Looking Back and Looking Up

Hebrews 11 is an outline of Hebrew history, focusing on the enduring faith of their heroes.

Chapter 12 connects the awesome history of God’s servants to the behavior that followers of Jesus should exhibit.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us,

Looking to Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12.1-2).

These two verses should elicit four attitudes and actions from readers.

(1) Lay aside every weight. What does the author mean by “weight.” Here are some suggestions.

— Anxiety – Pervasive worry about an unknown future is the characteristic of anxiety.

Paul counsels us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4.6).

— The cares of this age. In the Parable of the Sower, Jesus described what “cares of this age” need to be set aside.

“As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of this age and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing” (Matthew 13.22).

(2) Lay aside every sin. Hebrews describes the effects of sin and why sin should not be part of a Christian’s behavior.

“Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. . . so that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3.12-13).

Sin is deceitful and stems from a heart of unbelief. The heroes of the faith are examples of people who have overcome the deceitfulness of sin that is birthed in unbelief.

(3) Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us.

This sentence summarizes the intent of the Letter to the Hebrews. The “great cloud of witnesses” was known for remaining faithful in the face of immense hardship.

A look back at the faithful and a look up to Jesus should inspire us to do the same.

(4) Look to Jesus. A follower of Jesus does just that. They follow Jesus’ attitudes, teachings, and actions.

Paul was right when he wrote, “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus . . . who, became obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross” (Philippians 2.5 and 9).

The Discipline of Suffering

God’s goal for his children is that we become like his Son Jesus Christ. There is no higher aspiration than that goal.

One of God’s ways of developing the character of his children is to allow us to suffer. There are some qualities than can only be produced through the crucible of suffering.

Suffering is a discipline that no one wants, but which produces a spiritual life that reflects God’s best for his children.

Hebrews writes about the discipline of suffering and persecution with these words.

Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls or lose heart.

In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.

And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as children—

“My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord
or lose heart when you are punished by him,

For the Lord disciplines those whom he loves
and chastises every child whom he accepts.” (Hebrews 12.3-6)

Suffering is the “holy ground” of life. With deep respect for those who suffer here are points to consider.

(1) Suffering comes to God’s beloved and accepted children.

We can run to the arms of our Heavenly Father when we experience pain, rejection, persecution, loss, and grief.

God loves us and we are part of his family. We have every right to come to him and expect to be comforted by him.

(2) Suffering may occur because we are engaged in a battle with demonic forces, our human failings, and the world’s system.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Luke records that Jesus “sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Luke 22.44).

If this is what Hebrews is referring to in verse 4, then we are to look to Jesus for inspiration. Our salvation was provided at the expense of Jesus’ agony.

As we look to him, we determine to struggle and suffer to overcome the temptation to sin.

(3) We are called to endure and persevere.

We look to Jesus “so that you may not grow weary in your souls or lose heart” (verse 3).

The look back in history and the look up to Jesus should encourage us to keep on keeping on being faithful to our Savior.

As we do so, God will work in us his greatest gift, a life like his Son Jesus.

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I talk about Hebrews on YouTube. I have been sick for a few days and making videos by myself.

You can see the video on the Bob Spradling channel.

I am indebted to Gareth Lee Cockerill’s commentary on Hebrews for the information contained in this blog.

Please email your prayer request to bsprad49@gmail.com. The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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