Teaching Series Introduction:
The Series: There is no doubt about it. For many of us, these last few months have been pretty tough. So, how are you, really? This summer teaching series helps us take a deep and refreshing look at how you’re really doing. And we’ll begin to discover what true wellbeing looks like for your life right now, regardless of the chaos around.
Bible Focus: Using the stunning words of encouragement from the book of Hebrews in the Bible (Chapter 12, verses 1-3) as our backdrop, we will consider some incidents in the life of the first disciples as we do a summer health check and unpack how to stay spiritually and emotionally fit for the journey ahead.
Title: One Step At A Time (Resilience for the path ahead)
By: Andy Mackie
Date: 23 August 2020 (Online Service)
Hebrews (Chapter 12, verse 2-3)
2 Corinthians (Chapter 4, verses 16-18)
Challenging paths can sometimes seem too difficult. But, if we keep taking one step at a time with our eyes set on the finishing line we’ll be able to endure. Building resilience becomes possible as we remember what Jesus has won for us, and so we take each step with confidence and endurance. That’s exactly what Paul was doing as he was on trial in the book of Acts. He knew what Jesus had done and won, and so even in challenging times he was able to keep pressing forwards.
Pause for thought:
Throughout lockdown there has been the ever-present hope that, one day, things will settle back down. The end goal has spurred us on. Sometimes what we need to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other, taking one step at a time. How do we keep building resilience so that we don’t lose heart, however long the journey might be?
Building resilience – by focusing on the end goal that has been won for us by Jesus, we are able to endure challenges and not get knocked off course.
Today’s Bible reading is from Hebrews Chapter 12, verses 2-3. “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set out before him, he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down on the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who faced opposition from sinners so that you do not grow weary or lose heart.”
Hi. Many of us will have or had parents or grandparents who lived during the second World War. And the question that that generation often gets asked is, what did you do during the war? How did you get through things? My mom, for example, as a kid, her house was bombed several times while there were there in the Anderson shelters, taking cover. They lived through the food rationing. Her dad was away in the army. Eventually she was evacuated from the city where she was. But perhaps we’ve been living through a time of crisis where it will be our turn to answer that question of endurance for ourselves.
And when I think of endurance, I think of people like Bear Grylls. And not only has he been through a lot, so not only does he write about inspiring people that have endured, but also he believes in people, that if they dig a little deeper, but they would come through a challenge or an endeavor that normally they wouldn’t think they’d be able to get through. And in fact, his first encounter with death he talks about was when he was aged eight. He was with his dad up a mountain in Cyprus, and they lost their way during a storm. And they spent the whole day and whole night exposed to the elements before they found a path down to safety. And he said this, he said, “It scared me to death. But there was also a magic, the simplicity that this was a battle.” The simplicity that this was a battle. And maybe that’s one of the keys to endurance, simply recognizing that it’s a battle. A battle to survive, a battle to get through, the battle to overcome.
And these past COVID months, most countries have had their healthcare systems on a war footing. Field hospitals being built overnight to increase the capacity of beds and supplies and trained workers. Whole sectors of industry in lockdown and shutdown. Economic interventions from the war chest of the government. And many will have benefited from the purse strings of Rishi Sunak. the chancellor. Every aspect of life, national and global, is having to rethink what will make it resilient for the future in a COVID-19 world or a post COVID-19 world. Public healthcare approaches to the pandemic and future pandemics in the news just this week, critical healthcare infrastructure for our ongoing everyday serious healthcare needs that we need to continue with, despite a pandemic. Strategic reserves of key supplies and critical medical equipment. Financial systems and economic response strategies that counter such global shocks. Schools and universities integrating classroom and distance learning.
At the city level, even this week, Birmingham heading up the local lockdown list. At the church level, churches trying to navigate the way through and journey away through this crisis. And on a personal level, every single one of us has had our own unique pathway to walk. Your walk will be very different to mine, different factors, shaping your particular route through things. It may be the health factors and health fears that you faced. Relational pressures, everybody having to live in the same house, work in the same house, or actually relational isolation. Financial pressures, or perhaps financial blessings, courtesy of the government. Exam result challenges and making future decisions. Workplace challenges, furlough challenges, redundancy challenges, loss of income, home office challenges, homeschooling challenges, and faith challenges. What’s our faith been like through this?
And as it’s been said, we’ve all being facing the same storm, but perhaps we’ve all been in different boats. And so as we look at resilience and endurance today, your needs may be different to someone else’s need for it. It may be very personal for you. It may be physical health, mental health, financial health, or it could be something very practical. It maybe that you need it for what you face at work this week. You’ve got so much to do. You’ve got so much to re-learn for this new world. You may need it for your family or at home, as we saw in the video. Or it may be your faith is struggling in some way as a Christian, or you’re looking to see if church might have the answers to a world that is being shaken. What hope is there in this world? Surely the answer is somewhere. So whenever your situation, we all need endurance.
