This past week I’ve meditated a lot on striving for peace and holiness. I’ve added the next verse to the passage I’m drawn to memorize: “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” (Heb 12:14-15)

This chapter follows the reminder of the heroes of faith, and calls believers to prepare to walk in the steps God prepared for us (Eph 2:10). “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.” (Heb 12:1-2)

We are reminded to look to Him and what He chose to endure for us if we become weary (v 3) in doing good. We are admonished to consider any discipline and correction we receive from the Lord in gratitude (vv 5-10). He shows His love for us by disciplining us as sons and daughters, as even earthly fathers do. “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:11)

We are then reminded (as my earthly father said on many an occasion) to sit up straight and fly right (vv 12-13) and humble ourselves before the Lord so that we can do what His Word says to do. “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no ‘root of bitterness’ springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;” (Heb 12:14-15)

A few days ago I realized that I’ve allowed perceived hurts and injustices create a root of bitterness within me. I absolutely can’t strive for peace and holiness if I have a root of bitterness. It’s impossible to do both. 

Bitterness will defile a believer’s ability to run the race. The trouble bitterness causes leads us to come short of the grace of God, which keeps us from submitting to the call God has on our lives. He has given us unlimited grace so that we may be sanctified, and live our lives imitating Christ in faithful obedience to God. Bitterness keeps Christians from living their faith.

To cling to bitterness means we refuse to bow to Jesus as Lord and judge. In seeking retaliation, we mainly punish ourselves. By focusing on the offense we have endured, we are incapable of focusing on the race set before us because we aren’t “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith“.

A root of bitterness keeps our focus on ourselves and our embittered feelings instead of on our Lord and the needs others. “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'” (Matt 22:36-40)

Dear Lord, thank You for the reminder that it is to You that I bring anything that hinders me. Lord, choosing to allow myself to hold onto hurts has only hurt my walk with You. Lord, instead of choosing to replay actions and words, I lay them all down at Your feet.

For those who don’t believe in You, I ask that You send the Holy Spirit to convict them of their sin and need for You as their Lord and Savior. For those and ones who are Your children, I ask that You fill each one with the knowledge of Your will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that they will walk in a manner worthy of You. Please give them the desire to please You in all respects, bearing fruit for Your kingdom in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of You, Lord.

Dear Father, I ask that You strengthen them with Your power according to Your glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and perseverance in the path You have created for each one to walk in according to Your glorious might. And, Lord, in Your strength may each one be able to joyously give thanks to You for qualifying them to share in the inheritance of the saints of Light if they will only come to believe that You, Lord Jesus, are the Light, the Way and the Truth, and that no one can come to the Father except through You because You are the only Mediator.

Lord, I ask this also for myself because You know my thoughts and heart. Lord, I ask for the eyes to see others as You do with compassion because You know they are sheep without a shepherd. Thank You for giving me the wisdom to know the best way to clean my inner thoughts is to pray for these because I trust Your righteousness, and not my own. In Jesus’s name I pray, amen.