carrying a daypack instead of my usual bursting at the seams backpack. We will bring a good amount of water and nutritious food to keep us strong throughout the entire day. I bring this fun event for me up because I think it ties into our theme for Sunday in many ways.
The primary text for this Sunday is Hebrews 12.1-2
Here are some of the similarities that cross my mind as I read the text.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,… The trail that Solveig and I will be going on has been marked out by others that have gone before us. If we follow the trail markers we will get to the right place. *Are we learning from those that have gone before?
let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely,… As I mentioned earlier, we are looking to go long and fast on the trail so we will be carrying as little as possible. But we will bring the necessary items to stay strong and safe. We will keep our boots tied so we don’t get “entangled” in them and we will wear the right clothes so that we are able to move freely. *Are you carrying the right things and laying aside the things that are weighing you down?
and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,… Our hike will not be a short little walk in the park. We will be climbing, descending, scrambling and sweating. We will be needing to pay attention to where our feet are landing so that we do not take any spills that would keep us from continuing our journey. The route has been chosen and the only way to get to our destination will be to stay on the right trail. *Are we sticking with it on the path God gave us to travel?
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. This is Solveig’s first time going for a “major hike” so she told her friends that she will just do what her dad says. I am far from a professional backpacker but I have been on the trail a great deal more than Solveig. Her statement of confidence and trust fills me with both joy and the usual sense of wanting to take care of my little girl.
Obviously, I am not literally comparing my provision for Solveig as equal in any way to how Jesus takes care of us, but it does create a nice little illustration. It fills Jesus with joy when He considers that we are looking to Him as the one that is the creator and perfecter of our lives. Our Father in Heaven provides all that we need to “run the race or hike the trail” that is set before us. So, as we go through our days we are invited to journey with confidence and freedom. We can celebrate that through all the twists and turns, the ups and downs of life we will end up safely at home. Jesus has blazed the trail perfectly and completely so just trust in Him!
I like when things go as I plan them. I work hard to make sure my life has as few surprises as possible. I have a calendar that I check and recheck every day. I put as much as possible on that calendar so that everything is under my control and timing. At least that is what I am attempting to do. I am guessing that you know as well as I do that life will always play out differently than we had planned.
It might be the unexpected traffic jam or the unforeseen delay in the delivery or it could be a child that now needs you to take them to the doctor. No matter what the necessary adjustment is – it will happen – that is just a fact of life. There is truly only so much we can see as we look out the future. We need to just do the best we can with our limited vantage point and experience.
Because of this limitation I am always trying to gain insight from others. It could be expertise from someone to help me solve a technology problem. It may be the life experiences of others to help me make the right decisions about a relationship issue. It can even be something as simple as the weekend weather forecast to help me know how I should plan the busy demands over the next few days. No matter what it is – we all seek to gain an understanding of what is to come. This raises the question - how should I view the days that are to come if I don’t have a crystal ball and that old “Magic Eight Ball” from my childhood clearly didn’t give me the insight I needed?
The answer is seen in our passage for this Sunday’s message. We read in Hebrews 11 that we are called to live by faith. Seek the guidance and place your trust in the one that knows how it will all play out and holds the future in His hands.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. [vs. 1]
God has given us promises that we can count on as well as insight into creation, life itself and what is to come at the end of our days. I may not be able to see exactly what is around every corner, but God wants me to know that whatever is to come, He is able to deal with it. He will take care of me and nothing is a surprise to him. It will all work out so that God’s Kingdom can grow in me and through me. By faith that reality is a comfort but without faith the previous sentence can seem like nothing more than a pious platitude.
The faith we hold to at Oak Hill is based on the belief that God created us, loves us and was willing to humbly pursue us. We celebrate that we are unworthy recipients of great gifts from our Father in Heaven. We have a conviction that God wants our days to matter and He tells us how that can happen in the Bible. We have a united community of faith that believes truth matters and grace from God will meet all our shortcomings. We are a gathering of regular people around a most extraordinary Loving God that keeps His promises. Our hope for tomorrow is an ancient, ever-relevant assurance that God is for us and engaged in our TODAY.
Connected in Faith,
Pastor Nick Mundis