And maybe a first question to ask ourselves is simply that, is where do I need it most this week? What areas that I’ve touched on so far have resonated more strongly for? Maybe grab a bit of paper and pen or on your phone and just write down the answer to that question. In what area of my life do I most need endurance and resilience this week? Where’s the biggest inner battle or challenge that I’m going to be facing? And week after week, day after day, we go into the Bible for God’s wisdom on the matter. And we read this week, or [inaudible 00:06:12] read this week, the incredible model of Jesus and his endurance in suffering through the crucifixion. Hebrews 12:2-3: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. So consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”
So to endure means to bear up under trial, to continue when the going is tough. And it’s the key theme of this whole chapter, in fact, the whole book of Hebrews. Back a couple of chapters in chapter 10, in verse 32 to 39, you can read yourself of the significant time of testing that the Christians were going through. They were going through a really hard, hard time and they were tempted to give up. And in 12:4, it tells us that they had not yet had to die for their faith, but their situation was not getting easier. So it was a tough thing that they were facing and having to endure. And thankfully, most of us will not be called to die for Jesus, but we are called to live for Jesus. And that itself can be challenge enough. So the writer gives a number of encouragements to keep them going and to keep them growing through their challenges. I think it’s helpful to remember that both of those are important as we go through trials: we need to keep going, but as we do, we will find we keep growing.
So firstly, as we’ve seen in previous weeks, we have the example of Jesus and the heroes of faith. Chapter 11 of Hebrews is that incredible list of all the heroes of the Bible, the heroes of faith, as they are known. It’s arguably a more impressive list than any of the Bear Grylls books, you know, even all of the great heroics that he writes about of other people through history. This is an incredible list, an impressive list of people. And these are the great cloud of witnesses that cheer us on when we face our own challenges. And go read a chapter 11 for yourself. And here, we’re to fix our eyes, not only knowing that they’re behind us cheering us on, but also on Jesus, as we saw last week, who endured the horrors of torture and crucifixion, nailed naked to across, yet scorned its shame. And he’s left for six hours to die slowly in unthinkable pain as his life ebbs away.
And what kept him on that cross? Because it wasn’t the nails, actually, but it was my sin. And when I think of that, that breaks my heart. And it was your sin, and all that we’ve done wrong. And his love for you and his love for me because he wants and knows that it can be different. And that’s the joy that he set before him that enabled him to endure the cross. His joy was wanting to present us before the father in heaven one day as changed people, to present us to him. Jude 24 puts it beautifully: “To him who is able to keep you all from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy.” With great joy. That’s the possibility that he saw. And that’s what kept him going and enduring the pain as he went through the cross. He’s our model.
Secondly, we’re never to forget that we are God’s children, that you are God’s child, his son, his daughter. He delights in you and he loves you deeply. Hebrews 12:7 says, “Endure hardship as discipline. God is treating you as sons.” They’ve forgotten the people that he’s writing to here. They’ve forgotten that difficulty and hardship and suffering was not punishment, but training. Training. Verse 11: “No discipline seems pleasant at the time.” It doesn’t. It’s painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who’ve been trained by it. So punishment comes from a judge, but training comes from a loving parent. And God is our loving father.
Now, the world, the flesh, and the devil will tell you that our trials in life are proof that God doesn’t love you. Things are going wrong, God doesn’t love you. Here God’s word says that sufferings are the best proof that he does love you because he wants to equip us. He wants to train us. He wants to build our resilience as a father does to a child. Now, we might fight that and grow better. We might give up and quit. But the right response is to endure by faith, trusting God, because hardship is ultimately for our gain.
And then thirdly, we’re to rely on God’s grace and make every effort to live in peace with others and to be holy, verse 14 and 15. And there’s quite a lot in that, but ultimately it’s about relying on God’s grace. Through your hardship, don’t get so self centered that you forget those around you. Let God’s grace flow to you and through you to others. Find a way to bless and to encourage someone else who is also struggling. I’m going to interview Harry now. Amazing situation. He always inspires me, and he’s cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats.
So, yeah. Hi, Harry. So first of all, I know you’re an avid cyclist amongst other things, and I know more than once now you’ve cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats. What’s that? About 850 miles?
To be exact, it’s 1032 miles.
Okay. On the road. Okay. Right. So yeah. Wow, that is [crosstalk 00:13:04] task.
What makes you want to do that sort of thing?
Well, it began with a kind of a random conversation with my friend Pete Adams, and we just kind of threw the idea around and then the idea became like a vision, really, that we kind of looked up material about it and began to make plans and counted the cost, planned a route, all of that. We got a great book to help us. And then you just put in the time of training. We trained for months in advance, doing 50 mile rides. I think we did a hundred-mile ride at the time, just to get your body used to those kinds of distances. Because we were averaging, for 14 days, day in, day out, we were averaging 72 miles.
Also, I’ll just say, what are the incentives, really? We came up with the idea of doing it as a sponsored ride. So we raised about 4,000 pounds for a charity in Uganda that supports AIDS orphans. So that really gives an incentive. At that point, you don’t feel you can give up. You have to keep, day in, day out, you kind of get in the zone and you just have to keep going.
Yeah. Yeah. So have that broader vision, broader context and motivation for it. So when you’re actually cycling, what are the hardest bits?
