Faith’s Call to Endurance Hebrews 12:1-17
Last week we looked at the great faith chapter in Hebrews. From this chapter the author of Hebrews looks at all the heroes of faith giving us example after example people who put their trust in God and gained approval.
The preacher reminds us to follow the example of this great cloud of witnesses those who walked in faith. He starts off by reminding us of those who by faith obtained the reward while they were still alive and then continued by telling of those who in spite of not seeing the reward in their life still walked in faith.
This leads us to chapter 12 verses 1 to 17 where the preacher encourages us to walk in faith and endurance. The theme of these verses is endurance as we look back at this cloud of witnesses we see they walked in faith for their whole lives.
Some lives were long some were short, but once they started in faith they continued to the very end of their lives. This is what the preacher expects us to do. We are to continue in faith to the very end.
Remember the city they called home was invisible in the future the architect and Builder is the Lord Himself.
12 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
Notice the analogy of a race this is no mere sprint but a marathon. This is why he's spent so much time telling us of those who walked in faith lived their whole lives looking forward to that reward which comes not in the Here and Now but in the future when they are with the Lord.
Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
24 Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. 25 Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. 26 Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; 27 but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.
In disciplining ourselves to run the race we are to do something very important.
We are to throw away everything which will encumber us. The preacher gets very specific about what it is that tangles us up and hinders us as we run.
What is it? It is sin. So we are to throw out some of our sins right?
Hebrews 12:1 makes it abundantly clear “let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us”.
Many a swimmer has gotten tangled up in the weeds only to be pulled under to drown. This is what satan wants to do to each and every one of us.
If there is something that is holding you back in your walk with Christ, or should I say pulling you under? You need to examine it and like David in Psalm 139:23-24 ask the Lord “23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24 And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.”
Hebrews 12:2 continues:
2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The first thing we see in these verses is faith’s focus. Where are we supposed to be looking? Jesus.
The word that is translated fixing our eyes means “to view with undivided attention by looking away from every other object; to regard fixedly and earnestly,”
Should we be looking at the scenery as we go along?
In answer to this question I want to read the story about the time Peter walked on the water. This is the time when Jesus sent the disciples ahead in the boat so He could stay behind and pray. While the boat was far from shore and being battered by the waves here comes Jesus walking on the water. After Jesus reassures the terrified disciples we read in Matthew 14:28-31.
28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
When did Peter start to sink? He started to sink when his eyes were not focused on Jesus. He was not paying attention to what he should.
We are to fix our eyes on Him because He is the author and perfecter of faith.
He is the example of the life lived in perfect faith.
Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.”
How do children learn from their parents? They watch and imitate.
Sometimes we wish they wouldn't because we can be such poor examples.
It is always safe to imitate Christ because He is the perfect example.
The second thing we see in these verses is Faith’s consideration.
In verse 3 we are told “3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
The word consider means to consider attentatively or think carefully.
When the author of Hebrews tells us to carefully consider ot to pay close attention to Jesus, he is telling us to imagine the pain and suffering He went through so we could have access to The Father.
This is not to make us feel guilty for causing Him such pain, but to remind us that if He suffered all that for us, we can trust Him to bring us through the most difficult situation.
When we carefully consider His mercy towards us we can come to only one conclusion.
Paul put it this way in Romans 8:28; “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
So here we see 3 things we must do to grow our faith.
I can imagine these believers this epistle was originally written to being somewhat shell shocked after so much persecution.
I can even sympathize with them as they must be thinking that question so aptly put in the famous charlie brown song: “Why is everybody always picking on me?”.
But the preacher continues by reminding them in verses 4-6:
4 You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin; 5 and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons,
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
Nor faint when you are reproved by Him;
6 For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines,
And He scourges every son whom He receives.”
Here the author of Hebrews is reminding us of Proverbs 3:11-12.
11 My son, do not reject the discipline of the Lord
Or loathe His reproof,
12 For whom the Lord loves He reproves,
Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.
This is where things get difficult. Nobody wants to think to hard about the Lord’s discipline. It may be a fact of life, but like religion and politics no one wants to talk about it in polite company.
I don’t think I have ever heard someone say Hey I had a great day today. I did something especially bad and God disciplined me for it.
But here we are being reminded that God’s discipline is proof that we are His children.
7 It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8 But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9 Furthermore, we had earthly fathers to discipline us, and we respected them; shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share His holiness. 11 All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.
Every time I read these verses I am forced to ask myself. Have I neglected my relationship with God? Am I hearing Him speak to me telling me that was wrong you need to throw that behavior out.
We are all sinners and we all must not grow complacent all wrapped up in His grace all the while ignoring His promptings.
Pretty soon His promptings will come less often and as we build calluses on our consciences we come to a point where we don’t seem to hear Him any more.
First John teaches us that our love for the brethren is proof to the world that we are christians.
Here we see that proof to ourselves within our own hearts that we are christians is God’s discipline.
12 Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, 13 and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.
Remember we are not an island to ourselves.
Hebrews 10:25 reminds us “not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”
In keeping with encouraging one another we should be working together as a body protecting the weaker members until they are strong enough to stand on their own.
I like the way the English Standard Version reads.
Hebrews 12:14 English Standard Version (ESV)
14 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
There are 2 primary goals we should strive for.
Peace with everyone, and holiness.
Romans 12:14-18 reminds us of the same thing. Here Paul tells us those things we should be doing in order to pursue peace with all men.
14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
We are also to strive for holiness. Here the preacher reminds us that without holiness no one will see the Lord.
In Hebrews 11:6 we saw that without faith it is impossible to please God. So we see that faith is the key to obtaining this holiness.
In Isaiah we are reminded that all our righteousness are as filthy rags. It is only His righteousness, His holiness that will satisfy. This holiness is gifted to us through faith.
Faith warns us to persevere that we do not to come short of God’s grace.
15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled; 16 that there be no immoral or godless person like Esau, who sold his own birthright for a single meal. 17 For you know that even afterwards, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought for it with tears.
The example of coming short of God’s grace is Esau. This warning is sobering to say the least. This passage harkens back to the old testament to remind us of the very same warning Jesus gave in Matthew 7:21-23.
21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
What frightens me most about this passage is that many people believe they will get to heaven but they are not. I’m not talking about the obvious cases like people who belong to a cult or do not believe in Jesus.
These are people that to all outward appearances walk the walk and talk the talk. Even though they go to church and think they believe they have not had that life changing personal encounter with Jesus.
The difference between Esau and Jacob was Esau did not value the blessing where Jacob valued it so much he was willing to lie, cheat, and steal to get it.
Of course these actions didn’t get him the blessing. It wasn’t until he wrestled with God and said I will not let you go until you bless me.
When God asked him his name he was forced to face the reality his name meant liar, cheat, supplanter.
God in His great mercy blessed Jacob and “He said, ‘Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed.’” Genesis 32:28
Why did Jacob prevail? Because he valued God’s blessing above all else.
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