Why is the Bible Such a Problem?

Why are there different understandings about the Bible?

Why is it hard to understand?

Why does the Bible contain things that do not make sense, or even contradict themselves? Have you ever heard questions like that, or perhaps ask them yourself, even if not out loud?

Different interpretations

“That’s your interpretation”! I cringe every time I hear that statement. Undoubtedly, I have thoughts that ARE my interpretation. When I express those, I do not hear that “your interpretation” nonsense, because I volunteer that it IS just my interpretation. When I hear someone say “that’s your interpretation”, I always seem to be repeating what the Bible says without any interpretation at all. Why is this? Simple. The person I am talking to, doesn’t like or agree with what the Bible says at some point, and so forms another interpretation, rather than taking the Bible at it’s word. Now, it might be hard for us to do this and feel okay with that, so when we do, we convince ourselves that our interpretation is one of several, and that no interpretation is superior to another, or even worse, that our interpretation is superior.

In other words, since I already have an understanding that I am attached to, for whatever reason I have come up with a way to interpret the scripture to agree with me. Having done so, I feel no or little guilt, nor reason to apologize for my belief to you, because we are both understanding the verse with a personal interpretation. This is a little lie we tell ourselves when we do not want to yield to scripture, nor admit that our position is in any way inferior.

I think this is all driven by pride. Pride keeps me from admitting that I am wrong. Pride keeps me from obeying what I suspect is true. Pride will not allow me to face the fact that your understanding might be intellectually superior, or even worse, spiritually superior. Pride is the enemy of learning and knowledge. Perhaps we are worried what others might think of us. If we take a simple understanding, will our friends and colleagues think we are simple minded superstition believers?

As an example, let’s take the question of how long it took God to make the earth. The Bible says 6 days. Some of us, can easily believe that God can, and did, do that in 6 very short periods of time, perhaps 6 literal 24 hour days. If I say God made the earth in 6 days, that is not an interpretation, or if it is, it is Moses’ interpretation. I am just repeating what he said. Some do not believe that. Perhaps they have actual training in the sciences, and believe the best evidence points to creation taking billions of years. Perhaps they have no formal training, but just believe that scientists have studied this and made conclusion that the earth was a very long time in the making.

However, the do believe the word of God is true, they believe the Bible. To their mind, since it is true that the earth was formed over billions of years, and since the bible is true, then the bible has to mean something other that 6 literal days. That, is interpretation.

This comes down to a matter of faith. Where do we place our faith, in that accuracy of scripture, or the conclusions of modern science? I am not arguing either position here, I am only illustrating one way that interpretations come into being.

But scripture is hard to understand!

Well, sometimes, but usually not. The bible has to be taken as a whole, to get everything out of it. The continually unfolding story told from Genesis to Revelation, and lack of familiarity of the whole bible will hinder one from understanding some passages. Notice that I did not say this hindrance comes from lack of having read the bible, but from lack of familiarity. If you cannot read a passage of scripture and have other passages pop into your head as you do, then you are not yet familiar with scripture, and will miss much. Scripture reading is not something you do once or twice like a novel, it is something that you do your whole life.

Most verses and passages in the bible have a plain meaning that is evident to all who read it. There is nothing difficult about it. However, if we are not open to what it is telling us, then we sill not get the benefit or understanding that we would hope to have. If we read the bible in an antagonistic way, or with a rebellious heart (because it says something we do not like), then we will not reap the reward of understanding. When we are truly open to what it says, and hungry for it’s message, it will transform out lives. The first and major form of transformation occurs when we accept it’s message about Jesus, as the savior of our souls. When we understand and embrace that, give ourselves over to Him, God indwells us with His Holy Spirit.

Once that happens, we have a new tool. The Spirit enables us to understand and accept things in the scripture, that we could not or would not see or accept. Every Spirit indwelt Christian knows what I am talking about, has experienced this enhanced understanding of the bible. So, for the most part, the Bible is not hard to understand, we discover that our difficulty in understanding, I often a resistance to what it is telling us.

