“The Struggle Against Encumbrances” (Hebrews 12: 1, NEB) by Carley Evans

Moses, Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Abel, Enoch, Isaac, Jacob — “these witnesses in faith” “did not enter upon the promised inheritance, because, with us in mind, God had made a better plan, that only in company with us should they reach their perfection.” (Hebrews 12: 1; 11: 39 – 40)

We are surrounded by men and women of great faith in God yet these ancient “witnesses in faith” required the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ just as we do.

Since we have such colleagues, we must “run with resolution the race for which we are entered, our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom faith depends from start to finish.” (Hebrews 12: 2) We must “throw off every encumbrance, every sin to which we cling.” (Hebrews 12: 1)

Throwing off encumbrances is as important as resisting sin. Encumbrances are weights on our souls, keeping our focus off Christ and on ourselves. Encumbrances are essentially distractions. Martha working to set a table for her Lord Jesus is an encumbrance to the more important task — listening to Him.

Let’s be “too good for a world like this.” Let’s keep our focus on our ultimate goal — the prize who is Christ, our Lord.

“Give Up Life” (Matthew 16: 25, KJV) by Carley Evans

As you seek to save your life, you lose it. As you give up your life for Jesus’ sake, you find it.

God provides a ram in the thicket for Abraham to sacrifice as a substitute for his son, Isaac whom he is willing to give up to God. Do not be mistaken — Abraham loves his son more than life itself. Isaac is Abraham’s only son. But he rightly fears and loves his God even more. As he raises his hand against his one and only son, God commands him not to strike Isaac.

Earlier when Isaac asks, where is the sacrificial animal, Abraham reasons with his son, saying that God provides “Himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” (Genesis 22: 8) And indeed God provides that sacrificial lamb — a ram caught in a thicket by its horns.

If Abraham seeks to save his son’s life, he loses. If he gives up his rights to his son’s life, he wins, gaining the very sacrifice a lost world seeks.

Because Abraham willingly gives up his son, God promises to bless, “multiplying…thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the seashore…and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because thou obey My voice.” (Genesis 22: 17, 18)

“And Abraham calls the name of that place Jehovah-ji-reh, as it is said to this day, In the mount of the Lord it shall be seen.” (Genesis 22: 14)

“Rights Over Clay” (Jeremiah 48: 7, ESV) by Carley Evans

“For, because you trusted in your works and your treasures, you also shall be taken.” “And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad — in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of Him who calls — she was told, ‘The older shall serve the younger’ As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means!” (Romans 9: 10 – 14) Neither our heritage nor our works make us right with God. Having all the treasure in the world does not make us right in His sight. “So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who can resist His will?’ But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its maker, ‘Why have you made me like this? Has the potter no right over the clay?” (Romans 9: 18 – 21) Yes, we are clay — we are all alike. We come from the same father, Adam — just as Jacob and Esau come from the same father, Isaac. Yes, God is the potter. He made and owns the clay. Yes, He has all rights over us. He is allowed. “But to all who do receive Him, who believe in His Name, He gives the right to become children of God, who are born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1: 12 – 13)