Our pastor, Jasmine’s Papa Gerry, walked up to the front of our church yesterday morning, about to preach his sermon. Seconds earlier, he had answered a call from Connie at the hospital, and received the news that Jasmine was being transferred to the ICU. Her blood pressure was low and unstable, she was being given two antibiotics for an infection, and her vomit contained blood.
A broken-hearted grandfather and pastor asked the church to pray. In that moment of desperation, crying out to God was the only option, but also the very place we wanted to be. In a situation that is completely out of our hands, we turned to hoping that, just maybe, it could be in the hands of Someone who can handle it.
Pastor Gerry then proceeded to preach a message full of encouragement about having faith as we run this race of life. He reminded us of the great people of faith who have gone before us, the great cloud of witnesses, the ones who made it to the end and now cheer us on.
What struck me about these mighty heroes of faith, was that it was their weakness that was turned into their strength, and they became powerful in battle. They did not start out as strong, powerful or victorious. They became these things as they took steps of faith with the Lord.
And if we have ever been at a place of weakness in this journey with Jasmine, it is now. This is the part of the race where the runners have aching cramps, and muscle pain and exhaustion from lactic acid buildup; it’s where putting one foot in front of the other seems impossible. And there’s still a ways to go.
We seem to be at a standstill in this journey – afraid to breathe or move or even think about it.
But here was our pastor and family patriarch standing firm on Sunday morning. He had only heard the awful news minutes before and was aching for his granddaughter. Yet he stood there as living proof of how to run this race with faith: standing with our church family proclaiming that God is good and trustworthy and faithful and all-powerful.
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
As I considered the starting place of our forefathers in the faith, I couldn’t help but notice the similarity between their position of weakness and ours – both up against a battle that is unwinnable without God. Besides the leukemia, our battle has been the fear creeping in with each dangerous infection (after each round of chemo), threatening to be more powerful than anything else.
Could God use our weakness of helplessness and fear, and turn it into strength as well?
Our fear brings us to the place of realization that we can’t fix the problem. It brings us to our knees in weakness as we have nothing to offer, no way to help, frail in our hopelessness. And it is the point of surrender where we invite all-powerful Jesus to take over. That is strength.
“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; fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set before Him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
What does running this race with perseverance look like when it’s so hard?
It is exchanging what we are not for who He is.
It’s surrendering our inability to be strong, our failure to be fearless, our obvious weakness – for more of Him.
It’s our church family praying together at the start of the service. And after the service gathered in a basement room. And all the way home in cars. It’s people believing with faith on our behalf when we aren’t there yet.
It’s fixing our eyes on Jesus so we can stand firm and have faith.
Keep praying, dear warriors, faith in God is victory.