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What if God has a unique purpose for your marriage? Is your marriage God-centered or us-centered? Are you and your spouse ambassadors of holy love to a hurting world? Is your marriage what God intends it to be: a life-saving, hope-inspiring, and transforming force of his love?
Talk about some of the challenges you’ve faced together in your marriage.
Aaron Smith: The three biggest challenges we faced together in our marriage were sexual intimacy, the burden of debt, and learning how to communicate.
For the first four years of our marriage, we couldn’t enjoy sex because my wife experienced excruciating pain every time we tried. This challenge in our marriage became the source of many other challenges, like wrestling with negative thoughts about unmet expectations, disappointment, and doubt about whether we were “compatible” for each other.
The lack of intimacy in our relationship created a grand canyon sized gorge between us. This made it difficult to navigate the challenge of mounting money issues. My school debt was no longer in deferment status and I had to begin paying monthly, and we weren’t on the same page about how to get out of the debt. Our disunity kept us from working together to pay it off quickly.
As we faced these challenges early on in our marriage, we were also learning how to communicate our way through these issues. We were learning what respect and love looked like practically as we interacted with each other. The more we practiced healthy communication, the better we got at doing so. The times we didn’t communicate so well, we ended up hurting each other.
We can look back at those early years and see clearly the mistakes we made and what we could have done better, and how we could’ve been unified doing it. Those challenges we encountered gave us the opportunity to learn more about each other and about how God desires us to engage and interact with each other.
We still face challenges in marriage—even today—but we’ve learned what it takes to persevere through them together. It’s not our circumstances that define our relationship. Rather, we’ve put the time in to intentionally building a strong foundation, where God’s at the center, and he defines our relationships. We’re obedient to his Word and his ways! Doing marriage God’s way has helped us tremendously! And being obedient to his Word gives us a clear picture of what our marriage is for, which motivates us all the more to persevere through life’s many challenges.
What do you mean when you write “marriage is designed for more than a happily ever after”?
Aaron Smith: Today’s culture says happiness is the goal of our life, and—if we subscribe to that end—then if we’re not happy, we must be doing something wrong or something wrong has been done to us. The world spreads the message that being happy is the most important thing we can experience and that the goal of marriage must be “happily ever after.” We’ve even heard Christians explain their reasoning for leaving their spouse is because God wants them to be happy.
Although happiness is something many Christians get to experience and walk in, it’s not God’s will or plan to merely make us happy. In fact, there isn’t a single verse that tells us that God wants us to be happy, but he does say to be holy as he is holy (1 Peter 1:16).
Being holy or choosing to live a holy life does not guarantee happiness, but it does guarantee joy. Although, there’ll be times that a person may experience happiness while pursuing holiness in their marriage.
If our aim is merely happiness, then we’ll live a life centered specifically on ourselves, our needs, our desires, our wants. But, if our aim is holiness, we’ll live a life devoted to God, centered on what he desires! And the fruit of that life is much more enjoyable than happiness. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control is what is promised to the believer who walks in the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
MARRIAGE AFTER GOD by Aaron and Jennifer Smith - SoundCloud (901 secs long, 45 plays)Play in SoundCloud
How do you contrast the marriage posture of “you and me against the world” with the posture of “you and me for the world”?
Aaron Smith: The world will say that a couple in love can do anything for each other and for their love…but it’s self-focused. “You and me for the world” makes us consider how we can use our relationship and everything we have to “look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others” Philippians 2:4.
What does ministering to the world look like on a daily basis?
Aaron Smith: It starts with how we interact with one another at home. Is a husband and wife interacting with each other with love and respect? Their marriage should reflect the love Christ has for his bride, the church. Living this way reveals the message and power of the gospel—first to our family, our children, our neighbors, and then to the world as we step out into it, like when we’re shopping or playing at the park.
We write in Marriage After God, “As long as Christian husbands and wives see ministry to be separate from everything else in life instead of ministry being their life, they will never be able to recognize the true value of their marriage.”
How does every marriage have its own mission and unique calling from God?
Aaron Smith: Every marriage has the opportunity and mission of being a light in this world for God. Every marriage can and should reveal the message of Christ’s love. And at the same time, every marriage is unique. Every couple has unique experiences, testimonies, talents, and resources, which means how they minister to others will look different compared to other marriages.
The Bible illustrates the concept of unity and oneness for those who believe by likening believers to a body. There are many members, but each part plays a valuable role. Every marriage has a unique work to do; an important role to fulfill.
