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When you can’t hold on any longer

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a lesson from an elementary tug-of-war

It’s field day for my daughter’s elementary school. All the students are out on the track’s mid-field participating in various events such as the 100 yard dash, the baseball throw, and the hula hoop contest. It’s an end-of-year celebration full of games and friendly competition. The grand event at the end, the tug-of-war, is anticipated by all. Though you can gain points for your class by winning in an event, the tug-of-war brings in the most points because the whole class participates.

It’s finally down to the top two teams competing for first place. The kids grab the rope and plant their feet. The whistle blows and the pulling begins. The rope moves one direction, then heads the opposite way. It goes back and forth a few times but eventually, one of the teams overpowers the other and the losing team all fall down in a heap together.

This is the scenario that plays out in my head when I read verses 12-13 of Hebrews 12.

“So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (NLT)

Faith, like that rope in tug-of-war, is something that we have to hold on to with a tight grip. It’s something that we have to intentionally be aware of and watchful that our grip does not slip. Our salvation is all because of Jesus, but when we enter into a life of following Him, we don’t just settle in. Faith is active, not passive.

In a tug-of-war, we take a firm grip and plant our feet with the intention that we won’t slip towards the pit, but only make progress towards our goal. In this life, we need to take a firm grip onto our faith, intentionally planting our feet on the firm foundation of Christ, because sin is pulling on the other end of that rope, trying to drag us into the pit. Distractions in this life can cause us to loosen our grip. Momentary pleasures can cause our feet to slip where once we had them planted.

Elsewhere in Hebrews, the author encourages the believer to “…strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.” (12:1 NLT) Imagine dropping the extra weight of pride, selfishness, and envy and taking up the rope and running, not just tugging, away from our life of sin with a firm grip and strong knees. We look up and forward for the clear, straight path.

We do this, not only for our own faith, but for the encouragement of others. In Hebrews 12:13 it encourages us to “mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” (NLT) We take a firm grip and plant our feet so that those who need to retighten their grip or replant their own feet, can do so. A life of faith can be an encouragement to those who are struggling. It can show them that although faith is consistent devotion in one direction, it is worth the struggle. 

What does a firm grip and strong knees look like?

Trust in the resurrection power of Jesus to give you the strength to endure what life is throwing at you right now. Look to God’s Word for encouragement and ask the Holy Spirit for guidance and comfort.

Retighten your grip and pull on, my friend. The prize is worth fighting for.

Father, give me the strength to endure. This world is full of things that want to distract me from You. Give me a heart that desires those things that will help strengthen my grip and plant my feet. You are the Solid Rock and Firm Foundation for my feet and the Daily Bread of nourishment for my weakening grip. You alone have the power to save me. Help me to hold tightly to that. Amen.

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