Hebrews 12:1–8, 12–16, 28–29comment (0)
November 16, 2006
By Dale Younce
Related Scripture: Hebrews 12:1–8, 12–16, 28–29
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Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
Persevere Amid Difficulty
Hebrews 12:1–8, 12–16, 28–29
Athletes who excel in their sport, even the so-called “natural athletes,” illustrate the principle of persevering through difficulties to attain a goal. Christians who are known to be committed to the Lord and are maturing in their faith have persevered through difficulties to reach that status. They understand the importance of this principle, and they realize that they still have a long way to go to reach the standard of perseverance that Jesus set. Some Christians seem to think they can be “natural believers,” but since those two words are poles apart in meaning, such is impossible. Such people either do not live for Christ or they do so only as long as it is easy to do so. God wants us to persevere especially when living for Christ is difficult. This week’s lesson teaches the importance of living for Christ and persevering in all types of situations.
Show Endurance (1–3)
The Jewish believers who received the Epistle to the Hebrews were getting weary and discouraged. They were thinking of giving up and returning to Judaism. Even though none of the readers of this letter had yet suffered martyrdom, the writer encouraged them to keep on moving forward in their Christian lives, much like runners at a track meet. The life of maturing faith has been clearly attested by the Old Testament heroes listed in Chapter 11. These witnesses are not men and women in heaven watching us, as if they were spectators. These Old Testament believers are not witnessing what we are doing; they are giving witness to us that God can enable us to persevere through difficult times.
Like runners in a race, the readers were to get rid of everything in their lives that would hinder their progress toward spiritual maturity. They were also to get rid of the “sin that so easily entangles us.” Although the writer does not name a specific sin, he was probably referring to the sin of unbelief. It was unbelief that kept Israel, under Moses, out of the promised land, and it is unbelief that prevents us from entering our spiritual inheritance in Christ.
Just as a runner in a race fixes his eyes on the finish line, so we are to focus our eyes intently on Jesus, the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith. Jesus endured far more difficulties than we will and, therefore, is a proper example for us to follow. He fixed His attention on the “joy set before Him.” That joy included Jesus’ finishing His Father’s will, His resurrection, His exaltation and His bringing many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). This letter’s readers were prone to looking back and thus to going back; the writer encouraged them to follow Jesus’ example and to look ahead by faith. Because Jesus is both the Author and Finisher of our faith, trusting Him releases His power into our lives, making Him both our Example and our Enabler in perseverance.
Accept Discipline (4–8)
The writer reminded His readers that divine discipline is an evidence of divine love (Prov. 3:11–12). It is also an evidence of sonship. All genuine children of God receive His chastening. All who claim to be saved but who are not chastened by God are phonies — illegitimate children. When we recognize that difficulties may be God’s discipline, we will see them as opportunities for spiritual growth — that will help us endure.
Live Consistently (12–16)
The important thing is how God’s child responds to God’s chastening. He can despise it or he can faint under it; both of which are inadequate and wrong. The child of God should show reverence to his heavenly Father by submitting to God’s will. The resultant consistent Christian living assists him or her in persevering amid difficulties.
Serve Acceptably (28–29)
Since Jesus is returning to establish His Kingdom on earth, believers should live with gratitude and joy in the present, serving God with reverence and awe. This is also another characteristic of Christian perseverance.