...In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
"My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son."
Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined - and everyone undergoes discipline - then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.
In a marathon race, even though it's important to participate, it's even more important to finish the race. While we are running, we might encounter obstacles, some from ourselves and some from others. The author of Hebrews encouraged us to first persevere through the hardship, because we have not yet resisted to the point of shedding our blood. The believers in China often risk their lives for their faith. Some coworkers told me that when they enter China and saw local coworkers arrested, they would tell them to sit tight and lay low, not to rush out to preach the gospel. But the local coworkers would tell them unanimously: "it's no big deal, we're used to being arrested; each time we go out we're prepared to be arrested, and our family is prepared to never see me again." My heart is touched whenever I hear such sharing. Living in countries with personal liberty, no matter what difficulty we encounter here, there's no comparison with what the Chinese believers have to endure. They may even lose their life for their faith! Therefore, we must learn to persevere, and also trust that when we bring everything before the Lord all the hardship will eventually be gone. Bible also teaches that we need to learn to suffer for the Lord. Since the Lord suffered for us, we also need to follow His footsteps. When we think about this, our hearts will have peace; if the Lord can endure such tremendous suffering on the cross for us, we also must be willing to suffer for Him in our daily life.
Next, we must value discipline, and we must be joyful when the Lord disciplines us, because we know that we belong to God. We discipline the children whom we gave birth to because we love them. In our life, when God disciplines and punishes us for our sins, we must be joyful. We ought to worry if God doesn't discipline us! God disciplines us because He still loves us and we belong to Him, so our hearts must be joyful when we are disciplined, and we may just turn back to God and look upon Him. May God's Spirit have mercy and grace on us; open our hearts to know His will, so that we will be delivered from bitterness.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you because you are the Heavenly Father who loves us; you often use circumstances in our lives to train us and you discipline us by putting us through hardship. We once again put ourselves in your hands, and we ask that you work in our lives according to your perfect plan so that your will may be satisfied. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews instructed us to fixate our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Bible says that faith is 'being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.' Faith is not illusion, but absolute certainty. As Christians we place our faith in the glorious savior Jesus Christ. Not only is He the God who gives us faith, He also completes, or "perfects" as this passage says, our faith. God will never do things halfway. Philippians 1:6 says :"being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." He is the God who started working in our hearts at the beginning. He is also the Lord who completed this work. We surely should thank God for starting His work in us. Otherwise, we cannot be His sons/daughters.
Faith is not only to rouse a certain feeling in you, so as to ascertain the thing already exists. God is here. Faith is nothing more to ascertain that His existence. God's grace has already been prepared, faith is merely to ascertain what He has prepared. Our richness in Christ has already been fulfilled. Faith is nothing more than to ascertain our places. When you open your spiritual eyes, starting to really know that our Lord is all powerful, your faith will start become lively. Your lives will experience changes.Once there was a chicken farmer. One day he went up mountains to collect firewood and found a newborn eagle fallen on the ground. He brought it home and started raising it. Everyday he fed eagle chicken feeds. One day his son returned home and saw the eagle. He asked his father :"What is it? if it is a chicken but doesn't look like a chicken. If it is not a chicken, it does look like a chicken." The father replied: "It feeds on chicken feeds everyday. Of course it is a chicken." One day, the man brought the little eagle up to the mountain. Standing on the side of a cliff, gazing at radiant sunrise, the wide open sky, suddenly, that little eagle spread its wings, lifted from that all too familiar ground, and started flying up. Soaring higher and higher, it never came back.
Today, there are many Christians living a life as that of an eagle in a flock of chicken. We have our Lord's life inside, but are constrained by our worldly situations. Other people can't even see the difference between us and people of the world. But as soon as we see the glory of God, understand the abundances of life in Christ, our lives will start soaring into the sky. You should know the life inside you is a life of an eagle, not a life of chicken. Holy Spirit can lift us up and overcome any of our situations. May God's spirit be your help today!
Prayer with Pastor Tong Liu
Lord, we thank you because you have placed a life of soaring wings inside us. In the glorious name of Jesus, we rebuke all lies and accusation of our enemies. May you release us, lift us up in spirit. Let us overcome our situations, overcome lies of our enemies. We thank you and pray in the glorious name of Jesus, Amen!
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...
The author of Hebrews once again encouraged us that, not only should we see that we're surrounded by many witnesses, we also need to learn to put down all the burdens that hinder us. Anyone who's ever run a race would know that they need to run with as little on them as possible. We seldom see a runner with a radio on the left hand, lunch bag on the right, and a big straw hat on the head. This outfit might work out if one goes to a picnic, but as a marathon runner this person will surely end last. It's not that these are bad things to have, but in a race these things will definitely hinder the runner.
