By Chuck Williams
Pastor, First Baptist Church, Covington
Focal Passage: Hebrews 12:1-7
I have never been much of a runner. Everyone seems to talk about the benefits of “doing their cardios.” The main benefit I derive from “cardios” is wanting to take a nap. Maybe my suffering index isn’t too high. Hopefully it’s better in the spiritual world.
The writer of Hebrews talks extensively in the last part of Hebrews 11 and into Hebrews 12 about endurance and suffering. As he compares the Christian life to a race, several things are brought out.
(1) Focus on the finish (vv. 1-3). There are those winners who are the crowd of witnesses who are cheering us on saying, “Don’t quit.” Some people are prone to give up quickly while others are willing to grit and grind their way through difficulties. The Bible is full of role models who endured when all was against them.
The runner makes it faster to the finish if he removes encumbrances or weights. The greatest weight for Christ is the burden of unbelief. Holding on to sins and unbelief will only bring us down to spiritual and emotional exhaustion.
The focus of the finish is to be Jesus. We are to keep our eyes on Him. There is no sacrifice we are called on to make that compares to what Jesus has done for us. His example is the great motivation.
As I write this lesson the nation is in turmoil about the Ebola virus. Will there be an epidemic on our soil? Yet while many are becoming fearful there are brave health care professionals who are seeking to go to dangerous spots in Africa to help the dying victims. Many come through Christian organizations. What motivates them? Their eyes are fixed on Jesus.
(2) Determine not to quit (vv. 4-7). As severe as your trials may be, have you suffered in a way that drew blood? The writer gives the image of a boxer. The determined boxer continues on despite the bruised cheek and bloody nose. Our Savior struggled against the enemy in the Garden of Gethsemane to the point that blood poured from His skin.
Verses 5-7 focus on three tough words; discipline, punishment, and suffering. All these are in the context of the father-son relationship. As harsh as they may seem they come from the father’s heart which is full of love.
When we are being disciplined it’s easy to think that God hates us rather than loves us. Actually He is “working out” those things that hinder and hurt. It would be considered the training any young person needed in order to develop maturity. Sadly many in the church today don’t want to grow up so they remain immature in their walk.
Punishment in verse 6 shows the sign that we are God’s children. Pampers may be a top selling diaper but it is not a characteristic of our Holy God. He loves us; but does not pamper us.
Suffering is one of the ways God uses to have us sweat out spiritual impurities. Some things never come to the surface for us to see with our spiritual eyes unless we are suffering. It is at this point that the marathon runner hits the wall and has a decision to make. Will I keep on going or will I just pull over and quit? The roadside is full of American Christians who say, “I don’t like this suffering. God’s not being fair to me.” The mark of a Christian who has suffered and not given up is found in Colossians 1:11. They have endurance, patience and joy and they continually give thanks to the Father.
If those who claim to be saved never have punishment then the writer concludes that they must not be the real deal. They have to be illegitimate children.
— Williams is pastor of First Baptist Church, Covington.