But some things do not make sense.

If by not making sense, you mean they defy human logic, I have to agree with you. However, why should we expect to grasp with perfect clarity, the thoughts of the superior mind that is God’s? Why would we expect to understand spiritual things, when most of our experience it in the physical world? Why would we even expect to agree, with the expressions of a Holy mind, when our mind has been distorted by the evil that exists in all of us?

It is not that God’s word is at all illogical, but sometimes it is beyond logic, that is our limitation, not a limitation of the bible.

Yeah, but what about those contradictions?

There are none, though there are apparent contradictions. Hundreds of contradictions have been alleged to the bible over the centuries. Most have be answered quite handily, and are available to anyone with just a little effort to discover the problem. The problems stem not from the bible, but from the ignorance of those who see the contradictions. I do not mean that in an insulting way, I just mean that the apparent contradiction, is a result of not knowing the place in scripture, that explains the seeming contradiction, or, sometimes it is from not knowing the original language of the verse, to see that in the Hebrew or Greek, no contradiction exists. Sometimes, we think we see a contradiction, where none is even implied, we actually do not even understand what a contradiction is sometimes. You probably do not know what I mean. So, allow me to illustrate.

Bob tells you I have a quarter in my pocket. David says I have a penny in my pocket. That might seem like a contradiction. Later Susan tells you I have two coins in my pocket. Susan’s testimony, makes it clear how both Bob and David were correct. However, Fred says I have 3 coins in my pocket. Again, that might sound like a contradiction of Susan, but, if I have three coins in my pocket, it is also true that I have two coins in my pocket. Now, if Susan had said that there are only two coins in my pocket, then Fred and Susan would be contradicting each other, unless, the are talking about two different points in time, or maybe two different pockets. Pay close attention to what is actually being said, and often you can discover the answer to the apparent contradictions.


Pesky Jebusites

Today I hope to speak about King David conquering the city of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5). In order to do this, I want to take some time to place this scripture in context (where in the bible are we?) and explain why this was such a significant event. The crux of the message is that this marked the end to the compromise the Kingdom of Judah (good guys) had with the Jebusites (bad guys).

Compromise is something that breeds complacency and eventually spiritual death, something we ought to avoid at all costs. I hope by the end of the study you will see the danger of compromise and how to avoid it in your own spiritual walk. I will wrap up with an examples from the New Testament, and some analogies.

Let’s place this story in context: The headship of Israel has switched from the judges to the kings. The last judge was Samuel, and King Saul took over from him. King Saul started off well, but the Spirit of the Lord had departed him, and 2 Sam 5:1-5 we learn that the people have approached David to be King.

David came from the tribe of Judah. King Saul was from the tribe of Benjamin (the importance of this will be made clear later in the study).

Acts 13:21 And afterward they asked for a king. And God gave them Saul the son of Kish, a man of the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years.

The two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) together to form the Kingdom of Judah, for which David ruled as king initially before becoming king of all Israel. David is 30 when he is made king (a foreshadow of Christ) and reigns for a total of 40 years. Despite his well known sin(s) with Bathsheba (2 Sam 11) , David is a good king, scripture tells us that he is a “man after God’s own heart” (e.g. 1 Sam 13:14).

Sometimes when you read the name ‘Judah’ it refers to the tribe of Judah, and sometimes it refers to the Kingdom of Judah (the tribes of Judah and Benjamin combined). Similarly, sometimes when you read ‘Israel’, it refers to all 12 tribes, and sometimes it refers only to the 10 “northern” tribes (everyone except the Kingdom of Judah and some Levites).

At the death of David’s son (Solomon) we see Israel firmly divided by the two Kingdoms (the divided era), with Israel in the north, and Judah in the south. Jerusalem is in the land held by the Kingdom of Judah. People who talk about the “lost” tribes are talking about the northern Kingdom of Israel.

