High-fives. It's not the concept which is difficult for me, but the execution.
People who confidently perform spontaneous high-fives impress me. I have to carefully prepare for high-fiving activities and even then my success rate is dismal—until now. You see, I've stumbled upon a piece of information, which is sure to change everything: keep your eyes on the elbow.
That's it. Keep your eyes on the other person's elbow, and never again miss a high-five. It seems too easy—can this really change my high-five fail-rate? Evidently, yes.
There are lots of simple tricks to make our lives a bit easier, and some that will change them altogether. The wording of the high-five secret reminds me of the life-changing advice in Hebrews 12:2: keep your eyes on Jesus.
Here's the verse in context:
“Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we'd better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we're in. Study how he did it. Because he's never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he's there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (Hebrews 12:1-3 MSG)
Keeping your eyes on Jesus may seem too simple to actually work, but just like the high-five trick, if you know where to look, you won't stray off course. In Hebrews 11, the Apostle Paul catalogues people who lived by faith—those who “placed their hope in the resurrection to a better life” (Hebrews 11:35 NLT) rather than tried to avoid trials. It's the practical how-to guide to answer the question: How do I live by faith?
Paul compares the Christian life to a race—a marathon, really. I don't know what it is about marathons, but lately it seems like everyone is either doing one or talking about training for one. Well, everyone except me. I jog regularly but only as a way to stay fit. Forty-two point one kilometres of pain and suffering doesn't exactly sound like a good time.
If not for the good time, why are so many people into marathons? For most people, crossing the finish line is seen as one of the great accomplishments in life. With this as the goal of a marathon, it makes more sense why someone would completely change their life and diet, endure injuries and pain, and persevere past the point when your brain shouts “Stop!” Since the goal is worth so much more than the cost of preparation and training, people don't mind the sacrifice.
In this context, Paul's marathon analogy makes perfect sense. Why would anyone choose a life of discipline, sacrifice, and pain and suffering, unless the goal was worth more than the cost of living? It's by placing our hope in a better life, which is our finish line to race towards.
Hope is in abundance at Christmastime. When the advent season begins, our stressed-out and overworked spirits are refreshed by renewed anticipation of all Christmas means to us. But how do we hold onto that hope and stay on course throughout the year? Here are four suggestions:
How did Jesus run the race? Not only did He take our physical form to give us the gift of salvation, but He also ran our same race to perfection. Study, observe, learn, imitate.
Obstacles are inevitable. Many think hard times are only for unbelievers but in reality, we all live in a sinful world filled with suffering. If we expect to encounter pain at some point, then we won't be so shocked when we do.
Prepare. Finishing a race takes purpose and discipline. The essential disciplines Jesus demonstrated help us prepare for what we'll face as we run toward our heavenly reward.
Endure. When you reach the point when you want to quit, let God be your strength. This is your defining moment! He will give you what you need the moment you need it to keep your eyes on where you're headed; “that exhilarating finish in and with God.”
Just like a marathon, this Christian life is a test of endurance. But when we keep our eyes on Jesus, prepare for what's ahead, and trust God for our strength, we are equipped to continue running with vigour and stamina.