As we turn to God’s word today we are faced with a very interesting passage that really is a source of great challenge for every Christian. In follows on from one of the most encouraging passages where we are reintroduced to many of the great saints of the Old Testament. Many of them we know so much about but there are others who we ask what did they do or where are they in the Old Testament.
Enoch, Noah, Abraham and David are well known but then you have Barak or Jephthah to also consider. There are still many more that are not named but we are told of the example of their faith. Then in Ch. 11:39-40; we read, “These were all commended for their faith yet none of them received what had been promised…………..” The message is that these people and we have something to look forward to there in the kingdom of glory.
So they and we who read this letter could be encouraged to feel quite comfortable and happy for the saints that have gone before us. But as we look at the passage we could be thinking that all of this is just too hard for God’s children. But God uses these words as teaching for us about what he expects of his children. We need to learn from the example of the saints who have gone before us in our journey of faith. We are surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses of faith filled lives.
Listen to Ch. 12:1-5; as God reminds us of the journey every believer is travelling along. “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin………………….” There are two parts to these words from God to help us in our daily faith walk. There are the preparatory things and then there is the need to refocus our vision.
Look out for the things that get in the way of our faith walk hindering our spiritual journey. Those things that include sin but can be as simple as having a wrong priority. Sin can get in the way as we try to hang on to things of our past often described as the things that easily entangle us. The key is that we are charged to not look backwards but to look forward, where we are going, the prize that awaits every believer.
The challenge is to run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Just as in James 1:2-4; we read, “Consider it pure joy my brothers whenever you face trials on many kinds………………..” Now this might seem a bit rough for us to have to do but this is what God requires of his children. For in Eph. 1:11-12; we read, “In him we were also chosen having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out…………….”
It is a race that we are in and there is no doubt that it will be very difficult at times but we should never despair. The only way to run the race is to run with our eyes and heart fixed on Jesus. Sure we have the great cloud of witnesses but there is a much greater witness in the person of Jesus. Look at the example of his perseverance in the face of trials and opposition from sinful men.
Yet he did it for us, for sinners to bring us close to God through his death and life. The cross lay solidly before him who was without sin but it was not grief that encompassed him. It was joy in all of the suffering because he had so much to look forward to. His joy lay in fulfilling his work as Saviour of the world. The great joy of being there with his Father there in the kingdom of glory. In simple terms he saw the finish line and all that was promised of far greater worth than anything in this world.
So in the daily struggle that we go through the call from God is not to lose heart. In other words do not give up but rather look forward to all that God has promised every one of his children. You are not alone and if it helps others have been through the same struggles and came out the other side. Remember that the race we are all in is not a sprint but a marathon. Remember that the plan God has for your life will come to fulfilment in his good timing. So do not give up but rather keep focused upon your saviour Jesus and you will overcome. This is what marks Christians apart from the rest of the people in this world.
Non- Christians have nothing upon which to build their lives. They have no one to fix their eyes upon because all the things they chase after will fade away, rust or spoil being no help whatsoever. They, who have no faith, have no hope. They do not struggle with sin but rather give in to it and continue in their rebellion against God. For believers the challenge is not to get caught up in their foolishness and sin.
Life is a struggle against sin but it is all that hard. Look at the very subtle words of God in v. 4; “In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” It is reassuring that Jesus knows all about our struggles but looking at his life we might have suffered more as it says, ‘you have not shed your blood.” Yet this is what Jesus has already done for those who belong to him.
There are wonderful words of encouragement for every believer because Jesus knows what we are going through. He prepares us for our trials and will help us through because he provides a way out so that we can stand up under it. But if all this sounds much too hard then look deeper into the passage at v.7; “endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons………..”
This is all part of the encouragement for all of God’s children. Discipline from God that is not used as punishment but rather is used as leaning. There in v.10-11; we also read, “Our father’ disciplined us for a little while as they though best but God disciplines us…………………..” We learn so much more about our Heavenly Father because he loves us.
There is clearly method is all that God is doing through this strong teaching about all that he requires of his children. The goal of God disciplining in love is that we learn and let him have control of our lives. It is for our good and makes us holy as he is holy. Righteousness and peace are the gifts of grace evident in our lives. It will be tough but we have a God who loves us and seeks his way in our lives.
Look at the example of the saints who have gone before us. But in all of the struggles and challenges in our lives fix your eyes upon Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Look forward with joy to all promised by our heavenly father.
There will be hardships and struggles. Our faith will be tested so often but we can stand firm. It might all seem too much but there is hope. Learn from everything God does in your life looking forward because God has planned something better for every one of his children.
Let us pray…………………….Amen.