On Good Friday I had the opportunity to speak at the M.O.P.S. group that meets at The Nazarene Church in Clovis. This is a little bit of what I shared that day and thought I would share with you!
Hebrews 12:1-3 12 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, 2 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. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Have Faith- Keep Focus-Look to the Future
*strong belief or trust in someone or something
*allegiance to duty or a person
*firm belief in something for which there is no proof, complete trust
Let’s talk about faith. Faith is something we claim to have plenty of until it is tested.
“Just have faith.”
Have you heard that from some well-meaning person when you are in a storm of difficulty? Like faith is this easily obtained virtue or attitude that we can possess by simply thinking positive, avoiding negative “energy” and surrounding yourself only with positive people; or perhaps by putting the word in our homes as a decoration.
How is your faith in difficulty? How is your faith when God tells you no? How is your faith when someone confesses that they have sinned against you? How is your faith when you miscarry? How is your faith when there is an unexpected diagnosis? When you lose a job, don’t get promoted, your child decides they hate you or God?
Difficulty reveals our focus and intentions. Having faith doesn’t prevent difficulty but it helps see you through the difficulty.
Has anybody figured out by now that this is hard? Life, marriage, parenting, working? It is literally like one valley after another. Valleys of life are dark, wet and cold. And, that is where we will spend most of our time. How do we make it through?
Faith. Have faith and keep focused. Faith is something God in His grace provides and we can encourage that faith in our lives by our focus.
Focus and look to the future!
“For the joy set before him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God.”
I am not here to tell you how to avoid the hard but how to make it through the hard. What is your focus? Are you focused on you and your circumstances?
“I can’t believe this is so hard. Once I get past this… Why did this happen to me? Why am I being treated this way? Why my marriage, my family, my kids?”
So, what is your focus? If the entirety of our focus is on the temporal few years spent here on earth, we can become very distracted. What is our focus?
We are so focused on the here and now and Jesus is like, “what about eternity?” Why would I spend this little breath trying to make myself as comfortable as possible, enjoy myself as much as I can?
Don’t lose focus! Like Paul, I want to live my life on mission and invest my life for that moment I cross that finish line and see His face.
“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, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”
Looking to the future, what is ahead. What you have to look forward to gives you the faith you need to set aside the difficulty in comparison to the joy that lay before us.
Keep your eyes on the finish line, straining forward.
This is what we must do. Look to Jesus and the joy set before us. This life isn’t all there is.
That is what the heroes of faith did before and also what our savior did. They had faith and focus on the future. Remember what it said at the beginning of that passage? Let’s read it again.
12 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, 2 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. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. had faith. Abraham was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder was God.
Hebrews 11:13-14 13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own.
Jesus, the one and only son of God, left the perfection of heaven to live and experience everything we experience. Every joy, hurt, sadness, and temptation; yet, was without sin.
Ultimately, he went to the cross to die in our place for our sins. Let’s not forget he was fully man. Now, how did he cope? One more time, Hebrews 12:2 For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, And sat down at the right hand of God.
He scorned the shame of the cross. Look at what that means.
- noun- the feeling or belief that something is worthless or despicable; contempt.
- Verb- feel or express contemp or derision for
We don’t have to like our circumstances but we must endure them. Jesus knew what awaited Him and did not allow the momentary troubles to dissuade him from his purpose and obedience to His calling.
Let us endure. When things hurt, say, “for the joy set before me.” When we descend into yet another valley, another difficulty, say, “I can endure for the joy set before me.” When your toddler makes another mess, endure for the joy set before you. When that teenager talks back AGAIN, endure for the joy set before me.
You can endure.
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Take heart, have faith and keep focus!
How often do we tell ourselves, “this is not what I want to do with my life, I don’t want to do this right now, I’m not in the mood, I’m just not passionate about this”?
Maybe you’re the student waiting tables but you’re really “passionate” about being an actress or musician. Maybe you’re working a strenuous job you despise but your “passion” is to own your own business. Maybe you’re sitting in your chair at church but your “passion” is to preach. Maybe you’re or on your couch at home because you’re not “passionate” about any of the volunteer opportunities that come your way. Maybe you’re just not “passionate” about your spouse any more. Maybe you don’t even know what you’re “passionate” about.
Many of us want do something we love. We’re told at a young age that we can do whatever we desire to do. Whatever you’re “passionate” about, do it.
Many of us are passionate about something but we have no drive to take the steps to make it happen. We want the glamour of what the people we see are doing but not the behind the scenes mess. And, many times, even if we do take those steps, we’ll never make it. You can take all the necessary steps to become the next Michael Jordan but, let’s be real, the likelihood of that is slim-to-none, especially if you’re under 7′ tall.
How many times have we seen people on shows like Shark Tank say, “but this is my passion,” only for the Sharks turn around and say “but it’s not working!”
Seriously, how many of us walk into church or work or school each day and think “I’m so ready for this! I love this! I’m passionate about this!” I don’t know about you, but even having a job I love, working for a church I love, serving a God I love, married to a guy I love, there are still days when I just don’t feel passionate about any of it. But this is where God has called me and in each of these situations, there is opportunity. And, if we’ll take advantage of opportunities and work hard, even when we don’t feel like it, passion will follow.
