“Lay It Aside”
Scriptures To Read:
“On your mark.........set...<pow>!”
Despite the postponement of the 2020 Summer Olympics due to the Covid-19 pandemic, global track & field fans were still able to enjoy a few notable athletes compete this year in the annual track & field circuit called the Diamond League. Regardless of whether you are a passionate enthusiast or an occasional onlooker, every viewer of track & field looks forward to the beginning of the race to hear the race official commence the famous three-command start that releases the runners from their starting positions.
What you may not always see, however, is the runners stripping down into their race uniforms, which are distinctively lighter and less cumbersome than their sweatsuits. In the 1st official Summer Olympic Games in 1896, various runners wore long and baggy shorts, large shirts with assorted sleeve lengths, and hefty shoes. Since then, numerous advances in science & technology have been made, enabling athletic apparel designers to create specially-designed race uniforms that have proven to be not only lighter and swifter, but also more effective in improving runners’ performances on the track.
Just as professional runners remove and lay aside all excess clothing before the start of the race, the Hebrew writer admonishes his audience of Jewish believers, as well as believers today, to do the same as it pertains to “every weight” in our lives and “the sin which so easily ensnares us”. Notice how the Hebrew writer distinguishes between the two: while sin is weighty and burdensome to the body, soul, and spirit, not every weight that needs to be laid aside is sinful.
Consider an ongoing relationship between two individuals that holds no purpose, or a schedule filled with excessive commitments to various people and projects; these things wouldn’t necessarily be classified as either right or wrong. Nevertheless, if they begin to consume excessive time and effort, these things can surely become unnecessary weights that will hinder progression. In order to effectively prepare yourself to both seize and steward divine opportunities well, you must first assess whether the weights you are carrying are truly indispensable. If they are not, lay them aside so that you can make room for the divine opportunities that God has ordained and aligned with your very footsteps. Lay aside the sin that threatens to steer you off the path of righteousness so that you may run with endurance, concentration, and expectation!
“Don’t Despise Your Beginnings!”
Scriptures To Read:
New York City arguably houses the most skyscrapers in the United States. Just one look at their extraordinary height can make your heart palpitate with anxiety. The incredible stature of these buildings also incites wonder! It causes you to inquire about every step of the construction process, particularly the initial stages. Most of us would look at a skyscraper in all its grandeur and ask ourselves, “Where would I even begin?”
This is the position that Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah, found himself in after returning to Jerusalem following an extensive period of Babylonian captivity. King Cyrus of Persia had instructed him and his fellow Judean exiles to return to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding the temple. Upon their return, however, Zerubbabel and the others faced relentless opposition from Babylonian leaders who had settled in Judah during their absence. In response to Zerubbabel’s despair, an angel of the Lord instructed the prophet Zechariah to encourage him with these profound words: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it...for who has despised the day of small things?”
In the Hebrew language, the word “despise” means “to disrespect” or “to hold in contempt”. Having suffered so much resistance amidst his efforts, Zerubbabel must have been tempted at times to despise and even curse the beginning stages of the rebuilding process out of fear that he would never complete the work he started. However, the angel of the Lord commissioned Zechariah to instruct Zerubbabel not to despise his small beginnings, but to cherish them, for God was not only taking pleasure in seeing him work, but He was also working through Zerubbabel by His Spirit to ensure the completion of the temple’s reconstruction.
Satan and his servants will tempt you to despise your place of preparation in order to discourage you from completing the work God has anointed your hands to do, so that you will ultimately cease from it. Therefore, you must learn to combat a poor outlook with the proper attitude and perspective! Luke 16:10 reminds us that faithfulness in a little thing breeds faithfulness in much! If you continue to despise your small beginnings, you cannot honestly expect the Lord to entrust you with opportunities of greater responsibility. Therefore, honor and cherish every stage of preparation, for no small seed that is properly watered and nurtured remains small forever.
“Diligent in Preparation”
Scriptures To Read:
I Corinthians 15:58
Any individual, regardless of their profession, can testify to the importance of diligent preparation in achieving a desired outcome. Without diligent preparation, athletes would be ill-equipped to compete to the best of their ability, surgeons would be incapable of performing successful operations, lawyers would be unable to effectively defend their clients, and so on. Laziness is simply not a luxury that anyone pursuing greatness can afford!
King Solomon, the purveyor of wisdom, offers us insight into the life of an unlikely subject who exemplifies diligent preparation. In Proverbs 6, he instructs the “sluggard”, or the lazy individual, to “Go to the ant,” and “observe her ways”: the ant “prepares her food in the summer and gathers her provision in the harvest”. The summer seems like the perfect time to cease from all work, yet the ant spends her summer laboring in preparation for the approaching winter season. She anticipates scarcity of food and limited travel during the winter so she works diligently in the earlier seasons to preserve the necessary resources for her colony’s survival. Furthermore, she accomplishes this task without the direct oversight of a “chief, officer, or ruler”. As opposed to waiting aimlessly for someone to tell her what to do, she takes the initiative to prepare in advance, proving herself to be proactive instead of reactive.
