His looming death was more real to him than it would be for anyone in history. As Messiah prayed in that fateful garden for one last night, he knew the joy that was set before him, the joy in fulfilling the will of God for his life; and that joy would outweigh anything – and I mean anything – that might come in between him and its completion.

As we sojourn in his footsteps we are sure to experience persecution and suffering along the way.  “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.” [1 Peter 2:21]  So, it is part of our destiny, it’s part of our journey to be like Christ – even in the suffering part.

The author of Hebrews makes an elaborate point when he (or she) says:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before 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 its 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. [Emphasis added]

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I don’t want Christianity to be nothing but a mind-game, nothing but “you can do it!” speak and can-do attitudes, or else Christians are “the most to be pitied” – aren’t we?  But this is not the case!  Christ is a lot more than just theory.  He is not just abstract thoughts and consciences.  He is in you!  And he is working with you, the believer, to this very day.  Let us examine the Great Commission as seen in Matthew 28:18-20.

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [Emphasis added]

Jesus gives his Great Commission to disciples of all generations (not just those present) and does so with the guarantee and the encouragement that we, as human disciples, are not on this disciple-making process by ourselves.  The remark that he is always with believers is given right here in the Commission itself.

Christ is not there on the sidelines, yelling at us to continue, singing the song, “You got mud on your face, you big disgrace!”  He is there in the mud with us, to the extent that we are in the mud.  He is there with us, right there in all the various challenges that often are associated with the disciple-making process.  Isn’t he?  And experience reaffirms this section of verses.  He is not there on the sidelines getting joy out of our grief.  Rather he wishes that we disciples get to experience his joy, the joy of doing Daddy’s will for our lives, the joy of being set-apart while doing and experiencing that good, perfect, and pleasing will. (Rom. 12:2 NLT)

“How many marshmallows would you like, little Jonny?”

marshmallow_test(from_videogum_dot_com)

It is kind of like that often-cited social experiment wherein a child is promised two marshmallows if he refrains from eating the first marshmallow, which sits in front of him, tantalizingly so.  The experiment examines the intelligence factor of self-restraint and links it even with that person’s character (as will be made more prominent later on in his/her development as an adult).  This social/psychological phenomenon being underscored, called delayed gratification, therefore, holds true for adulthood even more so than childhood.  Consider the terrible consequences of spontaneous gratification for a youngster (the missing-out of an extra marshmallow) as compared to the adult-world consequences of spontaneous gratification (for one example: slavery to debt rather than mastery of our own lives via debt-free living).  Delayed gratification is considered a mark of intelligence not just of our species but of any in the animal world.

Applied spiritually, are we able to say no?  Or does addiction and desire lord over us instead of we over them with the help of God?  Applied to our daily lives as Christians, are we able to put off what feels good now for what will feel better (or more rewarding) later on?  Can we put off or cast aside the pleasures of this life if they are getting in the way of our partaking in the pleasures of the hereafter?

By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter,  choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.  He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward.  By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible.

Delayed gratification.  Perseverance.  Long-suffering.

Rubber meets the road

Try to identify that thing that is holding you back from running the race with more fervor.  The Bible says to “lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and…run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”  When our heart is set solely on God a lot of good things happen and a lot of bad things disappear.  Finding this rectified lifestyle in Jesus Christ is key to our perseverance.  As we focus on Jesus, the real Jesus, the actual Jesus, the storm is calmed and our confidence resupplied – not to dowe want, but to do his “good and pleasing and perfect will.”

 

Stephen M. Ross

Image credit:

“Running Foot Care” by Linda Thomas

“Marshmallow Test” from videogum.com