There are many parallels in David’s life that make him a foreshadow of Christ. There is also a covenant named after him (the Davidic Covenant, 2 Sam 7) which promises that the promised Messiah would be a seed of David (a descendant of David, from the tribe of Judah), which is partially fulfilled by the birth of Christ (Matt 1:1).

Geographically, Israel has crossed over the Jordan river into the promised land. Each of the 12 tribes (with the exception of the Levites, who served as priests) were allocated a portion of the land, and they were commanded to drive out the inhabitants of the land, called Canaanites.

Num 33:51 Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, When you have passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan,

Num 33:52 then you shall drive out all those who live in the land from before you, and destroy all their carved images, and destroy all their molded images and pluck down all their high places.

Num 33:53 And you shall possess the land, and live in it. For I have given you the land to possess it.

Question: What was Israel asked to do? Can you see an analogy beginning to form here about your own spiritual walk after salvation?

Israel was not completely obedient in this command. In particular, the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were allocated the land containing the city of Jerusalem. Jerusalem at that time was known as Jebus, and the inhabitants were Jebusites. However, the Jebusites were not driven from the land (Joshua 15:63). Later we read that the tribe of Benjamin and the Jebusites are living together (Judges 1:21).

This is a compromise from what the Lord required. Note that the tribe of Benjamin was not the only tribe that did not drive out the inhabitants of their land. Judges 1:27-36 lists many tribes who either did not dwell in their allotted land, or failed to drive out the inhabitants. The Israelites were given dire warnings about what would happen if they turned back, or if the inhabitants remained in the land:

Jos 23:11 And take good heed to yourselves that you love Jehovah your God.

Jos 23:12 Otherwise, if you go back in any way, and hold to those left of these nations, these that remain among you, and shall marry them and go in to them and they to you,

Jos 23:13 know for a certainty that Jehovah your God will no more drive out these nations from before you. But they shall be snares and traps to you, and whips in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until you perish from off this good land which Jehovah your God has given you.

Question: what was Israel asked not to do, and what was the consequence of compromise?

Just how much a compromise this is, becomes clear when we look at the significance of Jerusalem. Jerusalem is where Mt Moriah is. It is where Abraham went up the mountain to sacrifice Isaac his only begotten son (Gen 22), something we now realise is a foreshadow of the sacrifice of Christ (the only begotten Son of God).

It is on Mount Moriah in Jerusalem that Abraham passes God’s test of faith. Mount Moriah came to symbolize for the Jews the supreme embodiment of their relationship with God. Then, “Abraham named this place: God Sees, which today is expressed as follows: On the mountain of God is one seen.” (Genesis 22:14) From this Jews understand that in Jerusalem, unlike any other place on earth, God is almost tangible. [http://judaism.about…jerslm_jews.htm ]

Israel is in the promised land but has failed to drive out the inhabitants of the land, directly disobeying the Word of the Lord, and is living in an uncomfortable compromise, despite the warning of what would happen. Their “holy city” Jerusalem is inhabited by the Jebusites (Canaanites) instead of the tribe of Judah and Benjamin.

King Saul dies, and King David begins his rule. As his first action, David takes the city of Jerusalem. Finally, Israel is putting an end to the compromising situation they are in. David builds a house (v11) and brings the Ark of the Covenant into the city (2 Sam 6). Jerusalem essentially becomes a holy city to the people of Israel and the center of worship.

We should have the attitude of David, and not Saul. Saul was king of all Israel, and came from the tribe of Benjamin, but in all his time as King he didn’t complete the task the Lord had given to drive out the Jebusites. Let’s have a closer look at how David and his men conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites.

2Sa 5:6-10

6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem to the Jebusites, the people of the land. And one spoke to David saying, You shall not come in here, except the blind and the lame will turn you away; also saying, David cannot come in here.

7 And David took the stronghold of Zion; it is the city of David.

8 And David said on that day, Anyone who strikes the Jebusite, let him go by the water-shaft and take the lame and the blind, the hated of David’s soul. On account of this they say, The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.