We’re created for this. Ephesians 2:10 confirms this, declaring, ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.’ A couples’ marriage relationship was designed by God to do good works for his name’s sake; works that he had in mind long before we were created. A couple can believe this truth and so be empowered to walk in the extraordinary purpose they’ve been uniquely created by God to do.
What would you say to someone whose spouse isn’t interested in this idea of a ministry-minded marriage?
Aaron Smith: We don’t have the ability to change someone else; not even our spouse. But we can influence them, encourage them, and pray for them.
We also need to remember that we must do what we can to do our part. Being faithful to what God has commanded in his Word and to live a holy life is not contingent on anyone else doing their part. We must seek to do our part faithfully. We’re to minister to and love each other because that’s how we walk in obedience to God.
In doing this we’re showing our spouse what the gospel is. By loving like this we’re doing exactly what Christ did. So we say to those who feel alone in walking with God in their marriage, “You’re not alone and your work is not in vain. God is good and his Word will work through you toward your spouse. Don’t give up!”
What advice do you have for people who are single/dating/engaged?
Aaron Smith: Abide in God. Get to know what he says about you and about marriage. Make sure that you’re the person you desire your future spouse to be. If you want him/her to be kind, be kind. If you want him/her to be godly, be godly!
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Aaron Smith:2 Peter 1:3 which says, “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence…”
We’ve been equipped to do what we need to do to live a holy life. Christ has set us free from the bonds of sin. And we know this because of what Scripture tells us. We do what we do by his power and strength, not our own, for his glory, not our own.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
Aaron Smith: My wife and I love Bible Gateway. We use it to look up Scripture, to compare versions, and to study the Word. My wife uses the Bible Gateway App on her phone using a reading plan that also notifies her daily to get into the Word. We also appreciate how easy it is to navigate and use.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
Aaron Smith: Just what we wrote in the book: “As Paul prayed for the Colossians, so we pray for you and your spouse that you would ‘be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God’ (Colossians 1:9–10). When you abide in the Lord and when you choose to walk in a manner worthy of his calling, you pave the way for others to follow God. As you choose holiness over happiness, your marriage will grow in maturity, able to bear the weight of abundant fruit, so that others can taste the goodness of the Lord through your life and marriage. As you make choices that lead to an increase in intimacy in your marriage and in the intimacy of knowing God, the will of the Father and the good works he has prepared for you will become clearer.”
Marriage After God is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
Bio: Aaron Smith has been encouraging husbands to lead their families according to the Bible through his site HusbandRevolution.com since May 2011. He passionately urges men to strive for spiritual maturity, supporting husbands with daily marriage and parenting encouragement. Aaron has co-authored several books on marriage with his wife including Husband After God and Thirty-One Prayers for My Wife. Aaron has been married to his wife Jennifer since January 2007. Aaron’s greatest motivation is sharing the gospel.
The moon is the material heavenly body in our solar system that God made on the fourth day of creation to give light at night.
And God made the two great lights—the greater light to rule the day and the lesser light to rule the night—and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth, to rule over the day and over the night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:16-18
Scripture established God’s providence in sustaining the moon and other heavenly spheres by stating he orders the moon in its course (Jer 31:35), obscures the moon by cloud cover (Job 26:9), and miraculously affects the normal action of the moon in relation to the earth (Josh 10:12-13; Hab 3:11).
The moon is a part of a picture of the enduring nature of God’s creation, in the psalmist’s expression of his desire for a long life (Psalm 72:5, 7) and in the promise that the Davidic dynasty will have permanence (Psalm 89:37).
The moon is a symbol of God’s protective care over his people (Psalm 121:6). The figure of the moon, sun, and stars bowing before one of his servants (Gen 37:9) depicts God’s providence over his universe and humanity. The moon and other heavenly bodies are to show the glory of God and produce thanksgiving in the hearts of us all (Psalm 8:3; 148:3; 1 Cor 15:41).
I am glad when I have the opportunity to speak with people who have doubts about their faith. Don’t get me wrong—I’m not glad about the pain they experience in one of the most intimate issues of life. And that pain can be intense—like that felt by a husband or wife who overhears whispering hints that his or her spouse has been cheating. Or like the pain that follows the death of a loved one. Conversations with people who doubt are often halting, quiet, scattered. I have never met someone of faith who wanted to have doubts about their faith, because it really isn’t about doubting faith—it’s about doubting God.
