For our Bicentenary we felt that the Lord had given us a verse to focus on for the year. This was really helpful and so we thought that we should seek the Lord for a verse for 2020.
Our verse for 2020, if you haven’t heard by now, is Hebrews 12:1-2a:
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 pioneer and perfecter of faith.
What is the race that is marked out for us? The race, of course, is life. The writer to the Hebrews wants us to get busy living and understands that the only way to have life is through following closely in Jesus’ footsteps. He invites us to be encouraged by the example of others that have gone before us. That’s the great cloud of witnesses to which he refers, and to whom he has been referring throughout the previous chapter. In Chapter 10 he speaks about Jesus’ sacrifice once for all. He goes on to encourage people to hold firmly to their faith. In Chapter 11 he speaks about all those that had come before and walked in faith in the hope of God’s plan of salvation, but without ever seeing it come to pass. Now he tells his readers that they have seen what others dreamed of and they need to hold firmly to what they have received.
So now that same call comes to us through scripture. We have an even greater cloud of witnesses that have walked with Jesus and inspired us by their example. Our task is to run our race with perseverance and to cast off everything that prevents us from running as best we can.
Some of you will have watched people running the London Marathon in fancy dress – they tend not to be the elite athletes! A few years ago someone did it in a deep-sea diving suit – he was raising money for charity, of course. It took him several days to cover the course that the best athletes had covered in just over two hours.
Yet some of us have decided to run our race with as much kit weighing us down as possible! What are the things that you have got used to, that are of no help in living your Christian life? Get rid of them! Get rid of everything that doesn’t help us get near to Jesus. Only you know what it is but get rid of it! Jesus has paid for it to be removed and paid with his life. In Barnstaple in North Devon, there is a circular stone mounted on a single short pillar, where people paid for their purchases from the market vendors. It was called the nail. So purchases were paid on the nail. Jesus has paid for us on the nails in his hands and feet. There is nothing that you must hold back from him; nothing that you need hold back from him. It’s paid on the nail so that you can be free from it. Get rid of it.
The Elders believe that 2020 is to be a year in which we build on the things that we learned in 2019. Three themes emerged last year concerning the importance of growing in:
In 2020 we want faith-stretching prayer; to seek the Lord for the opportunities that he is setting before us and to be persistent in prayer. We want to recognise how he blesses us, so that we don’t simply ask but we rejoice as he answers. We want faith-stretching action. We don’t simply want to tread where we have always trod but to gain new ground for the kingdom. We have also set a faith-stretching budget that requires us to think carefully about our stewardship.
Last year we declared that God was able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine. This year is the time to have faith in that scripture. In Carey’s timeless words: to expect great things from God and to attempt great things for God.
Yours in Christ,