Hebrews 12:1–15 comment (0)
August 28, 2008
By Jerry W. Batson
Related Scripture: Hebrews 12:1–15
Bible Studies for Life
Associate Professor of Divinity (Retired), Beeson Divinity School, Samford University
A Consistent Life
Most of us will admit readily that we are not as consistent in our devotion to Christ as we would like to be. Consistency means that our conduct does not contradict our confession. Consistency means that Christians are the same people at home as in church. It means that who we are on Sunday morning is the same as we were on Friday or Saturday night. Consistency equips us to ride out the difficult seasons of our lives with spiritual equilibrium. Becoming more consistent in our Christian lives is God’s will for us, but it requires determined and disciplined effort. Our focal passage gives us three practical steps to take in making this effort.
Remove Hindrances (1–4)
Hebrews 11 reminds us of Old Testament heroes of faith as the lead-in to the challenge in Chapter 12 for us to persevere in Christian living. The challenge uses the analogy of a race. Running a winning race demands laying aside anything that hinders maximum performance or deflects our focus from the finish line. The “cloud of witnesses” is not to be thought of as those looking on from heaven, but as those whose lives witness to the value of faith and thereby encourage us to run with endurance.
In keeping with the analogy, we must remove anything that hinders our consistency. Clearly sin of any sort is a hindrance. Things occupy our lives, however, that are not in themselves immoral or unethical, but they act as weights that hold us back from maximum Christian living. As an old adage puts it, “Sometimes the good becomes the enemy of the best.” In fact, at the end of the race, we may properly conclude that if some diversion or practice (“a weight”) slowed us down and kept us from our highest potential as Christians, then it should be labeled as “sin.”
Accept Discipline (5–11)
Those who first received and read the Book of Hebrews were experiencing severe difficulties because of being Christians in an ungodly world. They, like us, needed to understand that the difficulties, or at least some of them, were discipline from God. Not all of life’s difficulties are God’s direct discipline, but many do come to us as divine discipline. The first recipients of Hebrews needed also to know that the goal of divine discipline is holiness of life.
Furthermore understanding that the discipline itself was evidence that they belonged to God and that He loved them would encourage them.
Earthly fathers typically do not take on the task of disciplining other fathers’ children. By analogy, our passage teaches us God takes on the task of disciplining only His own children, not the children of the devil. If God disciplines us, then we know we belong to God.
Just as earthly fathers at their best do not take pleasure in doling out discipline or do it for their own benefit, so God, the perfect Father, disciplines us for our benefit. Parents want their children to be the best they can be. Such a goal often requires rebuke, punishment and correction. God loves us too much to let us settle for being His mediocre children.
We cooperate with our heavenly Father when we view our difficulties as opportunities for growth in holiness. We rise to new spiritual heights when we are able to thank God that He loves us enough to discipline us.
Put Faith into Action (12–15)
Knowing that God’s discipline is for a good and godly outcome, we are encouraged to take heart. Although the race gets demanding and often seems to be an endless marathon of difficulties, God’s Word encourages us to strengthen tired hands and weak knees. We are encouraged to keep on running in a straight path toward the finish line. At the end of the race, we will see the Lord.
Believers do not run the race alone. We are in the race together and thus have a responsibility to support and encourage one another. Being engaged in putting faith into action safeguards us against becoming bitter. Bitterness has a way of infecting those around us. Living for the sake of fellow believers helps produce consistency in our Christian living, as does diligent striving for spiritual health and holiness.