The Life of Faith: The Race of Endurance
The marathon is growing in worldwide popularity year by year. World class athletes, who have given their life to the 26 mile 385 yard (42.195km) run are currently attempting to complete this distance in under 2 hours, and large-scale attempts have used wind-breaking pacemakers and a laser line to pace runners attempting this goal. Every detail, from the time of day, appropriate weather conditions, to the clothing of the athlete and undulation of the roadway was carefully measured and controlled to produce the best possible results. Every detail of our race as a believer is carefully controlled by the Father, from examples who have gone before, to the encouragement necessary to keep moving forward with renewed tempo toward the goal. We will examine the opening verses of Hebrews 12 which considers the life of faith as a race of endurance.
V1-4 – The Saviour’s Endurance an Example to Us
The main point of this section are the words near the end of v1, “Let us run.” The chapter first takes us back to the previous chapter, to the many examples of faith. Many believers have run our path before, from Abel onward. But if we are to run with endurance, there must be things laid aside. Like a runner racing in lightweight shoes and breathable, fitted clothing, we are to put aside anything that hinders if we are to run with endurance. Sin is also a great hindrancewhich cannot be ignored. The writer assumes that these things have been put aside – a norm for the Christian life – and reminds us that the route is in God’s control.
Though most believers mentioned in chapter 11 have faults and failures written about their lives in the OT, there is one perfect example to keep our eye upon. Our example in the race is the man Jesus, who is not only the author, captain or pioneer of our faith, but He is the Perfecter or finisher of our faith. He did this through enduring the cross and is now the exalted Lord at the right hand of the throne of God. He is the example awaiting us at the heavenly goal.
He is not only the example in the race, but also becomes the energy for the race. Where can we find energy in difficult times? In reflecting upon the Saviour and the cross. As we are reminded of what He endured, it shrinks our difficulties and gives us renewed hope that the One that endured Himself will carry us through.
But to what point? Even unto death, the ultimate sacrifice in the race. These Hebrews had their goods spoiled while striving against sin, but they still had their lives. A Christian won’t fear the outcome of death, but it’s possible to fear its process. Our Lord, the ultimate example of endurance, died having striven against and overcome sin, and died in a most cruel way. He has gone before, so we can follow on regardless of circumstances.
V5-11 – A Son’s Endurance through Discipline
The writer continues on the theme of endurance, but now considers the purposes of God in allowing difficulties to come into a believer’s life. First we must say that that chastening or disciplining referred to eight times in seven verses is not always a result of some disobedience or punishment. Instead it is a necessary part of a son’s life in growth, displaying more characteristics of the Father, and being prepared for future and further responsibility. Do not confuse the chastening of God towards sons with the government of God towards sin. The writer has presumed in v2 that sin has been laid aside.
V5-6 opens with an exhortation to sons while quoting from Proverbs 3:11-12. Difficulty and chastisement in an individual’s life can be an indication that one is both loved and received of the Father. What comfort to the heart of a suffering Christian!
But how do we deal with this chastening? Discipline demonstrates legitimate relationship. If God never dealt with us as sons, that would show that we are illegitimate. Every father disciplines those who are his, and if they are not his he has no right to deal with another’s child in this manner.
What’s more, if we give respect to our fathers who disciplined us in the past, should we not do likewise to “the Father of spirits and live?” There is a fact of disciplineoccurring from a father to a son. Yet, being a father, I know my discipline is not always perfect. But the purpose of discipline of the Father is always perfect and always profitable. The purpose of God’s discipline towards us is that “we might be partakers of His holiness.” What a glorious purpose and a comfort to know all that we are to endure has purpose!
V11 tells us of the results of discipline: the peaceable fruit of righteousness. Even though we may know all this in theory, it doesn’t make enduring discipline any easier in the moment. Yet as some have told me who have gone through deep waters, they wouldn’t want to go through the difficulty again but wouldn’t change the results it produced for anything in the world.
At certain points in a long distance race, renewed energy is required. The writer says in v12-13 that refreshing our minds with thoughts of the Son of God and His endurance, and the promised outcome of our chastening, will do three things. It cause our arms to pump a little harder - energizing our practices. It will strengthen our knees - enabling our progress. It will give us sure footing - exercising our practical righteousness. Be encouraged in the present difficulties you face. “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us… looking unto Jesus.”