9 And David lived in the fort, and called it the city of David. And David built all around, from Millo and inward.

10 And David went on and became great, and Jehovah, the God of Hosts was with him.

Now, the first time I read this, I blinked. What is this saying about blind and lame people? The Jebusites are mocking David, suggesting that Jerusalem was so easy to defend, that even an army of blind and lame could defend it.

Jerusalem is high on a hill and walled on three sides. Any approach by normal methods is seen well in advance, it is naturally suited to defence. This was a significant stronghold, called a fort in v9. It was hard to take and that is why the tribes of Judah and Benjamin never conquered it.

Question: What kind of character attributes does David have, that we should try to copy, or does Saul have, that we should try to avoid?

How we can quickly settle with compromise instead of fully walking in the ways of the Lord! I remember when I first got saved, things were wonderful! I made good progress rather quickly. But after a few months, I began to realise that I had my own “pesky Jebusites” – sins and attitudes and desires in me that were not of the Lord, thing that represented compromise… while I was living with them I was not fully walking with the Lord.

It felt like those “pesky Jebusites” were so deeply woven into the fabric of my being that resistance was futile. I really resonated with the mockery of the Jebusites, that the blind and lame could defend their city, because that’s how I felt! These things were so firmly entrenched in me, if felt like even my strongest attempt to overcome would be easily defeated by the enemy.

Question [for personal reflection only]: have a think about your own walk with the Lord. Are you compromising?

Question [to discuss]: Can you think of anyone else in scripture who compromised their faith, and what was the outcome?

I encourage you not to become settled with these things. Continue to seek the Lord, striving to walk in His ways, and never accept compromise. A common “pesky jebusite” that plagues youth is lust. You really have to make a choice between becoming comfortable with it in your life, or like David, doing whatever it takes to dispose those “pesky Jebusites” from the Land.

Let’s have a look at an example from the next testament, of someone who gave everything they had to serve the Lord.

Mar 12:41 And sitting down opposite the treasury, Jesus watched how the people threw copper coins into the treasury. And many rich ones threw in much.

Mar 12:42 And a certain poor widow came, and she threw in two lepta, which is a kodrantes.

Mar 12:43 And He called His disciples and said to them, Truly I say to you that this poor widow has cast in more than all those who have cast into the treasury.

Mar 12:44 For all cast in from their abundance. But she, out of her poverty, has cast in all that she had, all her livelihood.

You might not have been given a task as big as King David. It is not about how much you have to give, or what role the Lord is asking you to fill, but that you give it all. No compromise, no holding back! Live fully for Him, don’t settle for 80 or 90 percent. Be like the poor widow, and cast in everything you have!

If you look closer at the tribe of Benjamin, you will see the small compromise lead to bigger and bigger compromise, and that is just as true for us as it was for them! The shameful events in Judges 19-21 further exemplify the consequences of compromise. I believe Ps 1:1 speaks about the slippery slope into deeper compromise.

Personally, I avoided kicking the “pesky Jebusites” out of my life because I feared the battle would be too strong for me, and I didn’t want the self denial was required for victory. But I should have feared the Lord more than the battle, because the consequences of not following the Lord fully are far worse than any earthly battle or temptation you could find yourself in.

I wanted to slip this quote in somewhere, and here seems like a nice place, to encourage you that we should have confidence rather than fear when it comes to engaging in battle against those “pesky Jebusites”.

“I’ve got The Father on my side, Jesus Christ, The Holy Spirit and 2/3 of the angels. What do you think I’m going to do? Sit down and cry?” – Leonard Ravenhill

The battle never ends, it is a constant day in day out, 24-7 life of living for Him regardless of the cost. Immediately after David took Jerusalem, the Philistines hear of the victory, and come up to seek David. God confirms that David and his men will get victory, and the Philistines are defeated (v17-25).

To finish tonight I want to share a long analogy, that brilliantly describes the kind of trust and faith we are to have in the Lord, going all the way and holding nothing back.

