“Let us therefore come boldly before the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” ~Hebrews 4:16
My first assignment as a first sergeant was on Johnson Atoll, a small strip of “rock” located about half way between the Marshall Islands and the Hawaiian Islands. It is about two and half miles long and about three-quarters of a mile wide. At the time, the Army had a unit of about three hundred personnel assigned there to safeguard and maintain a stockpile of toxic chemical munitions.
The day I arrived, the company commander was off-island and wouldn’t be back for a week or so. I learned that it was his custom to take the entire unit on an “island run” upon his return. His duties took him off-island about once a month, and when he returned he liked to do this. It was about a four and a half mile lap around the island. What you need to understand is that I seldom ran more than two miles. The Army had established the two-mile run as part of its fitness training requirement. Now I was about to undertake a distance twice what I was used to. Added to the challenge was a 20-knot wind that blew constantly. The good news was that half way around the island, the wind was at my back (and you guessed it), the other half was into the wind. Running into a headwind like that feels like running uphill. Knowing that I had to “run the island” upon his return, and not wanting to leave him with a bad first impression of his new first sergeant, I awoke at 4:30 AM and headed out to “practice.”
What I am coming to this morning is what we discover in the Book of Hebrews. This book was written to encourage Christians during their time of trials and persecutions. Many, if not all, were Jews that had left Judaism and turned to Christ. As you read this letter to the Hebrews, you get the sense that they wanted to turn back. That their new-found faith in Jesus Christ was lacking. When their trials and tribulations became great they wanted to retreat back to what they had. In today’s vernacular: they wanted to default to the Jewish religion, which was acceptable to Rome, and thereby avoid persecution from the government and their fellow Jews that were still practicing Judaism.
Training to run the island for me was an arduous task (at times I thought I was dragging a piano). It required me to run past mile posts that I hadn’t done before. In a similar way, our faith walk is like that. When we find ourselves in uncharted waters, or when we encounter difficulties, no matter what quarter they come from, we start second-guessing ourselves and our commitment to our faith. The writer to the Hebrews is doing his best to encourage them to keep running; assuring them that there is within them the strength to finish the run. Sometimes we just need to slog through it, knowing that we shall overcome.
At the end of the island was the operations building (where all the activities of securing and maintaining the munitions took place), there was a drinking fountain out front. I stopped to get a sip or two of water because my body was heating up (did I mention that at 5 AM the temperature was in the 70s?). What I discovered was that that was like a shot of adrenalin. I felt refreshed enough to keep on running the distance that I had set for that morning.
In many ways, prayer and the Bible provide us with sip or two of cool water to allow us to be refreshed and to keep on running the race of faith. So,
Oh, yeah, when the company command returned ten days later, I was ready!
Please welcome our Sunday morning contributing writer, Pastor John Roberts. John is the pastor of New Hope Fellowship in the great Northwest where he resides with his wife of 47 years.
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