Happy New Year! It is common this time of year to look forward to what a new year may bring and resolutely set out to do and be better. We set out with a vision of who we might become and set goals on how to get there. But so often, by February 1st (if we are lucky), we have already given up because it was too difficult, we got discouraged, something threw us off our game or we just ran out of sheer willpower to keep going.
Last week, I challenged all of us to consider how we might grow in the Lord in the coming year. Whether it is to start each day looking at your Bible app instead of social media first thing in the morning or getting more involved with your church community or saying “yes” to something you know God is calling you to do, or whatever your next step toward a deeper relationship with God might be, each step we take toward this goal is a worthy one to pursue.
But just like with other goals, when it comes to growing in our faith and setting out to seek the Lord more in the new year, we must be prepared to face some difficulties and obstacles that will try to discourage us and make us give up on our goals. Even with our best planned efforts, we can get disheartened when the change we want doesn’t happen as fast or in the way we had hoped for.
This year, I want us all to make it past February 1st and be able to look back at the end of this coming year, seeing how God worked mightily in each of our lives! In order to see growth in our lives and not grow discouraged when challenges or difficulties arise, we must know how to press on.
In Hebrews 12:1-3, we find a verse that speaks directly to this situation:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
The author of the book of Hebrews is encouraging us with these verses in chapter 12 to not give up–the reward of our efforts will be worth it! Growing in our faith and in the Lord is a worthy goal and one that we must continually seek in life as we “run the race with perseverance”.
In the times when it gets difficult and I start to get discouraged, I try to remember that I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses–people who have gone before me in faith and in whom I can find encouragement. Knowing others have conquered something that I want to conquer helps me stay the course. Their victory over the finish line or through a season of difficulty, helps me remember that there is victory waiting for me too. By our own strength and willpower we can accomplish good things, but when we are being encouraged by a faith community, we can do so much more. Our faith is built upon the faith of those who have gone before us and we are encouraged by those who are alongside us now.
In addition to the encouragement we receive from those around us, we must also be intentional about reaching our goal to grow deeper in faith. We need a steadfastness that says, “no matter what, I’m committed to making this happen.” Verse one says that we are to throw off everything (not some or just a little, but ev-er-y-thing!) that is hindering our faith and growth in the Lord, especially the sin that can entangle us like a vine and pull us away from God. Part of the “no matter what…” is to be willing to let God take away the things that are not helping us but hindering us in reaching our faith growth.
Once we have removed what’s hindering our progress, it can feel like smooth sailing until you hit the first obstacle. Things will be going well, and then you or someone in your family gets the flu or you go on vacation and your rhythm gets disrupted and next thing you know you get thrown off the path toward your goal. Has that ever happened to you? I know it has for me! It’s in the face of these challenges that we must rely on God’s strength and the encouragement of others to persevere when the going gets tough. We have to make an intentional decision: Are we going to stay the course or give up? Will we lean into God and allow Him to cultivate perseverance in us?
You are able to persevere only when you have our eyes on the prize–staying focused on who you want to become and where God is taking you. We must all fix our eyes on Jesus! Not only is He our example but He is our guide. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus is the author and perfecter of our faith. He is the only one who can bring the growth we long for in our lives. God not only created us but is the author of life! He probably knows something about how to live that life well. He has gone before us and endured more than we can possibly imagine, but was still the ultimate example of how to complete the race in victory! As we allow Him, by His grace, He will transform us into people of deep and rich faith–people who walk more and more into who He is calling us to be!
So, while there may be times that you start to grow weary, do not give up. Stay the course and keep running that race to the finish line! You can do it–you got this! And more importantly, God’s got you!
If you have a faith goal this year, please email us and let us know. We would love to be praying for you!