Well, the hills, really. I mean, you’re thrown in the deep end. Cornwall, the hills are short and sharp. The first few days in Cornwall and then up over Dartmoor, it’s just you’re climbing all the time. And I think the hardest part is when you’ve done 50 miles slogging up hills, and then you realize you’ve got another 25 miles to do and the tank is nearly empty. So you have to dig deep. You really have to dig, go beyond yourself and find a another level, really. And you always do. That’s the thing. You always do.
Do you forget about the worst moments, or do-
You do. Because-
Or are they scarred on your memory?
Every hill you slug up, you know you’re going to have a great downhill.
As long as the wind’s in the other direction.
One of the best downhills was coming down Dartmoor into … I think it was Moor [Hamptonstead 00:15:22], and it was just an incredible ride downhill. I think I reached my top speed fully loaded. You know, panniers full and 43 miles an hour down this snaking road down, down the backside of Dartmoor.
Fantastic. So when you talk about digging deep, what’d you think are the keys to doing that? What are the keys to really keeping going? So, you know, day 10, day 11, those hard miles?
Yeah, I think it’s just literally you get in the zone and you just … It’s putting one foot in front of the other. It’s not whether you feel like doing … Even the start of a day, we get going about eight in the morning, and you just have to pull yourself out of bed, grab a bite to eat, jump on the bike, and you’re on that bike for seven or eight hours. So you just, you get yourself by the scruff of the neck. But through the day you’ll have ups and downs. You’ll have times when you just feel just full of energy, then other times that you’re drained. So it really is a test of resilience. It’s a test of really your own capacity. And that’s part of the fun of it and the adventure, is that you’re learning things about yourself along the way. You know, you’ve got a lot of time to think when you’re on a bike slogging up a Hill.
So have you got a next challenge?
Well, Pete and I, we we’ve talked about doing it the other way, we’ve done it twice now. The first time we stayed in hostels. The second time we camped along the way. So that added extra weight to our bikes. But we’ve thrown around the idea of doing from a John O’Groats to Land’s End. It’s downhill all the way. And when I was 22, I cycled two thirds of the way across America. And I’ve always wanted to do the last third, which is about 1500 miles. Whether at my age I can do that or will do that, I don’t know. But it’s an elusive dream.
Yeah. Oh, thanks so much, Harry. You’re always an inspiration. So appreciate that.
It’s at a cost. Anyway, thanks. Good talking with you, Andy.
All right. Cheers.
Cheers. Bye bye.
I always find that helpful and inspiring. And as we seek to ensure, and to live more resiliently, let’s be inspired by others, the heroes of faith, chapter 11, Jesus himself, and yes, Harry on his bike. Let’s remember that through it, we’re being trained up to produce a harvest of righteousness and peace by a loving father. Let’s draw on God’s grace and be people of grace to others in the midst of hardship.
And the end of Hebrews 12 speaks of the world being shaken again to usher in a new heaven and earth. The writer, in fact, quotes from Haggai 2:6. And this shaking happens then in the first century AD when this was written. The Jewish economy was being shaken and the temple was about to be destroyed in 70 AD by the Romans. And then through the second of third centuries of history beyond that, there were devastating pandemics across the world. And the world will be shaken again. But whatever happens, as followers of Jesus, we are part of a kingdom, verse 28, that cannot be shaken. How amazing is that? And if you’re watching this or you’re listening to this and you recognize that our world is being shaken today, why would you not want to be part of something that can never be shaken?
Earlier, in 4:7 of Hebrews, reminds us that today is the day to respond to this amazing good news. “Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts,” it says. So today, if you’re listening to this and you are hearing in here God’s message of hope, you sense it within, I want to be part of this on shakable kingdom. I want to know this Jesus who endured the cross for me. Well, then don’t harden your hearts. Don’t resist, but say, “God, if that’s really come into my life, forgive me, set me free. I will follow you.”
So here are some simple words that you can say where you are. It’s a simple prayer, really. Are you ready? Well, here we go. Dear God, I recognize this world is being shaken, but you have a greater plan. I’m sorry for not trusting you, but going my own way through life. Please forgive me. Thank you for your rescue mission, that you sent Jesus, who endured the cross for me. Please come into my life and help me to follow you. I choose today to trust you. Give me the strength to endure in Jesus.
Endurance & Resilience Video: Questions for life application
Play and pause the video at the following points to explore the following questions:
0:00 – 2:58
In what areas of your life do you currently need endurance and perseverance?
2:58 – 4:27
From Hebrews 10:32-39 what strikes you about the challenges of these Christians?
(1) Who or what inspires you to persevere?
(2) In what ways should Jesus’ example inspire us?
‘For the Joy set before him’
What ‘bigger picture’ could help you push through and persevere in your challenges?
Keep Going & Keep Growing
In what ways have you experienced ‘growth through perseverance’ (or seen others grow as a result of their trials)?
In what ways do you need to change your thinking in regard to God’s love and suffering/hardship?
1. What robs you of your endurance/resilience?
2. What encourages you to persevere in your situation?
3. What characteristics to you want to see in your life when going through hard challenges?