Below is a 3-minute video from Entrepreneur. Mike Rowe, best known for his show Dirty Jobs, is a pretty cool and intelligent guy if you ask me. He addresses passion v. opportunity. He explains this a lot better than I do. Give it a watch.
A few weeks ago Derek said that we should prep our hearts before we come to church to receive what God has for us that day. This is something that got me thinking and examining where my heart is each Sunday morning when I walk through the doors. I pray that God will tear down anything that is standing in my way of learning what God wants for me, serving with the Love of Christ and having a spirit of true worship.
Church Sucks! By Kurt Bubna
Not too long ago, a family entered our church lobby looking fairly stressed. Having had a few fights on my way to church over the years, I understand the potential for family tension on the way to worship. It also seems that Murphy’s Law is extremely active when people are on their way to something that’s good for them.
As I smiled and said, “Hello” to this family, one of their kids (a junior high boy) said under his breath, “Church sucks!” From the look his mother gave him, I suspect he was grounded for a long time following that comment. Unfortunately, the dad almost winked at him as if to say, “I understand how you feel son; I don’t want to be here either!”
As you can imagine, this is not a great confidence booster for pastors.
You see, for pastors, church is like the Super Bowl, except it happens every Sunday. We love it! We’re excited to connect with our community of faith. We look forward to investing in the lives of people we love. So when they don’t show up, or worse yet, they show up with an attitude, it’s hard for us to understand.
Sure, at times I’ve left after a service and thought, that sucked, but that feeling is reserved for those times when I felt like I’d bombed. Generally, however, church refreshes my soul, and I leave thankful for what God did in our midst.
So what’s going on? Why the growing attitude by some (many?) about Church?
- Perhaps some have developed a consumerism mentality. For them, church is about being entertained or having their needs met. So if they don’t like the songs, the volume, the message, the room temperature, or whatever, they get irritated.
- Perhaps some are too busy, and other things matter more. They’ll show up only if their kids don’t have a soccer game, they’re not up too late on Saturday night, their favorite sports team isn’t playing, it’s not too cold or snowy (you wouldn’t want to die on your way to church!), or it’s not too nice and sunny (why waste a gorgeous day inside?).
- Perhaps some have convinced themselves that they don’t have to go to church to be a part of the Church. They think: I’ll watch it later online, or I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian.
- Perhaps their church really does suck and is a waste of time.
Congratulations if you’re still reading this blog! Hopefully, that means you care about this thing called the Church of Christ.
Can I suggest a few things for your consideration?
- It’s not just about you.
Of course, every pastor hopes you will be blessed and personally encouraged at church, but what if that song you dislike is a favorite of someone else and just what they needed? The message on any given Sunday may be “old news” to you, but what if it’s just what Dr. Jesus ordered for someone else?
By the way, when a church tries to be everything for everybody it rarely is anything good for anybody.
Here’s a radical idea: What if you went to church praying, “Jesus, what can I say or do today in church to demonstrate what You have done for me, and how can I be a blessing to others today?” What if you went with a serving attitude rather than worrying about what you’ll get out of it? Isn’t it more blessed to give than to receive?
- Church should involve sacrifice.
For thousands of years, the Jews understood coming to the tabernacle or temple as an act of sacrifice. It cost them time, energy and money to participate in worship. Sometimes they traveled great distances. And they always brought the best of the best to offer in grateful sacrifice to God. King David once said in 1 Chronicles 21:24 (NIV), “I will not . . . sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”
Jesus said in Matthew 6:33 (VOICE), “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Some might argue that Jesus was talking about the kingdom, not the church. Uh . . . He created the Church and without a doubt He and His followers would absolutely include the community of faith in God’s kingdom.
Frankly, when we place other things, other activities (like choosing sports over church) or even more sleep above gathering together as His bride, we are simply not putting His kingdom first. People make time for the things and activities they value most.
- Being a Christian involves being in community.
Yes, church is more than just an hour on Sunday. And yes, I suppose you can be a Christian without going to a church service. But going to church matters. You truly can’t and shouldn’t do your faith alone.
We need each other. We need to sit next to others who are very different from us yet have the same Spirit inside. We need to join our voices together in song and praise. We need to be refreshed and refueled by the teaching of the Word through the pastor God has placed in our lives. We need to serve others. We need to understand that God never condones isolation. We need to prioritize in our lives the gathering of the saints. We need to make church not about our convenience but all about a sacrifice of love for the One who sacrificed His all for us.
I don’t care if you meet in a home, a garage, a tent, a stain-glassed cathedral or a former K-Mart! But if all of the above is not happening in your life on a regular basis and in whatever church you’re a part of, then you’re missing it.
By the way, if your church actually does suck, then find one where you can whole-heartedly engage, and stop making excuses for staying in bed on Sunday.
For the first century Christians, and even in most of the 20th century, church was at the center of community for believers. Instead of attending 2-3 times a month, the first church worshiped daily (Acts 2:46-47). I, and maybe many of you, grew up attending church 2-3 times a week.
Sure, the culture has changed, but I humbly suggest that we still need the influence and encouragement that best comes through a community of like-minded believers. Frankly, we need each other now more than ever.
Let us consider how to inspire each other
to greater love and to righteous deeds,
not forgetting to gather as a community,
as some have forgotten, but encouraging each other,
especially as the day of His return approaches.
Hebrews 10:24-25 (VOICE)