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Embrace Adversity Before it Gets the Best of You

All of the stories ever told involve some sort of conflict. Without this adversity, there is no room for growth, James 1:2-4. Whether humans beings have to endure affliction, bad luck or distress, these obstacles remove an individual from their comfort zone and force them to face the barrier standing in their way. There is really only one decision to be made, embrace adversity before it gets the best of you.

Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. 36 For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of God, and thus receive and [e]carry away [and enjoy to the full] what is promised, Hebrews 10:35-36.

While Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was introduced in 1943, this five-stage model was expanded to include cognitive and aesthetic needs initially in 1954 and transcendence needs in 1970. Maslow understood that as human beings have their own basic needs met, there are still many more stages that one must go through until self-realization is reached. Learning to embrace adversity is a basic step toward moving up to the next level on Maslow’s chart.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

Near the end of the first century, the author of Hebrews reveals the importance of adversity. When your confidence is shaken, the energy and endurance to face adversity weakens. Yet, if you want to fully accomplish God’s will for your life, you have to hang in there through thick and thin. In the passage above, you have to throw aside every encumbrance that is holding you back. Once this is discarded, you can run with perseverance as you face adversity.

by Jay Mankus

Losing Sight of God

While special horses are trained to become thoroughbreds, horses can’t see everything in it’s peripheral vision. To avoid horses from becoming distracted or scared, blinders are used to keep the horse focused on what is in front of it. Controlling a horse at 40 miles per hour requires a rare combination of strength and lightness for a jockey. Those jockeys who do the best at keeping their horse focused on the finish line, tend to accumulate more victories.

Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us, Hebrews 12:1.

Unfortunately, I share similar traits with horses, often veering off course. I tend to become so consumed and fixated on what I am doing that I lose track of time. The clearer you are about your vision in life, the greater the impact you will have in the world. Vision is the ability to think about or plan your future with imagination, insight and wisdom. Whenever I stray from my dreams and goals, my vision grows dim.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you [the priestly nation] have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you that you shall be no priest to Me; seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children, Hosea 4:6.

An Old Testament prophet blames a lack of knowledge for those who fail to reach their full potential. At the time that Hosea pens this letter, Israel began to do what was right in their own eyes. Instead of following the ten commandments, many were blinded by worldly beliefs and principles. A similar trend is taking place today as progressive ideas have been embraced by many churches. Thus, losing sight of God becomes an unpleasant reality. If you’re ready to regain focus on God, do so with perseverance, fixated on the cross of Jesus.

by Jay Mankus

Run for Your Life

The running of the bulls is an annual event that dates back to the 14th century.  This tradition originated from the need to transport bulls from the offsite livestock enclosures to the bull fighting ring within Spanish cities.  The Running of the Bulls was made famous outside of Spain in 1926 when Ernest Hemingway released The Sun Also Rises.  This novel details this July 7th summer festival where six to ten calves are released behind individuals running for their lives through enclosed streets.

They stirred up the crowd and the city authorities who heard these things. And when they had taken security (bail) from Jason and the others, they let them go. The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea; and when they arrived, they entered the Jewish synagogue, Acts 17:8-10.

As a first century missionary, the apostle Paul made a habit of running for his life.  Each trip began at a local synagogue, going through the Old Testament to reveal Jesus as the promised Messiah.  Most of these discussions were civil until some of his listeners converted to Christianity.  These spiritual decisions ignited spirits of anger, envy and jealousy, stirring up anti-Christian mobs.  In the passage above, Paul and Silas fled Thessalonica in darkness.  Meanwhile, in the passage below, Paul was escorted to a ship, sailing away as far as possible from harm.

But when the Jews of Thessalonica learned that the word of God [concerning eternal salvation through faith in Christ] had also been preached by Paul at Berea, they came there too, agitating and disturbing the crowds. 14 So at that time the brothers immediately sent Paul away to go as far as the sea; but Silas and Timothy remained there [at Berea]. 15 Those who escorted Paul brought him to Athens; and [after] receiving instructions [from Paul] for Silas and Timothy to join him as soon as possible, they left, Acts 17:13-15.

