As we near the end of the letter to the Hebrews, the author is starting to bring all his points together to drive home his main point. Following Jesus in this world will always be marked by challenges and hardships, and we ought not to be surprised by that. If we expect it to be an easy path or only needing short bursts of energy, we will be quickly disillusioned. Instead, we ought to get geared up with our full running and hiking gear, fully expecting it to be a long and hard road ahead that will stretch our capacities for endurance and maturity. But what could possibly compel us to live in this way? It’s only by knowing and believing that our promised destination and reward will be utterly glorious and is fully assured (Hebrews 11:1, 6). God has promised that the glory will be beyond anything we could possibly imagine, and it will all be worth it.
Have you ever been tempted to give up on something that you had worked very hard for? What kept you motivated and how would you have encouraged your younger self to persevere?
read Hebrews 11:39-12:12
11:39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
12:1 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, 2 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. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,
“My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”
7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline— then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
Take a few moments to reflect on the Scripture. Share some insights, questions, or points that strike you. Then read what follows.
running the race with endurance and joy
If we know that there’s a long and hard road ahead, what must we do? We must prepare ourselves for that journey. We must get geared up, like any long-distance runner or hiker would do. We must also rid ourselves of (“throw off,” 12:1) everything that hinders or entangles or unnecessarily weighs us down on this long, hard trek. Our appraisal of the journey and the destination will determine the way we run the race of life.
Our greatest source of encouragement on this trying pilgrimage is Jesus himself. He’s the pioneer, who has not only walked the path of suffering before us, but through his suffering on our behalf has opened up a new country and a new future for us. In all our disappointments and heartaches and sufferings, we should turn our gaze on him. See what he’s done and how much he’s endured for you, especially on the cross. See how, having gone through such suffering which is beyond anything we’ll ever experience (12:3-4), he has entered into eternal glory and joy (12:3). If we look to him in all our sufferings, we will follow our pioneer into that same future.
As we patiently endure all the hardships we experience in life, we can also trust that it’s all an expression of God’s fatherly love toward us. Such trials are often God’s fatherly discipline, so that we might not be spoiled children but those who are well-trained into maturity and holiness. God means to make us into mature oaks with deep roots, who are not easily shaken or deterred from the path, who are not easily worn out or discouraged. It is only out of such fatherly discipline that we can emerge as those who have a deeply settled commitment to trust and follow Jesus through all that life brings.
- What is your instinctive response to God when hardships and sufferings come into your life? Do you get surprised, shocked, or even bitter? How does this passage correct and direct us?
- How have you experienced God’s fatherly discipline in your life? How did that grow you as a person? And how did that enlarge your understanding of who God is?
- If the life of faith before us is a long and hard journey, are there any hindrances or entanglements that you need to “throw off” (12:1)? How have these things weighed you down in your own life? What’s one practical change you can make in your life this week?
- Are any of you feeling discouraged or worn out in your faith journey? Share with the group and spend some time encouraging and praying for one another. If time allows, end the time by turning your gaze to Jesus in a song of worship.
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All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com. Th