By Dr. Harold Sala
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12:1
He rowed alone across the Pacific Ocean 8,990 miles but fell short of his goal 33 miles away. Peter Bird attempted to become the first man to single- handedly row from San Francisco in the United States across the Pacific. He almost succeeded, but approaching the east coast of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, Bird encountered stormy weather and choppy seas. He was looking for a passage through the coral. Actually he was within one nautical mile of the reef when he had to radio for help fearing that he could not make it.
The Royal Australian Navy rescued the photographer turned sailor, and as they towed his 33-foot-long craft, it broke up in the heavy surf. Though most would never dare to attempt what Peter Bird did, you have a profound admiration for one who would pit his life against such odds. To succeed in crossing almost 9,000 miles of ocean and yet to fall short of the goal by a mere 33 miles is rather sad–so close to the finish and then to end in failure.
In the first chapter of the book of Judges, in the Bible, the chronicler of old tells of another situation in which men almost succeeded but failed at the last. God had promised the land of Israel to Joshua and the children of Israel. He had told them to go up and to conquer the land, that He would go with them and that He would surely give them a complete victory. But this is what happened according to the writer: “The Lord was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive out the people from the plains…”; and “Manasseh [one of the tribes or groups of people] did not drive out the people of Beth Shan…”; and “When Israel became strong, they pressed the Canaanites into forced labor but never drove them out completely.” It is one thing to have your craft broken up on the Great Barrier Reef and quite another thing to give up when victory is in your grasp.
Many years after the children of Israel went into the promised land, some New Testament believers were considering giving up. The pressure was too great. The antagonism was too sharp; thus, the writer of the book of Hebrews encouraged struggling believers to get their eyes on the Lord–not circumstances; not on the Great Barrier Reefs of life–but to look to Jesus as the author and finisher and the One who completes our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
In the tenth chapter, five times the writer of Hebrews uses the phrase, Let us. He says, “Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart”; “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess”; “Let us consider how to spur one another on toward love and good deeds”; and “Let us not give up meeting together, but let us encourage one another.” Notice those two phrases which stand as sentinels against the tides: “Let us not give up…” and “let us encourage one another.”
Maybe you have come a long, long way in your Christian walk, but you are discouraged and you feel like giving up. Hang in there. There is help coming. Peter Bird did make it to Australia, but he had to have the assistance of the Australian Navy, and to reach your destination on Heaven’s shore may require that you let someone else give you a hand. It’s all part of refusing to be destroyed on the Great Barrier Reefs of life. Think about it. As Scripture says, “Let us not give up…. Let us encourage one another.”
Resource reading: Hebrews 12
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was orignally entitled, “THE GREAT BARRIER REEF”