GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM GOD ALMIGHTY, YOUR SAVIOR FROM ALL EVIL!
TEXT: Hebrews 12: 1-13
Dearly Beloved By Christ:
I saw recently where Clint Eastwood commented on young people in America today. He basically said: “We’ve raised a generation of wimps!” Sad to say, I think he might be on to something. When was the last time you heard of a mother or father allowing their child to fail miserably at something and then to allow that child to live with the consequences of their actions? Character and inner strength are not built by the modern ideas of self-esteem like: everyone on every team gets a winner’s trophy, or “we won’t have any grading system in school because it might hurt someone’s feelings,” or the modern college phenomenon of micro-aggressions supposedly caused by dress-up Halloween parties—defamatory to witches you know, the reading of the classics in class—they talk about violence which makes some students uncomfortable, or demanding the name change of campus buildings because 200 years ago the person whose name is on the building was a slave holder—that’s going on at Yale right now. Young people from across our country think that being “unfriended” by a Facebook person is far worse than the systematic persecution, beatings, and even death of Christians by Muslims across Europe—no campus uproars and marches have occurred to protest that in America. People seem to think that a Twitter campaign about returning captive schoolgirls in Nigeria will actually work!—It’s been about 4 years since that one and no one has been set free, have they?
Cell phones seem to be the most important thing in the lives of our youth. If a parent threatens to take a phone away, or actually does, that child sometimes responds with: “I’m going to report you to DSS!” And then the parents usually buckle. Yes, we’ve raised a generation of wimps. They talk and talk about minutia. They are all hat and no cattle.
I’ll tell you a story. I grew up poor, although I didn’t know it. We had food, we had a roof over our heads, and we were loved. But, we didn’t have much money, certainly not for an allowance. So, if you wanted something—a bike, a baseball mitt, or a fishing lure you were on your own. At age 10 I got my first paper route. I expanded over the years and later graduated to janitor jobs and cooking at a restaurant. I literally “earned” everything I needed or wanted beyond the absolutely essential. We were also expected to clean the house, help in the kitchen, do most of the yard work,–all for free and not complain! As we got older we assisted others in the neighborhood.—That’s how we earned cash. When I decided to go to college I worked each summer painting houses. I also took out loans which I paid bad in full, cleaned bathrooms at the gym, and did lunchroom floors every night in the cafeteria. Getting up at 5 in the morning to clean a dirty gym locker room is not anyone’s idea of fun. But it built character. It gave me insight into how life really is. It was God’s way to shaping me into a more compassionate person. Basically, I was doing what my grandfather and father had done years prior. I was learning self-discipline, part of which is learning to cope with boredom and disappointment.
Our lesson today is a blueprint for creating Godly character. As we heard last week in Hebrews 11 about all the great heroes of faith and their mighty deeds, now the author of Hebrews continues: “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 author and perfecter of faith.”
One of the greatest gifts my parents gave to me was this: they loved me enough to let me fail sometimes so that I would learn through that disappointment and grow stronger. They were willing to put up with my tears, my temper, my upset over not getting my way so that I could thereby learn to manage my emotions and learn coping skills. They were not “helicopter parents” who swooped in at a moment’s notice to “make everything better.” No, they let me fall down, scrap my knees (literally), and get up again on my own. And all along they were totally aware of my “problems” but did not interject themselves into them unless and until I showed I was completely in over my head.
In this, they were much like God the Father when it came to His relationship with Christ, His beloved Son. God the Father allowed His Son to suffer and ultimately die on the cross in order to fulfill His eternal purpose. He never swooped in and changed the rules. He never said: “That’s it, I’m going to put an end to His suffering.” No, He allowed His plan of salvation to take its course and be completed. Listen again to our lesson describing the life lessons that Jesus earned by all this: “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.” Yes, for Jesus, joy over saving our souls—the result of His suffering—is what got Him through His tough life on this earth.
Next, to apply this same blueprint on character building to our lives, the writer goes on: “Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggles against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastises everyone he accepts as his son.’ Endure hardship as discipline.”
I’ve learned that: “When you learn through the school of hard knocks, you never forget the lessons.” That’s a truism for life on planet earth. Failure in anything is nothing to go to pieces over—as long as you learn from that failure. As a Christian, you and I fail daily in more ways than we can count. It’s called sin. We fail God. We fail ourselves. We fail our kids and spouses. We fail our friends. And they, in turn, fail us. Don’t just get angry over it. Don’t withdraw into your shell. Learn from it! God knows all in advance. He sees our coming failures. Yet, in love, He still allows them to occur so that we can learn to rely on Him more, follow His guidance even more, and backstops it all with the ultimate truth that: “All things work towards good to those who love God.” He does this “in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees…and be healed.”
Ever since evil came into this world, human life isn’t about fun and games. It’s about salvation by God and our not wimping out as we run life’s race in attaining it. No human can win at everything. No one has an easy life. Something will always knock us down. But getting up again, learning to get up again, that’s what makes you special as a person. And not being arrogant enough to reject God’s loving hand reaching down to assist you, that’s what makes you special to Him. Amen