Scripture: Hebrews 12: 1-14 (NIV)

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, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.  Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.  “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

To start off the season of Lent, we see words about discipline and hardship. When we first think of these words, “pleasant” is not what comes to mind. Verse 11 refers to that explicitly, saying “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful.” Yet without discipline, without the shaping that comes with that, we turn into unstructured, unfocused, generally unpleasant people.

We see this in the relationship of Obi-Wan and Anakin, most notably in Attack of the Clones. As Anakin’s teacher, Obi-Wan tries to instill in him the discipline of the Jedi Order. He knows that, while difficult to attain, following the Jedi code and becoming stronger in the Force will be worth the temporary suffering that Anakin is going through. Anakin, of course, does not understand that and never fully embraces these teachings. Instead of becoming one of the greatest Jedi ever, his lack of discipline, his indulgence of self and what he, in his limited worldview, deems important leads him directly down the path to the Dark Side.

There are always periods of desert and dark times in our lives. How we deal with them, if we lean on God’s understanding and try to use them to produce the “harvest of righteousness” or if we lash out and try to ease that suffering in other, less productive ways, will show which path we are destined to spend our days.

We also don’t have to figure it out on our own. Verse 1 talks about “a great cloud of witnesses”. Anakin had Obi-Wan and Yoda, not to mention all the other Jedi Masters, to help him know what it meant to be a Jedi. While there were some lessons he had to figure out on his own, when he doubted, when he had questions, when he didn’t know what to do, he had people (or beings, I guess, since this is Star Wars!) to ask for advice. They had run the race before him and knew the course. While they couldn’t make his decisions for him, they could help him with what he was going through–if he would tell them.

We should make use of our cloud of witnesses. Knowing those that have persevered in the faith will, if nothing else, encourage and inspire us as we run our own course.