I’ve given serious thought to many of the articles and prophecies I’ve read over the month since Billy Graham’s passing. Some believe that his transition triggered a “baton-passing” of the evangelistic mantle from one individual to potentially an entire generation. Topics of speculation ran the gamut from one article suggested there would be a “coliseum full of cheering people” as Dr. Graham entered, to another that pointed out his “mansion” would likely be a comfortable, humble abode similar to his earthly mountain cabin.
I must admit, the concept of a “coliseum of people” cheering at Dr. Graham’s arrival seems very much like a still-in-this-world perception to me.
In the book of Hebrews, Paul refers to “so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us”…would that be the same as a “coliseum of people” cheering? I don’t know — but I doubt it. The purpose as explained in Hebrews is to encourage us, not those who have passed through the veil, for a specific purpose: “to lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us” that we might “run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus.” (Heb. 12:1-2, NASB) In other words, Go Team Jesus, you’re still in the race.
The Message translates Heb. 12:1-3, “Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how He did it. Because He never lost sight of where He was headed — that exhilarating finish in and with God — He could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now He’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility He plowed through…”
As I pondered that wording, three different ideas stuck in my mind. First, the concept of putting up with anything.
I have to say, that is really a great prayer…but is it one that any of us offer up regularly? How frequent is it the cry of our heart to ask, Lord, help me put up with anything…so that I might share Your news of reconciliation and forgiveness with those You point out, with someone in my regular sphere of influence?
I personally believe that some version of that sentiment was a heartfelt part of Jesus’ many intimate conversations with His Father. He knew the road ahead would be tough, and He knew He would need endurance, focus, persistence. He would also need to never lose sight of where He was headed, the nature of His prize, or the fact He was sent. The path before Him (and its ultimate goal) was always clear in His mind. Jesus –Emmanel, God with us — had no hesitation in stating as He stood before before Lazarus’ tomb, “I knew that You always hear me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they might believe that You sent me.” (John 11:42, italics added)
Unfortunately, we don’t necessarily share that certainty, His certainty. Sometimes we don’t recognize either the path we are walking (or its destination), or the fact that we (He and each of us) are walking together. That our prayers, hopes, and fears are all heard by our Abba, Papa. We often feel alone…and make decisions that reflect that feeling of desolation, rather than being anchored by Jesus’ promise that He will never “desert you nor will I ever forsake you.” (Heb. 13:5) His indwelling and never-forsaking-us Presence gives us strength to deal with “the anything” that might confront us, just as it strengthened Jesus.
The second idea from that brief Hebrews passage that gives me pause is the clear contrast between the phrase flagging in your faith and an exhilarating finish in and with God. As I think about them, I can see a pretty clear parallel between those descriptions and two different seasons in our lives that we all experience.
First, those heavy seasons when a vision of our destiny-in-Him is shrouded and we are often plagued with questions, doubts. The other season, that time of sensing a fresh breath of air in our lungs, is when His Son-shine burns away the mist and we again catch a brilliant and spirit-awakening glimpse of Him.
Think about that phrase…exhilaration in and with God. In my mind and heart, it presents an image and reality so vividly compelling that it beckons me forward with a renewed sense of hope and enthusiasm, strength and courage. Purpose. Destiny. The thick mists of indecision and doubt scattered by His Light. That feeling of beginning to run, instead of simply plodding along day by day.
Another aspect of His life among us that Jesus never short-changed is the fact that He was sent into the world. (John 17:18) No sense of merely vacationing, or just checking in with the folks. Sent. Purposeful.
Most of us link “being sent” with mundane tasks such as heading to the grocery store for milk and bread, or filling up the gas tank of our family car.
But there is a nobility and deep thread of divine purpose in those times when we are sent by the Holy Spirit into a situation, into a divinely-appointed rendezvous of some sort. Catch, for just a moment, a sense of the responsibility and nobility of Jesus sending us. Jesus understood the majestic plan unfolding as His Father sent Him, never derailed by the opposition and frustration He experienced.
Yet there is now a parallel between His task and ours — even though we may never ponder the potential of our role as small-but-intricate parts of that same majestic plan as it continues to unfold. When Jesus prayed, “As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them” (John 17:18) He was prophesying into a future that continued for centuries, right up to now. For Jesus was also thinking of you. And of me. All on different legs of the same mission, alive in His Spirit to share through many methods and languages and formats that God loves-loves-loves the world and His crowning creation, us.
Psalm 144:3 asks, “What is man, that You take knowledge of him?” Yet we have only to ask Him, to receive Him, for He has already reconciled Himself to us, and He waits patiently for us to recognize that transformation is already in process.
Help us to put up with anything…that we may see His full glory and come to fruition.