First and foremost, you need to put down all your burden. The burden might not consist of bad things; in the original context, burden means hindering, so we need to put down all things that hinder us. Putting them down doesn't mean tossing them away, but it's to entrust them to someone. We don't need to hold on to our burden tightly, thinking that unless we hold on to them we will never success or even survive. We must believe God and trust Him. The Bible says that "seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added onto you." May God help us, not to let our daily life become hindrance to our spiritual life. Let us look upon God, just like what athletes do in a race - They focus on the finish line. In the same way, we must focus on the Lord and make our best effort to run towards Him.
Also, we need to take off the sin that hinders us. It's normally the petty things in life that hinder us. We may never dare to deny God or defy Him, but we might follow our own desires in our daily life without obeying God's commands. We might also be accustomed to rejecting the prompting of Holy Spirit or even reject Him, and just act according to our own will. We may never dare to fight fiercely with others, but we might have lots of feeling of unforgiving and bitterness. The Bible says that the feeling of unfairness may lead us to commit sin. Actually, we might feel depressed because we never reconciled our anger inside, and thus we hold on to our rage and refuse to forgive others. This only leads to even deeper sense of frustration. The author of Hebrews asked us to "throw off" everything, which means it doesn't come naturally or easily. We must come before God and be determined to take action, so that we can lay down our burden, get rid of any hindrance, and enjoy the victory and glory of God in our daily life.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, I thank you because you are the Lord who leads us to proclaim victory against our enemy every day. May you open our eyes so that we can see the burden and hindrance in our life. Let us lay down all burden and hindrance in order to follow you closely. May the Lord's Spirit deliver us from all the burden and hindrance deep down in our soul. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
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. We shall always honor those who bear witness in our lives. Whenever I read this verse, I am filled with gratefulness. Many have walked the same path of faith as we have. The questions and difficulties that you and I encounter are not the ones that no one else has seen before. David said in Psalm: "Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? " It was obvious that his heart was once depressed and irritable. Elijah prayed under the broom tree: "I have had enough, LORD, ...Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." It was obvious that Elijah had lost confidence and had fallen into the darkness of despair. Jesus in Gethsemane said in his prayer: "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death." Generations of believers have run the same path. They have experienced the same failure, frustration, and despair that you and I experienced, even times when there was no choice but to wait. Whenever I thought about these, I took comfort. Otherwise, I would constantly ask: "Lord, why only me?" I had mistaken that Christians would not be depressed. Such misunderstanding allowed the enemy to frequently accuse us. Indeed, there were many witnesses who have experienced all these before. They bear testimony to how God helped them finish the good race, and fight the good fight. The author of Hebrews spent forty verses in chapter 11 to list a series of heroes of faith. Through the testimony of those people, the author encourages us to keep running in the path of Lord.
In fact, those who God uses are no different from you and I. They are all ordinary people. When they are in difficult situations, they too will worry and flinch. But after by faith they walked the path that God has asked them to go through, their lives start to be different. They receive God's wisdom, God's words, and God's power. Bible says: "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit" This is the spirit that empowers people to have power of wisdom in the Old Testament. It is also the spirit that performed miracles in early churches. It is also the same spirit that resides in us. Generations of witness all say the same thing to us: if they can live a victorious life through faith, then by the grace of God, we can certainly be victorious, because our Lord will never change, and He is the same yesterday, today, and forever!
Prayer with Pastor Tong Liu
Lord, we thank you because you are the same yesterday, today, and forever everlasting God. Let us put our weakness in your hand through our faith. We believe that you will open the way for us. You will give us complete salvation in our life just like how you saved people in the past. I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus Christ, Amen!
Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection.Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning;they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated - the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised,since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
We seldom pay attention to this scripture passage. It talks about some people who by faith chose the kingdom that cannot be corrupted and shaken. Therefore, they rather sacrifice all their worldly possessions, and even their lives, because they witnessed the glory of God's kingdom, so they disregard humiliation by the world.
Those who follow the Lord must be things in the spirit, and they must have eyesight for the kingdom. We shouldn't just look at our own circumstance, but rather we must see that God's kingdom will come. Isaiah saw a vision of the Lord sitting on the high throne and asking: "who can I send? Who will go for us?" His response was: "Lord, here I am, send me." When Isaiah said "here I am," he didn't know where God wanted him to go, or what God wanted him to do. He simply offered himself to God. But when we come before God, we're seldom like Isaiah. We like to negotiate with God, and then we contemplate before making a decision, so no wonder we cannot take a step forward. Isaiah first offered himself for the Lord to send him. When he prayed such prayer before God, God didn't say: "no worries, you will be just fine." On the contrary, God said: "When you preach the gospel, no one will respond; when you work on expanding my kingdom, the land will still be barren; but you will still faithfully do what I told you, because even though the tree will be fall, the root will still be there." Lord then told Isaiah: "I will keep sacred seeds for my own sake, and when the time comes these seeds will germinate and grow into plants. God's kingdom will ultimately come, and God's plan will be done, so you must faithfully obey." Throughout the generation, so many of God's servants offered themselves for the vision of God's kingdom. They solely live for God and stay faithful till they die, just like the examples in this passage.