For many, doubt is like driving into a fog. You didn’t see it coming, but now you’re in it. You don’t know how to get out of it, you don’t know what way to turn, and you don’t even remember exactly where you were when you got into it. You didn’t ask for the fog—it’s just how things are.
The reason I say I’m glad for those conversations is that it is better for someone experiencing doubt to talk to someone than to let doubt fester. Like grief, doubt itself does not injure; it is often the result of injury. Most important to know is the fact that our doubts do not injure God, because nothing can injure God. It is possible to insult God—because any of us are capable of disrespect—but apparently doubt in the form of sincere questioning is not an insult to God. The Bible never says that the moment we waver, God is ready to cut us off.
But ultimately the question we need to answer is: How are we going to deal with doubt? The answer is different for the habitual doubt of the utter skeptic and the passing doubt of the believer who has been tossed into uncertainty because of a life crisis. But in either case, the only effective response to doubt is to get rooted in real faith.
There is a passionate plea in the middle of the book of Colossians in the New Testament, in which the apostle Paul says:
Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live [literally, “walk”] in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.
See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority (vv. 6-10).
There is nothing better that can happen to a person in life than to come to the place of saying “I believe.” It is like someone turns the lights on, or better yet, the day has dawned and the confusion and oppression of the darkness of life has been pushed back.
We want to believe because without faith all we’re left with is a gigantic question mark about the meaning and purpose of life, no real hope for the future, and no assurance that we are loved by anyone beyond passing human affection. Without faith we are cut off from our Creator, and consequently, we are cut off from what He has created. All of life becomes disjointed. It is like sitting on a stool where two of the three legs have become loose and the whole thing could collapse at any moment.
If we want to believe, then we need to realize that faith doesn’t happen in a moment; it is a lifelong walk. Those who receive Jesus as Lord need to begin and continue a walk with him. When you put these two ideas together—receiving and walking—you get a total picture of faith. It is not just walking, as if it were up to us to go on a great quest in order to find God who is hidden up high in the mountains somewhere; but neither is it only receiving, which would be like repeating vows in a wedding ceremony but not following through with marital commitment.
Many believers are fond of speaking in terms of “receiving” Christ, and that is biblical, as we see in the passage from Colossians. But it is only one way of describing the reality of faith. And it is important that we realize just how serious this receiving is. It is not merely saying the right words or praying the right prayer as if they were some kind of incantation. While it is true that the front end of receiving the Lord Jesus is a simple admission of need—a plea for mercy, an opening of heart and hands—we should realize that receiving a lord means to give up one’s own lordship of life. (And we would do well to eliminate from our vocabulary the phrase “making Christ Lord.” We don’t make Him anything. He is Lord, whether we acknowledge it or not.)
For more on this subject, see I Want to Believe: Finding Your Way in an Age of Many Faiths by Mel Lawrenz.
[If you believe this series will be helpful, this is the perfect time to forward this to a friend, a group, or a congregation, and tell them they too may sign up for the weekly emails here]
Mel Lawrenz (@MelLawrenz) trains an international network of Christian leaders, ministry pioneers, and thought-leaders. He served as senior pastor of Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisconsin, for ten years and now serves as Elmbrook’s minister at large. He has a PhD in the history of Christian thought and is on the adjunct faculty of Trinity International University. Mel is the author of 18 books, including How to Understand the Bible—A Simple Guide and
On July 20, 1969 astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon. Prior to taking their first steps on the lunar surface, Col. Aldrin celebrated communion to honor God who had made their journey possible. After returning to Earth he noted that the first liquid poured on the moon, and the first food ever eaten there, were the bread and wine of communion.
As his faith in Christ deepened, Costi Hinn, nephew of televangelist Benny Hinn, found himself questioning his family’s practices. This insider view from the once heir-apparent of one of the world’s leading prosperity dynasties offers a thoughtful perspective on the perils of greed, the power of the true gospel, and hope for the future of the church. 224 pages, softcover from Zondervan..
Explain the term “prosperity gospel” and how it originated.
Costi W. Hinn: Being that the “prosperity gospel” is ultimately the result of twisting God’s Word, it can be accurately stated that this concept goes back as far as the original fall of man. In Genesis 3:1-3 it was the serpent who deceitfully approached Eve and began to undermine and twist God’s Word, culminating his crafty effort saying, “You surely shall not die!” (Genesis 3:4). This is what the prosperity gospel does. This theology says in no uncertain terms, “Sure, Jesus died on the cross to save you from sin and offer you heaven, but what he really wants is to make you healthy, wealthy, and happy on earth.”
