Sunday, March 8
Hebrews 12:1-13 Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—‘My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him; for the Lord disciplines those whom he loves, and chastises every child whom he accepts.’ Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline? If you do not have that discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children. Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
A Cloud of Witnesses
September 20, 2014, started out as a quiet, peaceful Saturday morning at our home in Williamsburg until Linda and I turned on our cell phones and discovered we had voice mail messages from my sisters in Berryville. They had been trying frantically to reach us to give us the sad news that our family home had burned down in the early hours of the morning and that my mother and great-nephew had not survived. Our whole world was suddenly and inexplicably turned upside down. When we arrived at the family farm later that day, we were greeted by family and friends, firefighters and rescue volunteers, and other members of the community who came to help and support us during this devastating tragedy. The sight of so many people made all the difference in helping us to cope with such terrible loss.
My mother had been the first person I reached out to in 1975 when I felt the call to ordained ministry while I was a student at Virginia Tech studying pre-veterinary medicine. She told me she always believed I was destined for the ministry but had not told me before because she believed it had to come from the Lord. For the next 40 years she surrounded me with encouragement and strength as I make this journey of faith. I am reminded of these verses from Hebrews 12:1-2: Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
All of us will come to crucial moments in our lives when we are asked to endure what seems beyond our strength. And it is beyond our strength if we try to do it alone. But we are not alone. There is a Friend greater than any friend, a Savior named Jesus Christ, who endured more pain and heartache than we ever will. He kept running and finished His course. And there is a cloud of witnesses cheering for us. We can make it, whether it is a crisis with our health, a crisis within our family, a failure on the job – whatever it might be. This is the Gospel. We can go on. We follow in a long line of people who kept their eyes on Jesus and who have persevered and been victorious. I am comforted in the knowledge that my mother has joined that long line of witnesses and is still cheering me on. I am able to persevere in the calling to which I have been called, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.
Rev. Bill and Linda Jones
Prayer: Dear God, help us to endure as we run the race set before us. May we look to Jesus and look away from all other things, and run. Run hard and run long listening to the cloud of witnesses cheering and seeing Christ as the finish line. Amen.