There was a tightrope walker, who did incredible aerial feats. All over Paris, he would do tightrope acts at tremendously scary heights. Then he would go across the tightrope, blindfolded, pushing a wheelbarrow.

An American promoter read about this in the papers and wrote a letter to the tightrope walker, saying, “Tightrope, I don’t believe you can do it, but I’m willing to make you an offer. For a very substantial sum of money, besides all your transportation fees, I would like to challenge you to do your act over Niagara Falls.”

Now, Tightrope wrote back, “Sir, although I’ve never been to America and seen the Falls, I’d love to come.” Well, after a lot of promotion and setting the whole thing up, many people came to see the event. Tightrope was to start on the Canadian side and come to the American side. Drums roll, and he comes across the rope which is suspended over the treacherous part of the falls-blindfolded!!

He makes it across easily. The crowds go wild, and he comes to the promoter and says, “Well, Mr. Promoter, now do you believe I can do it?”
“Well of course I do. I mean, I just saw you do it.”
“No,” said Tightrope, “do you really believe I can do it?”
“Well of course I do, you just did it.”

“No, no, no,” said Tightrope, “do you believe I can do it?”

“Yes,” said Mr. Promoter, “I believe you can do it.”

“Good,” said Tightrope, “then you get in the wheelbarrow.”

Some of us claim to be living for God, but are refusing to get into the wheelbarrow. If you have been tempted to compromise, and not give the Lord your whole life, instead keeping a part for yourself, to control for yourself, trusting in your own abilities or bowing to the pressure of others, make a commitment today to step out in faith and give it over to the Lord.

If you haven’t made that first step of faith, today is the day of salvation, now is the time to repent and to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me tell you how you can become a Christian if you are not one already.

We have a sin Problem!
Romans 3:23 for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,

Sin has a penalty Penalty!
Romans 5:12 Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed on all men inasmuch as all sinned:

God has made a Provision!
Romans 5:8 But God commends His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

Through faith in Jesus, we have a Pardon!
Romans 10:9-10 Because if you confess the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth one confesses unto salvation.

That is the end of the bible study today, would someone like to close in prayer, asking the Lord to keep this message in our hearts and mind, to help us recognise and eliminate the compromise in our lives, and instead trust fully in Him? After this, we have a few minutes for questions.


Running the race…

Today I want to approach the study a little different to before, by examining only a few verses in greater detail, rather than a lot of verses with little detail. The text under examination is Hebrew 12:1-3, and as we dig deeper we will see a an analogy developing between us living out our Christian faith, and an athlete running a race.

Heb 12:1 Therefore since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Heb 12:2 looking to Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God.
Heb 12:3 For consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be weary and faint in your minds.

This text is so jam packed full of important information that we need to go word by word through it. It starts with “Therefore”, which tells us that what we are about to hear leads on from the previous passages. Any time you read a bible verse that starts with “therefore”, “hence”, “because of this” etc, you know that you should flip back a few verses to find out why and how the verse under consideration is linked to the previous verses.

In this case, Paul was talking about the great hero’s of the faith (we learned about them in the ‘Have faith!” study) who have walked before us, whose lives are a great testimony of the faithfulness of Christ, who endured many things for His name. Despite their great testimony to us, they are but a poor reflection of Christ, and it is to Him that we are to fix our focus, as we will read later.

We are told that we are “surrounded” by a great cloud of witnesses. The Greek word here actually gives the impression of an amphitheatre or an arena where sports events would be held. It is sometimes translated as “encircled” or “encompassed”, as the seating in a stadium circles the participants on the field. During this time in history, gladiators would battle each other to death in arenas, watched by many hundreds of people, and sadly this also included some of our brothers in the faith being thrown to lions in the same kind of arena.

The next part of the first verse is talking about the “cloud of witnesses”. In this setting, the cloud refers to a large number of people, much like how a swarm of locusts appears like a cloud when there are enough of them. You are not alone in your Christian faith. No matter what it feels like in your situation at this point in time, know that many have gone before you in the faith, and there are many others around the world who are also suffering and struggling. You are not alone by any means!

