Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.(Hebrews 12:1-2 ESV)
There are probably studies which show that the 2008 Olympic Games saw a significant rise in the reading of Hebrews 12:1-2 in churches the world over. I’m pretty sure I heard at least four sermons on the passage over that summer. Why not? I saw. It’s a great passage! Not bad for a book who’s author we don’t even know the name of.
Jesus is the goal for which we race, the prize for which we compete. He ran his race for the ‘joy set before him’ and we ought to do likewise. Of course the difficulty is in not finding that joy to be worth pursuing. Why have joy when I can have status? Money? Power? Authority? I could make it big. I could be somebody. I could take what I want. Yet we are told of some greater joy. It’s a joy the world can’t know, for it does not seek God and doesn’t know the joy of union with him.
And it is that greater joy to which I am called. For which I run.
Now, after six years of walking with Jesus and all the various activities, programs and church stuff I have been involved with I have realised this: Resisting sin is still the hardest part of being a Christian. It can be dressed up, disguised and even ignored but one of the most significant parts of the life of a Christian is the constant battle against sin.
It doesn’t end.
It’s one of the things which levels the field for all believers: We’re all running with endurance the race marked out. We’re all throwing off the trappings of sin. We’re all seeking the great joy for Which Jesus gave up his life.
It’s a small comfort indeed that there is no one believer who is better than another.
The key I see in the scriptures over and over again for the overcoming of sin is that the Christian should find that there is something better than sin. That something is God and his great joy and wonder. Yet, unhelpfully, the church has so often cheapened grace that we don’t see any point in pursuing God. There is nothing to stop us, for example: Preaching, leading worship, serving in mission and participating in most any part of the life of the Church.
As much as I am aware that God’s grace accepts all who will come, regardless of their brokenness – indeed, that is my testimony as much as anyones – it doesn’t help me believe there is a greater joy to pursue if those who are living sinful lifestyles are placed in positions of authority in the Church.
In a way, the Church can model the heavenly realities, demonstrating what the Gospel looks like. Paul gives a clear picture of those who ought to be in authority in the Church. I know I would find it more believable that there was a greater joy available if the Church’s leadership looked like that.
“If they get away with with it, why should I bother?”
I expect you’re reading this as legalism – as a set of rules for being a Christian which of course the things of faith are not. Yet those who are publicly associated with ‘Church’ ought to be those who live lives of integrity and honesty and humility. I think out of that heart of submission to God, there will come a righteous life, a holy life.
As one who is often in positions of Church leadership, I do endeavour to find joy in the task, as I find joy in Christ. Joy enough to resist sin and to walk in the way of the Lord.
God is good.