May God prompt us and prepare us to see His kingdom. Let us be willing to offer ourselves to Him for the life in God's kingdom. Let us together build a church that glories God on earth, and wait upon the second coming of Jesus.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, I thank you, because when we see the vision of kingdom you will give us strength to live for you each and every day. For generations, many of God's servants saw your vision and offered their lives to you. We give thanks and we ask that your spirit place such a sense of mission into our hearts. Let your kingdom come and let your will be done in this generation! I thank you and I pray in the victorious name of Jesus, amen!
And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
The author of Hebrews lists the heroes of faith here. From a human perspective, these people were not considered outstanding in their time. However, they were willing to place their weaknesses in the hand of God and God's strength can be manifested through their weaknesses. Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress when God called him. People usually thresh wheat outdoors, so why was Gideon in a winepress? It was because he was afraid of the Midianites. Hence when the angel appeared to him and called him "mighty warrior", Gideon was looking around and wondering, "How can I be the mighty warrior? If I were a mighty warrior, I would not be hiding in the winepress threshing wheat." However, God called Gideon and he later led the Israelites to defeat the Midianites.
The same with Barak. When he faced the Sisera army, he was afraid of going into battle. He came to the prophetess Deborah and said, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go." Can you imagine an army general telling a woman that? No wonder Deborah told him, "Because of the course you are taking, the honor will not be yours, for the Lord will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman." Barak was not a mighty warrior, but he was willing to come before God in obedience. In the end, God used Barak to wipe out the Sisera army. Samson was also a weak person. Delilah deceived him multiple times, yet he continued to be tricked by her. In the end when he was captured, he repented and prayed to God for help. God ultimately gave Samson strength to defeat the Philistines. In the same way, David was not an outstanding man. When Samuel went to David's father's home to anoint the king, he asked David's father to bring out all his sons. When Samuel said, "None of these are to be king, do you have another son?" This was when David's father remembered that he had a young son named David. David was not a prominent person, but was accepted by God. We often see our own weaknesses, but when we are willing to give ourselves to God and allow Him to use us, we can be strengthened by God. God's strength will be made perfect in our weaknesses. May God increase our faith so that we can live in dependence on Him each day.
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, we thank you that your strength is made perfect in our weaknesses. When we depend on you by faith, we can experience your victory and blessings in our lives. I thank you and pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!
By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as on dry land; but when the Egyptians tried to do so, they were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell, after the army had marched around them for seven days. By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.
The Israelites could trust God because God has proven Himself faithful. However, God's work does not necessarily go according to our timing, but according to His time. When the Israelites were about to cross the red sea, the Egyptians were right behind them. In the nick of time, God called Moses to stretch his staff towards to sea, and the waters parted so that the Israelites could walk over on dry ground. The Eygptian army continued to chase after the Israelites, but right when the last Israelite has crossed over the red sea, the waters came together and drowned the Eygptians. God is always on time! When Jesus was crucified on the cross, from a human perspective, it was hopeless. Yet, after three days, He rose from the dead, bringing the hope of resurrection to mankind. God is indeed a God who is on time. The Israelites went around the wall of Jericho 7 days. You may ask, "What is the point of marching around the city? Marching around the city once per day would be 7 times in 7 days and then shouting?" We often have a lot of doubts in us and do not understand how God works. However, when the Israelites did that, the walls of Jericho fell, just as God promised. God is indeed on time!
Here it also talks about the testimony of Rahab. When the walls of Jericho fell, Rahab was in the city. God wants to destroy Jericho, but Rahab had welcomed the two spies. God told her to tie a scarlet cord around her window and in that way, she can avoid getting killed. When God's destruction comes, Rehab and her family were kept safe, and not killed with those who were disobedient. Pray that the Lord will give us enough faith each day to believe in His faithfulness. God indeed is a God who can be trusted. He is always on time and will never delay. When we come to Him by faith, God will use his mighty hand to help us!
Pray with Pastor Tong
Lord, I thank you because you are a faithful God and you are always on time. Help us to come before you without any fear in our everyday lives knowing that your faithfulness never changes and your word is dependable and powerful. Encourage our hearts to cling on to your promises! I thank you and pray in the victorious name of Jesus, Amen!