There is a difference between the “witnesses” in the bloodthirsty slaughters in arenas, and the witnesses that Paul is talking about. These witnesses are more like testifiers, whose lives speak of the faithfulness of the Lord. These witnesses are for us, not against us, cheering us on. When I read this, I am slightly convicted, knowing the kind of things that these people endured for His name, and the ways in which they denied their own desires to follow Him. I am spurred on, a convicted encouragement, to continue in my own personal walk.

So we have Paul already setting the scene of an athletics arena, filled with the saints who have gone before us, cheering us on as we run this race. I remember running a long distance race in high school, and when the exhaustion set in, I was tired, but running alongside my peers somehow made it easier for me to continue. They encouraged me to carry on, just as the saints who have gone before us encourage us as we run for Christ.

The analogy of the athlete continues in the next phrase “ let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us” and I think we could easily have a sermon on this issue! Weight and sin in this phrase are not two ways of saying the same thing, they are two separate issues. We need to lay them aside, so that they do not hinder our running ability!

The weight refers to those extra things we carry that burden us, picture a runner dragging a very heavy weight behind him, and you will see that a lot of energy is spent for very little reward. This is the essence of that word in the Greek. This can be relationships or hobbies or fears etc., anything that burdens us. This is different from the sin in our lives, which ensnares us, and the idea here is that we trip over this with our feet and are unable to stride, much like a runner would trip over untied shoelaces. It is a rope around our feet so that we fall. No one runs a marathon wearing a Santa suit, high heals (pumps), carrying a large suitcase while juggling balls. We need to be free from those weights so that we can freely run the race! Similarly we don’t want our feet entangled in sin, so that we can freely stride ahead. This concept is also found in the book of Matthew:

Mat 5:29 And if your right eye offends you, pluck it out and throw it from you. For it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be thrown into hell.
Mat 5:30 And if your right hand offends you, cut it off and throw it from you. For it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be thrown into hell.

The next phrase “and let us run with patience the race that is set before us” is perhaps the clearest part of this analogy. I want to point out something important here, that we are to run, and not walk, it is not supposed to be a casual stroll in the park. This is a endurance race and we are to run as if we want to win! [1Co 9:24 Do you not know that those running in a race all run, but one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. ]

We are going to get to this point again later, but for the moment I want you to consider your own walk with God. Are you running? If not, take off your “flip flops” and put on your running shoes! Running requires a lot of exertion, our full effort, we continue it as our main focus. We don’t run and engage at other activities at the same time, I’ve never seen a marathon runner do anything other than run! Even carrying on media interviews while running seems to distract them. If you aren’t running, perhaps you need to pause and “turn your feet to Him” (Ps 119:59).

“Looking unto Jesus” means keeping our eyes fixed on Him as a runner keeps their eyes fixed on the finish line, with steadfast devotion. Those runners who let their attention drift from the finish line get off course and go out of their lane, run into obstacles etc. Our eyes are fixed on Him alone. Recall that when Peter took His eyes off Jesus, he sunk. While he had his eyes fixed on Jesus, he could walk on water. Keep your eyes on the prize!

Let’s move on to “the Author and finisher of our faith”, does this mean that Jesus has written the whole sports commentary, and we just need to be swept along with the flow? Leaving the predestination debate aside, let’s see what this really means. To do this, I want to copy and paste the Clarke commentary on this verse, because it is fascinating and says it better than I could anyway!

The author and finisher of – faith – Αρχηγος, translated here author, signifies, in general, captain or leader, or the first inventor of a thing; see Heb_2:10. But the reference seems to be here to the βραβευς, or judge in the games, whose business it was to admit the contenders, and to give the prize to the conqueror. Jesus is here represented as this officer; every Christian is a contender in this race of life, and for eternal life. The heavenly course is begun under Jesus; and under him it is completed. He is the finisher, by awarding the prize to them that are faithful unto death. Thus he is the author or the judge under whom, and by whose permission and direction, according to the rules of the heavenly race, they are permitted to enter the lists, and commence the race, and he is the finisher, τελειωτης, the perfecter, by awarding and giving the prize which consummates the combatants at the end of the race.