In prosperity theology, faith is not about trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord (Ephesians 2:8-9). Faith is seen as a kind of “force” that makes God do whatever you want. Instead of seeing confession as being about sin (1 John 1:9), prosperity theology teaches that confession is about “stuff.” Teachers tell their followers, “If you want a job promotion, a luxury car, or a mansion, you need to declare it by faith!”
In modern history, this belief system began to pick up steam when popular prosperity preachers began to use large evangelistic events to build their empires. It became a very common strategy (and a useful one!) to draw in a large crowd of people who needed healing, money, or better circumstances, with the promise that Jesus would give them all of those things if they gave an offering or followed the seemingly anointed preacher.
Over time, ministries of this kind also began to use media to spread their message. Their reach went from hundreds to hundreds of thousands in no time at all. Today, prosperity preachers reach millions, even billions, with their message, and often target the third world where some of the most desperate people reside.
GOD, GREED, AND THE PROSPERITY GOSPEL by Costi W. Hinn - SoundCloud (295 secs long, 138 plays)Play in SoundCloud
Why do you see it as being dangerous?
Costi W. Hinn: This theology is dangerous because it assaults the two more important factors for the Christian and for the lost: The person of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel.
The “Jesus” of the prosperity gospel is not the Jesus of the Scriptures and the “gospel” of prosperity is no gospel at all. Therefore, it’s dangerous because it can’t save anyone. Christians are on this earth to live out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) so any theology that pulls people away from truth should be considered highly dangerous.
Beyond that, prosperity theology abuses and exploits people. It drains money from the poor; it gives false hope to already hopeless people. Instead of giving people what they need the most—or rather, Whom they need the most—it hooks them to a promise of fulfillment that always seems to be within their grasp, if they’ll give just one more offering.
How is the concept of God’s sovereignty at odds with prosperity gospel teaching?
Costi W. Hinn: Since the prosperity gospel demands God do whatever people want based on what they do, it essentially makes God the puppet and mankind the puppet master. Your faith, your offering, your demands, all make God do what you say he must.
However, this is diametrically opposed to scriptural teaching about the nature of our God. Psalm 115:3 says, “But our God is in the heavens; he does whatever he pleases.” Paul writes in Ephesians 1:11 that God “works all things after the counsel of his will.” Jesus told Pilate that he would have “no authority” if it wasn’t for the fact that God gave it (John 19:11).
Of course, the prophet Isaiah long foretold of the sovereignty power of God declaring, “For I am God, there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like me. Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all my good pleasure’” (Isaiah 46:9-10).
From the story of Job, to the story of Joseph, to the life of Christ himself, the sovereignty of God is clear throughout the Bible. God is in control. Man is not. We submit to God. He does not submit to us.
What passage of Scripture made you change your thinking about the prosperity gospel? Why?
Costi W. Hinn: Studying John 5:1-17 one day led to my conversion. I was utterly confused by Jesus’ healing ministry because He did it so differently than I had believed or been taught according to prosperity theology. I always was taught that Jesus will heal everyone if they will just have enough faith to believe their healing. Well, three explosive truths from this passage blew the doors off my erroneous beliefs.
First, Jesus healed one man out of a multitude of sick people at the pool of Bethesda. John writes that there were a multitude of sick people (John 5:3). I remember thinking, why didn’t Jesus heal them all? Second, Jesus healed the man “immediately” (John 5:9). There was no fanfare, no special faith healer, and no offering or money given. He simply healed him with a single command! Third, when the Pharisees questioned the man who got healed because he was carrying his pallet on the Sabbath — this was considered “working” — the man couldn’t answer. John writes, “But he who was healed did not know who it was [who healed him]” (John 5:13). I was shocked at this! How in the world did a man have enough faith to get healed if he didn’t even know who Jesus was? I scurried for a commentary that had been given to me by my pastor and the scales soon fully fell from my eyes as a commentator explained the sovereignty of God displayed through Christ’s healing of this man. More theological dominoes fell from there and my life was transformed by the true gospel.
Briefly unpack your book’s chapter titled, “A Balanced View on Health and Wealth.”