Unfortunately, the process of running for your life sometimes involves turning your back on God.  Jonah refused God’s calling to Nineveh, sailing away in the complete opposite direction until a storm forced his return into a whale which escorted this runner back on track.  When I lost my teaching job of ten years, I ran around in circles for nearly two years before landing at Amazon.  Now that I am comfortable after seven years, perhaps it’s time to run for my life, escaping this comfort zone for a new adventure or challenge.  As I listen for God’s still voice, I must be open to run with perseverance just as Hebrews 12:1 suggests.

by Jay Mankus

 

Removing One Obstacle at a Time

Anyone who struggles with perfectionism has a hard enjoying life.  Whenever a flaw is discovered or exposed, energy is wasted to attack, purge and rid this.  If more than one issue is uncovered at the same time, this can be devastating.  Despite anal attempts to achieve perfection, its healthier to remove one obstacle at a time.

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, Hebrews 12:1.

The context of the passage above occurs immediately following a chapter known as the Hall of Faith.  The author lists saints from the Old Testament who accomplished great things by stepping out in faith.  The witnesses are those believers who have finished the race called life and are now spectators cheering on those who follow God on.  To reach similar heights requires removing access baggage which weighs you down.

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, Hebrews 12:5.

Nobody likes to be called out, corrected or rebuked, but sometimes this message is meant for our own good.  As a former runner, if your mind is not into it, you won’t last long.  Perseverance is only achieved after barriers are removed.  To prevent yourself from having a nervous breakdown or becoming overwhelmed, strive to remove one obstacle at a time.

by Jay Mankus

 

 

 

Running with the Gospel

The author of the book of Hebrews refers to life as a marathon.  While the hustle and bustle on the East Coast cause many to sprint, often dying out quickly, its important to pace yourself.  Unfortunately, I find myself going on binges for a few days, then collapse only to repeat this vicious cycle the next week.  I guess its time to start jogging with the gospel.

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, Hebrews 12:1.

Sometimes what God tells individuals to do doesn’t make sense.  Thus, like Jonah, many try to run away, going in the opposite direction until storms result in a U-turn.  Meanwhile, some have the gift of faith, able to trust the Lord whatever or wherever the Holy Spirit leads them.  Although I once possessed this gift, doubt has caused me to stop running with the gospel.

Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked, Acts 8:30.

The encounter within Acts 8 reveals a powerful lesson about faith.  After an angel spoke to Philip, he began to run along side a chariot going down the road.  To his amazement, a foreigner was reading the book of Isaiah.  Like a scene out of Hollywood, Philip takes advantage of this situation.  In the end, Philip leads this man from Ethiopia to faith in Christ.  Therefore, don’t go through life in an aimless manner.  Rather, start running with the Gospel and you’ll be amazed where God will lead you.

by Jay Mankus

Setting the Pace so that Others May Finish

On Sunday, I participated in my first alumni weekend at the University of Delaware.  In reality, I just ran in the Blue Hen 5K with my 3 children, the first with my daughter Lydia.  Out of shape, I vowed to stay with my daughter, setting a good pace to help her post her best time.  When Lydia stopped several times with a cramp, I encouraged her to keep going.

If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up, Ecclesiastes 4:10.

The same could be said about life.  Trying to do things on your own or alone is difficult.  If you reach your breaking point, who will come along to spur you on?  As Benny Hester once sang about, “You weren’t meant to live your life alone.”  In view of this, people need to seek out mentors, role models and wise counsel to find their way in life.

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, Hebrews 12:1.

If I wasn’t running today, I’m sure my daughter would have finished eventually, but my prompting resulted in her PR, personal record.  As a father, I need to do the same in my spiritual life, setting the pace for all my children to follow.  While spiritual aspirations may vary, godly parents should set the pace so that others may cross the finished line in heaven.

by Jay Mankus

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