Marc Phun writing about the Jefferson Wilderness and the endurance that we have in Christ and the role our fellows believers play in encouraging us.
Over Summer 2016, I went on a backpacking trip in the Jefferson Wilderness with a bunch of our leaders and youth. I trained for months prior and ate well so that I could handle the harsh conditions. Just kidding. I just showed up, not knowing we would be going 42 miles in the span of two and half days, and all I brought was a bunch of almonds, leaving the food up to Dave (bad idea if you get hungry every 3 hours).
I was ill-prepared to say the least.
We hiked to Marion Lake, which was simple, but we kept going and going. Through lush forests, thorny berry bushes, climbed over countless fallen trees, scaled the side of the burnt forests. Up and down we went and it was rough. We didn’t know where we would end up or where we would go, but we when we finally got to base-camp we were relieved to say the least. None of us were exactly prepared, but we were more than able to get through to the end. Why? Because we endured and encouraged one another. In the same way, none of us are fully prepared to walk in this life to completion in Christ, but because he has already done the work – taking up his cross, bearing our sin and shame – we can walk with endurance too.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Endurance is not about how equipped or gifted you are to take on this life, it’s about pushing through because the end goal is worth it. For us on that backpacking trip, the goal was the parking lot, dairy queen and ultimately the comfort of our beds. As followers of Jesus, that goal is being 100% complete, with no tears, no sickness, nothing but eternal praises and joy in the presence of our Creator. The prize of Christ who is greater than any treasure the world can offer.
If I did that hike alone, there is no way I would be able to complete it. Not just because my knees got scraped, then got bitten by a wasp, but because there would not have been people in front of me and behind me pushing me and encouraging me to keep going. Our independent and self-sufficient selves want us to be able to complete this life alone and say, “Look, what I have done!” When in reality Christ calls us to lean on him completely whether in life or death and say, “Look what he has done.” Brothers and sisters who are also walking with Christ are essential to walk with that endurance, and the cross should be the first thing we think of when we are striving to endure.
“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.”
We are each other’s cloud of witnesses. We are able to keep watch of each other when we are slipping off the mountain, but more importantly to keep walking with our eyes upon the hope found in the gospel. Sin makes us apathetic to walking with God and living a life of purpose. Remind one another everyday of the saving power of the gospel in each other’s lives.
“But we are not of those shrink back and are destroyed but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.”
Ultimately, salvation in Jesus is not just a moment when you say yes to him, or just when you get to heaven. But a lifestyle that starts here and now. We are completely saved by the work of Christ and his Spirit living in us.
We are not to shrink back and forget the saving power of the cross, but we must have faith in God who is the MOST faithful, who carried out our salvation by enduring the cross.
Faith in the cross preserves us, not our ability to endure.