The Christian life is like a difficult obstacle race that makes us all want to throw in the towel from time to time. That is what the readers of this letter were finding, and here, the writer continues to urge them to endure to the end, by giving them an insight into the believers’ secret for guaranteed success!
LOOKING BACK (June 12, 2022 – Hebrews 11:30-40)
We saw three points from these verses:
- Faith Sometimes Seems Absurd Israel was commanded to march around Jericho and blow their trumpets for a whole week – once a day but seven times on the seventh day, with the Ark of God in their midst. This was something new and certainly might have looked foolish to the people shut in the very strongly fortified city. Even some of Israelites may have thought this plan was D.O.A as a way to conquer Jericho. Yet on the seventh day the trumpets were sounded and the people shouted as commanded, and the walls fell flat. In a similar way, the basic truths of our Gospel have always seemed like nonsense to unbelievers and sometimes we may be tempted to feel ashamed even as we are telling them to others. But faith will always triumph in the end.
And then the prostitute and liar, Rahab, believes that Israel will indeed conquer the land and takes action based on that conviction, as a result of which she and her family are saved. Again, Rahab doesn’t shine as someone whose life up to this point had been an upstanding example, but it is her heart and her faith that God is concerned with.
- Faith Produces Power for Victories. The writer changes gears and runs quickly through an array of other Old Testament characters, indicating what they were enabled to do through faith. Again, like Rahab, these people are deeply flawed – yet again it is their faith for which they are remembered in this list that God inspired to be written. As God’s children, we are more than a list of sins and offenses – we have faith in God and we are inwardly cleansed. All these people won victories for God through faith. God is able to intervene and give us the victory in Christ. But that doesn’t mean He always will, as the conclusion to the chapter shows
- Faith Gives Endurance to Suffer. When God chooses not to step in with wonderful victories, through the same faith He gives endurance to suffer. The fact that we suffer, then, means nothing about whether or not we have faith and how great it is. The writer lists horrendous atrocities that were visited on God’s children, who endured them through faith to gain a better resurrection. For the believer, it is win-win – if we are victorious, we win. If we die, we win!
None of the people listed in this chapter received the complete fulfillment of God’s promises to them. In fact, they still haven’t, and they won’t until all true believers down the ages are gathered in Christ on the last day. But they lived in the light of the promises. They saw Him Who is invisible and they pressed on toward the prize. Their reward, and ours, is sure if we persevere in faith to the end.
LOOKING FORWARD (Hebrews 12:1-4)
“So”, says the writer, “do you see how these people with soul-preserving faith lived, and what God did in them and through them?’’ They testify (they are witnesses) to us of the win-win of faith for God’s children.
There was a TV show years ago in the UK called “It’s a Knockout”. Teams competed against each other by trying to complete a series of ridiculous and pointless obstacles laid out in a course. Usually, success was made harder by grease that had been applied to slopes they had to climb, by opponents training high pressure water jets at them as they tried cross a narrow plank over a pool filled with disgusting stuff, by trying to move quickly through a tank of thick, sticky liquid, or by having to carry heavier and heavier loads with them as they hurried to get the best times and to win the race that had been set up for them.
Living the Christian life is a bit like that. It looks absurd sometimes. Our sins make us slip backwards when we want to press forward. They weigh us down spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and sometimes we wonder if it is worth it, and if we will ever get to that finish line. The writer knows this, and He sets before his readers (including us) the key to Biblical endurance – and it is this:
As we struggle to move forward, we need to look at the course quite closely, because if we do so, we will see that Someone has been around it ahead of us! That Person eliminated the worst results of the obstacles (the sins) that weigh us down and would surely prevent us ever completing the race – would kill us. In fact, He actually had to give up His life to achieve this. Now that He has been around the course and cleaned up the worst of it, we can complete it too. It’s not easy, but it is possible. More than possible – our completion is guaranteed if we do not abandon the race and cease to follow the One (Jesus) Who has gone before us. “How did He do it?” “Why did He do it?” are the questions we may ask ourselves. The writer tells us – He had His eyes fixed on the joy that was ahead of Him. What joy? Being reunited with His Father in glory, for sure, but also (and amazingly) being united with all those for whom He died – with those listed in Chapter 11 and with us if we press on – so that we might all complete the race.
We have unspeakable joy ahead of us if we complete the course. We will be with Him where He is. We will sit with Him on His throne. See what He endured for the joy that was set before Him! Can’t we endure whatever comes our way in this life if we keep our eyes on Him and remember that He understands because He suffered the same things (though to a much greater degree) that we do? Here is the guaranteed cure for weariness and faintheartedness – look to Him, consider Him and endure by the faith that He supplies!