Saturday, September 12, 2009

Understanding The Prize

Did you ever wonder how Jesus was able to remain sinless? He was tempted like us in every way (“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” Heb 4:15). He endured scorn, loneliness, the burden of stress, and the shame and humiliation of all of our collective sin…yet remained perfect. I’ve been thinking about this lately. I know the answer to this and it’s so basic that I wonder why I haven’t seen it before.

Jesus knew heaven. He’d been there, and understood what it was like.

I think that’s it. Now, of course there’s more to it, but I believe that is the basic answer. Jesus had been in heaven before he came to earth. He had experienced its wonder, splendor, joy, etc. That’s why Philippians 2:5 is such an amazing verse when it talks about how Jesus was in the very nature God (and in heaven with God) but he left the glory of heaven to come to earth. That is a large part of the sacrifice that he made which we seem to often gloss over. He voluntarily came to this fallen earth, knowing his fate. But, he was able to endure because he understood what he was saving us for – and he had that goal of returning to heaven. At times, heaven and the goal of being righteous can seem a bit nebulous or overwhelming to me, maybe that’s why I struggle with sin sometimes.

When I lived in St. Louis I had a friend who was a runner. We were good friends and in order to get to spend more time together she convinced me to train with her to run a 5K. I agreed – although I knew it was no small task. We trained and had fun spending time together, but she constantly had to drag me out to train because I was not self-motivated. Then came the day we ran the race. We lined up at the starting line with 12,000 other people that first year - it was exhilarating. It was hard for me to finish and my time wasn’t exactly world record, but when I crossed that finish line…wow, it was great. I really felt I had accomplished something. The next year I happily signed up to run with her again. This time I understood the prize. I knew the feeling of accomplishment that awaited me at the end. That knowledge of the prize changed my motivation and desire. It was easier for me to train, to push myself and to sacrifice in order to do well in the race. I understood it.

Jesus understood it. He knew what he was fighting for – he knew what heaven was like and desired not only to be back there, but to give us the opportunity to be there as well and I believe that gave him the ability to endure more and push himself harder. I’m not trying to minimize his sacrifice at all, merely understand his ability to be perfect.

The past few weeks I have been struggling with a couple of things. I knew they were wrong – and yet I felt powerless. I had been praying about them for a while, yet honestly, still sinning. I confessed my sin to a friend (James 5:16) and asked her to pray for me and with me. Then I started thinking about Jesus’ understanding of heaven. I have studied more about heaven the past couple of years than I ever have before and I think I am actually aghast for not letting this motivate me more. I have begun praying that God will show me bits of heaven so that I can understand the prize I’m running for. I’m not caught up anywhere or having heavenly dreams, but I believe God is lifting the veil back for me little by little. This week when I was tempted to sin I started thinking about heavenly rewards, reunions with loved ones, walking through a field with Jesus, etc. It’s motivating me more to be pure-hearted.

Did Jesus want to bring God glory? Of course. Did he want to save the human race? Absolutely. He was able to do those things because he knew what was at the end. Jesus understood the prize – he’d experienced it before.

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