Hebrews 12:1-13: Run with Perseverance!
September 22, 2019
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
In these famous words – worth studying and reflecting on over and over again – the author of Hebrews broadly is making two points. First, run with perseverance. Second, embrace discipline.
First, run with perseverance (verses 1-3). The author of Hebrews pictures the Christian life as a race. Imagine you are in a stadium and there is a great crowd of people cheering you on. That’s what the Christian life is like! All these heroes of faith from the past (which he talked about in chapter eleven’s “roll call of faith”) are now cheering you on — you, Christian! Moses is cheering you, Abraham is cheering you, so is David. Keep on going, don’t give up, you can do it, another mile, and then you’re there. Keep going! So, run with perseverance.
But not only do we have these heroes from the past cheering us on, we also have a very clear goal ahead of us to motivate us as well. Fix your eyes on that goal, the prize. And the prize is Jesus, knowing him, being with him, and all the joy that that brings forever. Jesus is our example in this regard too: he scorned the shame of the cross and set his eyes on the joy that was to come. Christian, you do the same! Throw off the sin that so easily entangles, ignore the opposition from sinful people, and do not grow weary or lose heart but keep on running with perseverance for the joy that is coming when you meet Jesus in glory!
But then, second, the author of Hebrews is here telling us also to embrace discipline (verses 4 to 13). The first readers of this letter no doubt felt they were having a pretty tough time. It was increasingly difficult to be a Christian. There was more opposition from the powers-that-be, from the state, from the politics, and persecution was at the doorstep. But – in a word to put steel in anyone’s spine – the author of Hebrews (with all the backdrop of those heroes of faith that he talked about in chapter 11 still fresh in their minds) says “you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” Cheer up, it could be worse!
But not only that, “endure hardship as discipline.” This is an important concept to understand in the Christian life. We sometimes think that difficult things that happen to us are our fault always. Or we think that if something difficult happens it must be because God is displeased with us, or he has forgotten us. But here the author of Hebrews is telling us that hardship is to be embraced as the loving discipline of our heavenly father. He uses our difficulties and our sorrows, our hardships and our sufferings, to shape us more into the character that he wants for us.
Of course, that does not make it easy! But it does mean it has a purpose. And, as one philosopher famously said, he who has a “why” can withstand any “what.” You have a purpose, a reason:
“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.”
Your hardship is a discipline that is training you:
“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.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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