Costi W. Hinn: The best way to guard against error is to know the truth. In light of that, I wanted to not only point out the errors of prosperity theology but teach biblical truths that will equip people. It’s vital that Christians have a biblical understanding of healing, and money. A lack of knowledge on these two topics makes people vulnerable to false teaching. One thing I’ve come to know is that as dangerous as the prosperity gospel is, so too is the poverty gospel. Just because health and wealth are not guaranteed for Christians, doesn’t mean God’s will is always sickness and poverty for everyone either. This chapter in the book keeps readers from swinging to extremes to ensure that we are praising, trusting, praying, needing and giving depending on the circumstances we are facing.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
Costi W. Hinn:2 Timothy 4:1-5 because it serves as a constant reminder that I am accountable to Christ for preaching his word faithfully no matter the preferences of people or what direction the winds of culture may blow.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
We know the Bible is one book, with one Author, that tells a single story, but how does that story fit together? We know the stories about Abraham, King David, Jesus, and the Apostles, but it’s challenging to understand how it all fits together in God’s plan. To help solve that puzzle, the Storyline Bible (Zondervan, 2019), which uses the New International Version (NIV) Bible translation (@NIVBible) shows how each individual book, and numerous biblical themes, connect together to tell one story of God’s redemption in Jesus Christ.
Through helpful book introductions, concise articles, and colorful infographics, the Storyline Bible provides vital information on the people, places, and events of Scripture while showing how they interconnect to form a single, inspired narrative.
When God rebuked Satan in Genesis 3:15, he outlined the plot of the entire rest of the Bible: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” Indeed, the devil would fight against Eve’s descendants; but one of them, Jesus of Nazareth, would deal him a fatal blow by defeating sin and death on the cross.
That’s a great reminder that the story of the Bible is the story of paradise lost and then regained through Jesus’ rescue mission to mankind!
Tim Keller NIV Storyline Bible - YouTube
Certain events are mentioned in Scripture several times, but it’s easy to miss their significance. The event and later celebration of Passover is a good example. An article in the book of Exodus in the Storyline Bible unpacks this important account.
Throughout the Old Testament, celebration of the Passover feast commemorated God’s protection and deliverance from Egypt. But there is a much deeper meaning to the Passover, revealed in the New Testament. As Paul proclaims in 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.”
The most important Passover meal of all was the one Jesus celebrated with the disciples in Matthew 26 (also recorded in the other three Gospels). An article there calls our attention to the original Passover, and how it connects with Jesus’ Passover—the Last Supper.
In the Last Supper, Jesus observed the traditional Jewish Passover feast, which recalled God’s deliverance of his people from oppression in Egypt. He applied elements from this meal, the bread and the wine, to the new covenant, for which he was about to die. In doing this, Jesus showed how the exodus from Egypt foreshadowed the ultimate deliverance in Christ.
While Jesus’ Passover/Last Supper looked back to the first Passover, it also looked forward, showing how the storyline runs from the book of Exodus to the book of Revelation.
Jesus’ statement, “I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:25) reminds believers of His ultimate victory. So today, the celebration of the Lord’s Supper looks back to the crucifixion, where Christ’s blood was shed for sinners, but also forward to the marriage supper of the Lamb, where the redeemed will join their Lord in glory (Revelation 19:6–10). It is a celebration, indeed.
Along with scores of articles on fascinating topics like these, the Storyline Bible will also encourage you in your daily walk with Christ. The book of Philippians has a lot to say about sanctification—the ongoing work of spiritual maturity in the life of a Christian (e.g., Philippians 2:12-13; 3:13-14). An article on sanctification in the Storyline Bible imparts the following encouraging message.
For the believer, the path of sanctification leads upward toward glorification. Though there are many missteps, pauses, and even reversals along the way, the Christian, by God’s grace, regains his or her direction and footing and resumes his or her walk. The work of sanctification is a daily challenge, but Christians may join Paul in saying, “I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:13). Thus, they receive with confidence his words of assurance to young believers: “[Be] confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
When it comes to Bible study, the various books and sections of Scripture can look like a giant jigsaw puzzle, with no finished picture for reference. The Storyline Bible provides the big picture, allowing you to fit the pieces together and understand the story of God’s redemption from Genesis to Revelation.
The Storyline Bible is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.
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Not a comforting idea, but one that the author of Hebrews hopes will strengthen the recipients of his letter. The remedy to the reproaches and persecutions that assail the Christian is endurance. “Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will” (10:36).
