“For consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up. In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or lose heart when you are reproved by him, for the Lord disciplines the one he loves and punishes every son he receives.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Have you heard the story of Nicholas Vujicic? He is an Australian man who was born with a rare genetic disorder called tetra-amelia syndrome. TAS results in children being born without arms or legs. While it would be totally understandable for someone like Nicholas to live an angry, bitter life, instead, driven by his faith in Christ and a calling to share the Gospel, he travels the globe as a popular motivational speaker, using his hard situation to encourage others to make the most out of their circumstances whatever they happen to be. There’s just something about people overcoming incredibly hard circumstances that can inspire us to persevere in our own. Let’s talk about what Jesus endured and how that can encourage us in our own efforts at faithfulness.
In the opening verses of chapter 12, the author of Hebrews, harkening back to chapter 11, calls his audience to push forward in the race toward the kingdom of God with the full knowledge that they are being cheered on by the saints who came before them, some of whose stories he spent the previous chapter retelling. As powerful as those stories are, though, he doesn’t stop there. He then tells them not to keep their eyes on those saints, but on Jesus Himself, who is our ultimate example.
Here, as he continues forward, he doubles down on the affirmation to look to Jesus. Specifically, and with his challenge to throw off the sin that so easily slows us down fully in mind, he tells us to look to Jesus for encouragement in our efforts to resist sin and to endure sinners. There is a subtle shift here from the internal sins that hamper our efforts to live out the righteousness of Christ by our pursuit of Him, and the sin of others around us intended halt our pursuit of the kingdom externally. Way back in chapter 4 he pointed us to Jesus as one who understands the internal battle. We talked about that here. Here, he is talking about Jesus as an encouragement because of His struggles against the sin of others. Jesus gave His life to the struggle against sin. If He was willing to do that in pursuit of the cause of righteousness, then that is our goal as well.
Let me share something with you that you already know, but you probably don’t think about nearly as often as you should. We live in a world broken by sin. Some of that brokenness will never affect us directly, but some of it will. Some of it will be aimed squarely at us, and while this may not be the conscious intent of the sinner in the moment, it is intended by our enemy to slow down and discourage our pursuit of the righteousness of Christ. There will be times when you set out to more consistently live out your gratitude for the gift of righteousness you have through your faith in Jesus in which it feels like everything that could go wrong along the way does. You will be tempted in those times to think you are on the wrong track or that God is messing with you or even that this whole pursuit of righteousness thing isn’t really worth your time. Jesus’ example declares rather definitively that it is.
The challenge here to readers is pretty on the nose. If Jesus could resist sin all the way to the point of shedding His blood (on the cross), then surely you can continue your resistance of sin regardless of the cost it brings you. Don’t get tired of fighting. Don’t give up. Lean into Him and you will find the strength to press forward.
The author goes beyond simply giving a motivational encouragement to look to Jesus, though, to offering us a way to completely reframe the hard circumstances we face in life. He points readers back to the wisdom of Solomon in Proverbs. When hard times come – and they will come – instead of bemoaning the struggles we are having, complaining to God about them (or anyone else for that matter), and contemplating quitting our pursuit of the kingdom, we should look at them in an entirely different light. Instead of mere hardships, let us consider them to be opportunities. They are opportunities from our heavenly Father to grow more into the faith and character He is calling us to have. He is giving us the chance to train ourselves to trust more fully in Him than in anything else around us. The challenges are signs not of God’s displeasure, but of His love and commitment to seeing us become fully who He created us to be. If this is the case, how can we not throw ourselves (with His help) even more fully into our kingdom pursuit?
This is good encouragement for today. Tomorrow, Lord willing, we’ll dig into this last part in even more detail. See you then.
2 thoughts on “Morning Musing: Hebrews 12:3-6”
The Chinese symbol for crisis has two characters. The second character of the crisis symbol is the Chinese character for opportunity.
There is indeed always opportunity in crisis. What that opportunity is and how we manage it is the question for us to consider. There is opportunity for growth, but always opportunity for sin. God calls us to the former, but we often settle for the latter because it’s easier.