Living as honorable finishers
As people instructed to "carry our crosses," we live a life of discovery. We are not sure what our capacity for suffering is, like we don't know how much weight a bridge can actually carry until a truck crashes through it. And we really don't want to have to find out how much we can take! But come what may, we know that God will always gives us a way out or a way through (1 Corinthians 10.13).
Suffering is the rhythm of Honor Season, the rhythm of Jesus's feet as he staggered under the cross beam on his way to execution. We dance to the other six rhythms in the annual SYNC cycle, but the Honor Rhythm is the one that keeps us going when we are too weak and worn out to dance.
We don't smile and dance as if the suffering doesn't hurt or doesn't matter. We shuffle or stagger, but we keep our heads held high. We do not go into shock when people attack us. Jesus told us to expect that. We do not curse our attackers any more than Jesus cursed his. We just keep going, relying on God to make it all work out in some way we can't see yet.
And why wouldn't he? It is his campaign to save the world from itself, and he can't let his campaign team members break down or burn out. Suffer, yes, but give up, no. That would disgrace the campaign, so God will prevent it at all costs.
In the meantime we know that every honorable move we make signals that Jesus is alive and his power is at work in us. Because of his resurrection power we are indestructible even if we are temporarily killed.
How do we move with the Honor Rhythm?
We say "Yes!" Our first step as we start moving with the Honor Rhythm is to look at Jesus carrying his cross and say, "Yes, that is my King! Yes, that man, beaten to a pulp by the establishment, that man, about to be unjustly nailed to a stake and hung up to die, that man is my King! Yes, that man really is the One God chose and sent to connect, heal, and bless the world, and he is still doing it right now! Yes, put me at the service of that King." "SYNC me!" is one way of saying "Yes."
We keep looking at the story of Jesus carrying his cross. This story shows us that God's Messiah would change the world not by crushing evil but by allowing evil to crush him! In God's strategy, evil is like a stiff rod that is being used to beat people into submission. The Messiah is not a bigger rod that smashes the first rod. The Messiah is a person who is built like a rock, and when the rod strikes that person, he is bruised but the rod is cracked beyond repair. It can never be used again like it was before.
We become honorable finishers, loyal to Jesus. When Jesus was arrested, every one of his twelve close followers disgraced themselves and ran off. Peter outdid the others by denying three times that he had ever met Jesus! But Peter became an honorable finisher, the leader of Jesus's followers, and a martyr several decades later. How was that possible? Peter was there when the Holy Spirit arrived on that circle of 120 followers of Jesus, and he became a changed man. Jesus's Spirit got into him, and the rest is history.
We don't expect smooth sailing as messengers of Jesus. If we expect everyone to honor us because we speak up for Jesus, for love, for healing, for blessing, for uniting the world, we have not spent enough time looking at Jesus carrying his cross. In spite of all the good he did, the authorities still saw Jesus as a threat that had to be stopped. There will always be plenty of people, including authorities, who will see us the same way as we carry on Jesus's campaign. They will use their powers of shame, law, or mob action to stop us.
Living as honorable finishers
As we realize what Jesus was talking about when he said we would have to "carry our cross," we start seeing ourselves in Christ as finishers, and we pray prayers like this:
If we are in Christ, the epitome of honorability, we also become honorable people. Some of those who used to insult us because of Jesus may even change their minds when they see how we handle the insults. They would understand it if we got angry and fought back, but if we carry our cross like Christ carried his, they notice, and some of them will be impressed with our courage.
When that happens, we give Christ all the credit. We know that we were no tougher than anyone else to start with, and we didn't build our endurance by working hard on it. We were no more likely to be loyal to the death than Peter was when he tried it in his own strength. But now that the Spirit of Christ has moved into us, we are finishers, and we will make it to the finish line because we are in Christ and he is in us.
That can work for anyone who invites Christ in. Ever since the game-changer when Jesus carried his cross and sent the Holy Spirit, all his followers have what it takes to rise above any opposition God allows to come to us. If we used to be shy or even if we never had the guts or discipline for anything hard, the change in us now is all the more obvious. It shows that the strength is not coming from our own toughness but from the living Christ inside us, changing us at the deepest levels of our personality where we can't change ourselves. Honorability is largely "guts." Carrying the cross was a very gutsy thing for Jesus to do.
As we ponder Jesus carrying his cross, going through agony to victory, we catch the Honor Rhythm, which links at least four basic ideas:
God is on a campaign to change the world, but not by force and not by simply teaching good things
Jesus is the spearhead of that campaign, especially when he carries his cross
Jesus is the ultimate "honorable finisher," accepting unimaginable rejection and brutality without wavering in his loyalty to the campaign
As campaign team members, we can finish honorably in spite of opposition because we are inspired by his example and empowered by his Spirit
As these ideas soak into us, we stay loyal to our assignment in life. Heaven's honorability seeps into us, and we live honorably.
Honor Season (October 6 - November 19, 2022) is the time to re-SYNC with the Honor Rhythm. Remember who we are. Remember how we got here. And act like it--grateful to Christ for carrying his cross and giving us his backbone of spiritual steel. We are loyal through anything, we rise above anything, and we point people to Jesus as the one who makes it all possible.
He is more than a heroic example of how to suffer honorably. He is an example of how things turn out in the end for those who accept the suffering God has for them as they work in his campaign to save the world. He died, and God brought his corpse back to life, never to die again. He lives to empower others by putting his Spirit into them.
The world says that power holders determine the course of world history. People like Jesus, who die as victims, have no effect on the world's future, except maybe a little influence by setting a kind example. But what actually determines the whole future of the world is who God brings back to life and installs as the resurrected king. We can finish honorably because we have a living connection with that king, Jesus the Messiah.
God, [name of person or group] is/are rejecting and shaming me because I'm tied to you and I talk about it. When they see how I react to them, help them respect me for it. Open their eyes so they can see they have been shaming what they should have been honoring. And even if they don't, help me to finish well.
King Jesus, living source of our spiritual strength,
thank you so much for showing us how to carry a
cross and empowering us to do it like you did.
Thank you for replacing our fatigue and fear with
your stamina. Please forgive and bless the people
who attack us for representing you and your campaign. They don't know what they are doing. They think they can stop the power of your love! Show them they can't, and let us be the evidence they need in order to realize you are alive.