The next few phrases / verses concentrate on who Jesus was, what He did, and why He deserves to have our steadfast attention and be the object of our faith. Jesus “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross”. Notice that Jesus reaps the benefit of His work after it was completed. Similarly, we don’t get our trophy until after the race is completed. We aren’t looking to receive our rewards here on earth, but in heaven when we are finally and completely reconciled and reunited with Christ. Those who want to run unhindered should not be distracted by seeking to be rewarded while the race is still in progress.

Moving on to verse 3 now, “For consider Him who endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest you be weary and faint in your minds.” the Greek of this text is asking us to consider Jesus, as in, to compare our current situation to His. What did He suffer for us, and how does our suffering compare to His suffering? When I compare my sufferings with His, I realise that my sufferings pale in significance!

In sports, we have a gold standard to compare against. When in gymnastics, you want the perfect score of 10. In weightlifting, you have a record score that has been lifted, in running races, you have a time to beat. We look to Jesus as our gold standard, some one who has run the race before us perfectly. We see what He endured, and we know that in perspective we are not suffering as much. We do this, as the last part of the verse says “lest you be weary and faint in your minds.”

They are the verses I wanted to go through in detail today, but there are many other verses through out scripture that speak in a similar way about our walk with Christ. Have a look at a few other verses:

Php 3:12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect, but I am pressing on, if I may lay hold of that for which I also was taken hold of by Christ Jesus.
Php 3:13 My brothers, I do not count myself to have taken possession, but one thing I do, forgetting the things behind and reaching forward to the things before,
Php 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

The language here of “pressing on”, “reaching forward” and “press towards the mark” all continue this same analogy of athlete running a race. Infact, the greek word “ekteino” from which we get “reaching forward” implies much much more than simply having your arms outstretched. It is a straining of your muscles to the absolute limit, the kind of strain we see in a weight lifter as they put everything they have into lifting that weight above their head.

To “press” towards the mark, is an active verb in the greek, something we should be constantly doing. It is not a once off effort, but an endurance race, something we are continually doing. Those who want to dig futher into this analogy can read more in 2 Tim 2:5 and 1 Cor 9:24-26.

Running a race, requires endurance, effort, concentration, self denial. It takes action and energy from us! It is not a passive sport and we are never called to be “armchair athletes”. There are other warnings in scripture against spiritual apathy, and I will show you just two:

Amo 6:1 Woe to those at ease in Zion, and those trusting in the mountain of Samaria, who are noted as leader of the nations. And the house of Israel came to them.

Zion is the holy mountain. Woe to those who are at ease (too comfortable) in Zion. Our trust and complete faith should be in the Lord, and not in the strongholds of this world (Samaria), and when we do this, we will be uncomfortable, stretched, and put through our paces. This walk is never supposed to be easy or comfortable. Chatters who want to explore this further should check out Paul’s warning to the Hebrews in Heb 12:8, that those who are not experiencing the discipline of the Lord are “illegitimate children and not sons” (ESV).

Rev 3:14 And to the angel of the church of the Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Head of the creation of God, says these things:
Rev 3:15 I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I would that you were cold or hot.
Rev 3:16 So because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.

Let’s not be lukewarm about our faith, casually strolling along, it is a race, we are to run, we are to be hot! It’s all about denying ourselves and giving everything to follow Jesus. As it says in Matt 16:24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. At the end of our life, we want to say what Paul said in 2Ti 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”

If you are too comfortable in your race, not straining your muscles and running this race to win, perhaps it is time to ask God to shake you up a little. And if you are not a Christian, it’s time to enter into that race, to run for the Lord with earnestness for all of your life.

All scripture quoted is from the MKJV of the bible.