Endurance is often associated with feats of athleticism. When I was in school, my gym teachers and coaches usually had posters of someone sweaty doing something strenuous on a mountaintop at sunset below the word ENDURANCE in block letters. If you search the word ‘endurance’ in your web browser, most of what you’ll see are images of runners or cyclists in arid terrain (also generally at sunset for some reason).
Perhaps the author of Hebrews has a similar image in mind, considering that he writes two chapters later about “the race marked out for us” (12:1). The Greeks and the Romans were both, after all, known for their love of athletic contests. Runners would often train with added weight to condition themselves for a coming race, and Greek thinkers were known to use athletic training as a metaphor for moral discipline (see note from the NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible in Bible Gateway Plus), which image hasn’t really lost any of its relevance in today’s cultures. Apart from the spandex and Nike footwear, a person from the earliest Christian movement might even see these stock photos as something familiar to them.
What does this tell us about the Christian life? First and foremost: that it is not easy. Nor is it to be taken lightly. Just as running a marathon requires a combination of mental and physical fitness, so too should the Christian’s treatment toward his or her daily life “through the valley of the shadow of death” be met with focus. The runner has her eyes set on the finish line, whether at that moment it’s in her sights or not. The Christian has her eyes fixed on Jesus (12:2), who has gone ahead of us and is coming again. “This hope for the future can sustain our fidelity to God” (see NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible note. Emphasis mine).
But this idea I keep returning to, in Hebrews 10:36, of “patient endurance” (or “perseverance” in the NIV) also conjures an idea of resolute immobility that running doesn’t symbolically acknowledge. Our immobility or immovability is to be our response to the attempts of the world to undermine our faith. And this opposition need not manifest itself in direct persecution. “The normal routine of life, uninterrupted by persecution, is often the real test of genuineness of one’s Christian experience, for the very absence of trials and difficulties tends to promote spiritual drifting (2:1, moral sluggishness and lethargy (5:11), the slow imperceptible hardening of attitude (3:13)” (from the Zondervan Bible Commentary).
It is this imperceptible hardening that can cause a believer to fall away. Our reference point and home base (to stick with sporty things) is Christ and his Word, given to us in the form of Scripture. We can tell how well we have endured by subjecting ourselves to the discipline of reading Scripture and comparing its commands with our daily conduct. That’s the best way I know of to run the race well.
Consistently reading the Bible and taking his Word at its word, if you will—allowing it to change us, center us on Christ, from whom we so easily drift—that’s one of the most essential training routines in those who would live ‘a life-long allegiance to Christ.’
Reflect upon the glory and brilliance of God’s creative power in the video below: an unforgettable two-minute celebration of life on Earth set to the music of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy from The John 1010 Project (@John1010proj).
And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so. God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good. Genesis 1:24-25
Let Wilderness turn cartwheels,
Animals, come dance,
Put every tree of the forest in the choir—
An extravaganza before God as he comes,
As he comes to set everything right on earth,
Set everything right, treat everyone fair. Psalm 96:12-13
Praise the Lord from the earth,
you creatures of the ocean depths,
fire and hail, snow and clouds,
wind and weather that obey him,
mountains and all hills,
fruit trees and all cedars,
wild animals and all livestock,
small scurrying animals and birds,
kings of the earth and all people,
rulers and judges of the earth,
young men and young women,
old men and children. Psalm 148:7-12
But ask the animals, and they will instruct you;
ask the birds of the sky, and they will tell you.
Or speak to the earth, and it will instruct you;
let the fish of the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the Lord has done this?
The life of every living thing is in his hand,
as well as the breath of all mankind. Job 12:7-10
Praise the Eternal!
Praise the True God inside His temple.
Praise Him beneath massive skies, under moonlit stars and rising sun.
Praise Him for His powerful acts, redeeming His people.
Praise Him for His greatness that surpasses our time and understanding.
Praise Him with the blast of trumpets high into the heavens,
and praise Him with harps and lyres
and the rhythm of the tambourines skillfully played by those who love and fear the Eternal.
Praise Him with singing and dancing;
praise Him with flutes and strings of all kinds!
Praise Him with crashing cymbals,
loud clashing cymbals!
No one should be left out;
Let every man and every beast—
every creature that has the breath of the Lord—praise the Eternal!
Praise the Eternal! Psalm 150