Therefore since we also are surrounded with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which so easily besets us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, – Heb 12:1
Now chastening for the present does not seem to be joyous, but grievous. Nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who are exercised by it.
Because of this, straighten up the hands which hang down and the enfeebled knees.
And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way, but let it rather be healed. – Heb 12:11-13
I love stories of overcomers. They tell me that I too can overcome the challenges of my own life.
I once was installing deer fencing on an estate. The path of the fence took us to a small swampy area hidden in a woods. It turns out that trees are like us – if things are hand-fed to them, they take the easy way out. With all the water around, the trees in the swamp didn’t bother to put down deep roots. But roots do more than just draw water, they anchor trees to the ground. Thus, a great windstorm had come and had been able to fell one of the shallow-rooted trees. It lay there just above the water, its dead root system exposed to the air, seemingly a monument to the imprudence that caused its demise.
But on further observation, I was amazed to see that the fallen tree actually had responded creatively to the crisis that should have been its death-blow. The downed trunk had sent out innumerable suckers into the water, forming a new root system. One limb had adjusted itself to point heavenward, and had taken on the role of being the tree’s new trunk. And whereas the fallen tree had been only some nine inches in diameter, this new trunk already dwarfed it at 12 inches in width, and it showed no inclination of stopping its growth.
The tree’s new sucker-roots extended in all directions and now formed a strong matrix over forty feet long and fifteen feet wide, going down into the water and then the earth. It is doubtful that the tree would ever again be defeated by the wind’s destructive power. It had overcome its bad fortune and previous flaw, and out of disaster had secured for itself a future and a hope.
Yesterday I came across the story of a dog born with no front legs. This dog, appropriately named Faith, was fortunate enough to be rescued by people who both loved it and challenged it. And it responded to the love and the challenge, and learned to walk upright.
When we invest love into anything, we always get back much more than we give. The dog has enriched the family’s daily lives immeasurably, but it doesn’t stop there. Here’s a story of one woman who met the dog. Due to diabetes she had lost both legs, and she was on the verge of suicide:
Stringfellow will never forget a woman from New York who happened to see Faith on a street corner. She was depressed and had lost both legs to diabetes.
“She was in her wheelchair and saw us. She was crying. She had seen Faith on television. She just held her and said she wished she had that kind of courage.” Stringfellow said. “She told us: ‘I was on my way to pick up the gun.’ She handed the pawn ticket to a police officer and said she didn’t need it anymore.”
Whatever your challenge, you can overcome it. Whatever is in God’s will, you can achieve. I know this is true, because achieving God’s will serves His purposes by extending His character, reign and glory into Creation. And that is what the coming of the Kingdom is all about. It was God Himself who decided to invade the devil’s dark chaos with His redemptive order. It was He Himself who determined that the Kingdom would be established as a mere tiny beachhead, ahead of the time of its fulness, and then grow by means of the foolishness of preaching, through our exploits, straining, and military advances, all powered by obedience to faith that works through love.
God decided it would be this way because this is the way that brings the most glory. That is to say, this is the way that most clearly reflects His character. And if you want to understand the heart of God’s glory relative to the darkness of this present creation chaos, recall the timeless words of Michael Card: “Your most awesome work was done, through the frailty of Your Son.”
As it was with Christ, so is it with us (1Jn 4.17). His power is perfected in our weakness (2Cor 12.7-10). When we abide in faith, we receive a different power, far greater than any natural ability we have lost. Like that fallen tree, we discover a life far more secure than the old one we were deprived of. And we row point to heaven, a testimony to the power to overcome. Like Faith the dog, in overcoming our challenges – challenges others might not have to deal with – we discover a much higher purpose than what is normal. We bear witness to Him who has overcome even the great enemy, sin and death, and has reconciled all things to Himself. And we gain the ability to imbue others with this same overcoming faith, hope and love.
To those who are willing to abide, God has promised power to overcome (Jn 15.7). To the degree that we are willing to yield up the things of the old life and instead trust in Him alone, we will be infused with the power to bear witness to His glory (1Jn 1.1-4; Mat 5.14-16).