One week ago, I had the very exciting privilege of serving as a Guardian for a Navy veteran who served in the military during the Korean Conflict.
We were both participants on an Honor Flight, a one-day excursion to Washington, D.C. On this trip, we traveled the airport, got on a plane and flew from Florida to Washington, visited the various military memorials, then returned to Florida – all in one day!
The 68 veterans who participated in this Honor Flight Mission were each shown respect, honor, and gratitude for their service in ways they may not have previously experienced. One of the constant battles these men face is the struggle for significance – was my military service worth it?
Did I help at all? Or was it just an exercise in futility?
In the busy-ness of life, it was indeed a privilege to be a part of this “setting apart” one day in which to graciously honor these men and re-affirm the value of their service to our country.
I have been meditating on the familiar passage in the book of Hebrews in the Bible that gives the basic instructions for significance and for winning the rat race called life.
In Hebrews 12:1-3, we have a three-pronged instruction manual for winning the race. The context of this passage is that the heroes of the faith have completed the race.
Our Old Testament heroes, of the likes of Abraham, Sarah, Enoch, Moses, Joseph. and others, have already completed the race and are in the gallery watching us as we continue to run it, cheering us on as we go, celebrating with us when we see minor victories along the way and encouraging us to hang in there and keep on keeping on when we feel like quitting.
But what does the author say to encourage us. He gives us a three-step approach to winning the race and discovering that significance:
(1) First, he tells us to get rid of every encumbrance and sin “that cleverly places itself in an entangling way around [you].” (Hebrews 12:1, Wuest). In other words, God wants us to win, but in order to do that we have to bare our hearts and souls before the Lord, getting rid of the heavy stuff that can really drag us down in this race called life.
When I have gone wilderness backpacking and hiking, one of the most important thoughts to keep in the forefront of my mind as I am preparing for the hike is weight. I look for the lightest possible equipment and supplies. Because ounces can make a big difference in how successfully I am able to compete the hike.
In the same way, the sin that so easily entangles our hearts can drag us down and prevent us from completing the race.
Sins like the pride that comes from wealth and importance, the craze for sex that is so prevalent in our world today, the enticement of the eyes, the continuous greed for more and more, malice, hypocrisy, envy, slander, the love for family and friends over the love for Christ, and perhaps the worst sin of all – worry and anxiety – all of these can really drag us down and not only keep us from winning the race, but also from completing the race itself, and therefore losing the significance of the meaning of our life and efforts.
But confession and repentance are good for the soul. Agreeing with God that such things (and more) are sin and need His cleansing power and forgiveness will free us and lighten the load we are called upon to carry in this race called life.
(2) Second, the author encourages us to run the race with patient and steadfast endurance, to persevere through the difficulties of life and not to give up as we go. The tendency is to get tired, to look for results prematurely and to want to see the goal lone long before it is time.
When hiking long distances in the woods, it is important to realize that the hike is not over until it is over. That sounds so simple, but in the middle of the hike, when facing a long uphill climb, it is easy to want to quit, to just stop right here and think you cannot go any farther. But you can’t stop. You have to go on. You will eventually get to the finish line (or the parking lot as the case may be!)!
(3) And finally, we are to keep our eyes on Jesus and imitate His example. Whenever I read this verse, I think about Peter walking on water and taking his eyes off Jesus. When he did, he began to sink! I am convinced that Peter got caught up in the storm and the cheers of the crowd in the boat behind him, and forgot about Jesus – until he sank and found himself spitting and sputtering and thrashing about in the sea. Then he called out and Jesus picked him out of the water and walked with him back to the boat.
As we focus our minds and hearts on Jesus, no matter what life may throw at us, we will discover that we can face the storms and the hills and the valleys of life’s circumstances in a way that we never thought possible.
God bless …
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at [email protected]