Similar to the ant, we must remain diligent in our season of preparation in order to be further prepared for the divine opportunities that God has ordained for us. We cannot afford to become complacent or lazy, or else we risk being unprepared for the moment! When we wholeheartedly commit ourselves to the work of preparation with vigor and stick-to-itiveness, we will see the fruit of that labor!
This does not mean that we should disregard necessary rest along the way! Rest both rejuvenates and empowers us to continue working efficiently! However, understand that a lack of diligence, or persistence, will neither yield nor lead to favorable opportunities. The manner in which you steward your current responsibilities will determine the realms of possibilities that God can open up to you! Be encouraged to know that He will give you the strength to persist, even when you feel discouraged or depleted. God’s grace is sufficient to carry you through this season of preparation!
“God Is Faithful”
Scriptures To Read:
One of the most esteemed values between any two individuals in a mutual relationship is fidelity! It possesses the power to relieve self-doubt when difficult circumstances arise. It also provides comfort when one feels rejected and abandoned by others. Knowing that an individual is faithful and committed to you simply drives you to demonstrate your faithfulness to them on a higher level.
Having departed their relationship with legalistic Judaism for a new relationship with Jesus Christ through the New Covenant, the Jewish Christian audience of the book of Hebrews had grown discouraged due to the persecution they suffered as a result of their conversion. In response, the Hebrew writer encourages them to “...hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (cf. Heb. 10:23). Furthermore, he reminds them that “...God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you have shown toward His name, in having ministered and in still ministering to the saints” (cf. Heb. 6:10).
The Hebrew writer reminded the Jewish Christians of God’s unwavering faithfulness! He wanted them to know that their service in ministering to the other saints was not in vain, that God was not unjust, or unfair, to neglect all that they had done in service to His people in spite of their own persecution. The Hebrew writer points to Abraham as an example, to whom God promised saying, “I will surely bless you and I will surely multiply You”. After waiting patiently, Abraham indeed received the fulfillment of God’s promise to him through the miraculous birth of his son Isaac in both his old age and in the old and barren state of his wife Sarah (cf. Heb. 6:13-15).
We must settle in our minds that God is intrinsically faithful, first and foremost to His Word and purposes, and secondly to His people. He simply has no capacity to be unfaithful! Therefore, we can be assured that any Word of His concerning His people will be fulfilled! Moreover, God is El Roi, or “the God who sees”! He looks upon pure and sincere work done in His name with pleasure! He will neither forget nor neglect the labor we have done in His name! Therefore, continue to be steadfast, immovable, and abounding always in the work of the Lord with the assurance that it is not in vain!
“The Lion & The Bear”
Scripture To Read:
I Samuel 17:31-37
As visual creatures, we as humans tend to base our opinions of an individual’s skillfulness in a certain area on their physical appearance before we even see them in action! Consider two individuals walking into the gym: one weighs 160 pounds while the other weighs 240 pounds. It would be easy yet unfair to assume that the one who weighs 240 pounds can deadlift more weight than the person who weighs 160 pounds. Why? Because this assumption is based solely on appearance; it does not consider other significant factors that comprise a person’s overall ability to perform, specifically previous training and the person’s faithfulness to that training.
This is evidenced by King Saul’s assumption that David was ill-equipped to fight Goliath the Philistine due to his young age and stature in contrast to Goliath’s massive size and extensive fighting history. Unbeknownst to Saul, David was far from ill-equipped! He informs Saul of his previous encounters with both a lion and a bear while fighting to protect his father’s sheep: “When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and attacked him, and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him.”
In David’s eyes, Goliath posed no challenge because David had already been fighting and conquering creatures larger than himself! This is why he could stand boldly before both Saul and Goliath and declare that the God who had delivered him from the paw of the lion and the bear would also deliver him from Goliath’s hand! Ultimately, David’s faithfulness in shepherding his father’s sheep at all costs proved to be successful in preparing him to engage and defeat this Philistine giant in battle!
We’ve often questioned God’s purpose in allowing us to endure certain battles without realizing that those very battles were preparing us to conquer even greater challenges now and in the future! God has designed the season of preparation to properly equip us to seize and steward divine opportunities, each one carrying its own unique set of challenges, and even rewards if stewarded well! Therefore, we must pay close attention to the current circumstances God is using to equip us; they will provide insight into the nature of the assignments awaiting us as we transition from a season of preparation to execution!