“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1,2).

EVERY DAY THAT WE LIVE IN THIS WORLD, WE ARE TESTED. We are faced with choices that test our character. Deep down inside, what kind of people are we? When the right thing and the easy thing are two different paths, we must choose between them. Do we have the character to do what we know is best, and to do that reliably and consistently? Are we made of strong stuff or not?

Most of us could use a little more self-discipline and a little more willpower. We need the benefit of having trained our bodies to carry out the dictates of our conscience. Paul said, “I discipline my body and bring it into subjection” (1 Corinthians 9:27). But how do we do that? Where does self-discipline come from?

Self-discipline comes from having a hope that means enough to us that we refuse to give it up. We find the strength to say “No” only when we have a powerful “Yes” burning within us. Like Jesus, who “for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross,” we must endure our own crosses. The “joy set before us” is the key.

Actually, self-discipline is a form of courage — and courage is always born of hope. When we can see the light that comes from a lighthouse, the fear of darkness is lessened and we find the strength to make for the harbor. So John wrote, “Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2,3).

If we are to grow strong in our character, therefore, and if we are to acquire godly integrity in our conduct, we must focus more on God. His glory must mean enough to us that our desire for Him to be glorified is a powerful force constantly calling us to higher ground. It’s true that if God is to be glorified, there are some things we must give up. But the question is really one of gaining things — greater things we should refuse to give up!

“Our Lord did not ask us to give up the things of earth, but to exchange them for better things” (Fulton J. Sheen).

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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