Faith Empowers Endurance
Devotional Reading: James 5:7-11
Lesson Scripture: Hebrews 12:1-11
Lesson Aims: To explain the training necessary for faith’s journey (race), to understand discipline, and to deepen our commitment to finish the race.
Background: The author knew his audience well and had a high regard for the Old Testament. His aim was to encourage the converts to remain in the body of Christ instead of returning to Judaism. You see, their faith was based on the return of Christ. When that didn’t happen as quickly as they thought, some began to “fall away.” The author reached back to the familiar (11:3-31) to encourage them to keep the faith. Those Old Testament personalities’ faith grew stronger (through trials) in the Promise (Salvation). None of them lived to see it, but all of them remained faithful to God because He was faithful to them. He said it would happen; they grew to believe it! Like the author, they understood Jewish ritual and the significance of religious offices. Once they accepted Christ as their Savior, He was recognized as the Chief High Priest (only intercessor) and the Perfect Sacrifice (no more animals) for sin. Life for these converts had changed quite a bit from comfortable to mild persecution at the hands of the Romans and non converting Jews. See the background from the lesson 1 article.
Lesson: Hebrews becomes more personal at this point. The believers are cautioned that the faith journey is like a marathon race (long, exhausting) not a short, fast sprint. Unlike a physical race where preparation is done before the race, the believers are to prepare as they run. The implication here is more like “on the job” training. The great “cloud of witnesses” is not just spectators, but examples of growth for the faith runners. Faithful runners must prepare because the journey is a long one. Not only physical training is needed but the mind and spirit must also be trained. Anything that weighs down, obstructs and distracts must be laid aside. Studying God’s Word and prayer are mandatory. As an individual makes this faith journey, their attitudes, personal beliefs and stamina will be revealed and tested! Faithful runners have to respond. Like Jesus, believers must endure to the end in spite of discomforts. Their lives are for the glorification of God. The rejection, ostracism and suffering happens to strengthen, not weaken, the person. As faith grows, so does the ability to endure. Jesus only is the standard measure to be used, but the examples of others can surely undergird the believers along the way. If believers are convinced that this journey is easy, they delude themselves. The writer also tells them not to get weary because they haven’t experienced the “shedding of blood” (martyrdom). Discipline (upbringing, education, correction) are a natural part of growing up. God loves humanity so much that He also disciplines. This makes humanity better if they learn the lesson. If not, repetition will occur. Application: It’s God’s Way to grow our faith, which enables us to endure. Like children, we often misunderstand the purpose of discipline. Now that we have a better understanding, we appreciate those things that grew us into the people that we are today! Where would we be without discipline? God grows us the way He wants us to be. We have to accept His Way for our lives. He knows what’s best. As you make this journey, let your life glorify Him. Stay on the course.