Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.Hebrews 12:1-2
Where we’ve been
We are nearing the end of our study of Hebrews. If you want to check out the sermon series by our pastor, click here for the series, Look to Jesus. In chapters 5 – 10, the author of Hebrews pointed us to Jesus as the better Melchizedek, sacrifice, high priest – the new covenant is better! In presenting his arguments for how Jesus is better, he emphasized the need for us to persevere – to not turn back, to not lose hope, but to continue in our walk with the Lord!
Then the author reminded us of specific people in scripture, who, though flawed, were commended for their faith. The central exhortation in Hebrews is the need for enduring faith because without faith it is impossible to please God! And so just as they were commended for their faith, that great cloud are now witnesses to the faithfulness of God – commending HIS faithfulness to US!
The men and women of Hebrews 11 are the cloud that witnesses to us, “God can be trusted! Put your faith in His Word and keep running the race!” When you read the Old Testament, your faith should grow, for the account shows what God did in and through people who dared to trust His promises. When you read the Gospels, you see the greatest example of endurance in Jesus Christ.Warren Wiersbe
What is perseverance
Our goal, then, is to run with perseverance! The author of Hebrews illustrates three essential elements to illuminate that goal.
First, as we read the story of redemption, our faith grows as we consider the work of God in ordinary people. Ron and I were talking about that today. God did not give us pictures of perfect humans through which He brought about His purposes. Instead, God gives us story after story of weak, doubting, even sinful men who do obey God in specific instances and because of those moments they are credited with righteousness.
It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength.Hebrews 11:32 – 34 NLT
Pay attention to the cloud that witnesses to us of God’s faithfulness!
As you study the lives of the ancients in scripture, allow your faith to grow!
Throw off distractions
Second, throw off the distractions and our pet sins – those sins that we are more prone to allow space in our lives. Distractions might be those things that capture our time and attention, even good things that draw us away from worship. It’s easy to get caught up in idolatry – everything from chasing income because we trust in our 401Ks more than God to confusing a political leader with our Savior.
What is an idol? It is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give. … A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods
In addition to idolatries, there is that sin, that one thing that needles you, that you find difficult to give up. Maybe it is a secret sin, a lascivious imagination, an addiction. Maybe you find yourself thinking because no one knows, and no one is getting hurt, that this pernicious sin isn’t important. But God knows. And interestingly, the Scripture teaches in several places that secret sin affects the whole community. Just re-read the story of the battle of Ai!
We must stop toying with sin, allowing the Spirit of God to reveal our error,
and repent! Repentance is the act of agreeing with God about our sin, and turning TO Him as we turn AWAY from the sin!
Fix our eyes on Jesus
The third and last element enabling us to run with perseverance is fixing our eyes on Jesus, the only hero in scripture! Sally Lloyd-Jones uses this tagline in her children’s Bible, “every story whispers His name!” The Bible has rules but is not a book of rules. The Bible has stories, characters who do great things, but they are not the central theme of the book! The overarching story of the Bible is not about the various characters, and certainly not about us … but about HIM and His work of redemption.
So we fix our eyes on Jesus. He is the founder, author, initiator, pioneer of our faith and He is the one who will bring it to completion!
We are called to imitate Christ!
We can only follow his lead if we are living, abiding in Him.
This is the point of the whole book. Endure, persevere, run, fight, be alert, be strengthened, don’t drift, don’t neglect, don’t be sluggish, don’t take your eternal security for granted. Fight the fight of faith on the basis of Christ’s spectacular death and resurrection. And show your faith the way the saints of Hebrews 11 did, not by coasting through life, but by counting reproach for Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt!John Piper
Running the race
I don’t like running. And I don’t really like the metaphor that life is a race. It reminds me of the culture of hurrying – go there, do this, busy, busy, busy. But when I get to this passage, I don’t want my natural inclinations to get the best of me. Instead, I want to slow down, camp out here, get very still, so that I can absorb the truth – that race or not, I am called to a faith that endures even in the midst of trials. It’s not particularly hard to endure in the midst of joy, blessings, when all of life is dancing together nicely. It’s when in pain, poverty, broken relationships, doubt, fear that our faith is tested! Let my faith be found sure and steadfast – because the ONE in whom I believe is just that! Sure and Steadfast!
Past postings from Hebrews
PS – If you want to go back through my notes on the Hebrews series – here are the links:
- Better than Melchizedek
- A Better Covenant 1
- A Better Covenant 2
- The Imperfect System
- A Better Sacrifice
- Mediator of a New Covenant
- Once for All
- Shadow vs Reality
- Perfect Forever
- Draw Near
- A Fearful Expectation
- Remember the Early Days
- Enduring Faith #1
- Enduring Faith #2
- Enduring Faith #3
If you are interested in this sermon series, check out our church website, click here, series, “Look to Jesus.”