Never Quit

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

-          Chapter 11 was the Hall of Faith chapter and concluded by reminding us how so many saints overcame because of their faith. Even though the saints of old hadn’t experienced Christ Jesus, they still persevered. They had the foresight to know that God had an eternal plan and cared for them—even though that plan was far off (John 8:56).

-          If Hebrews 12 had a chapter title, it’d be “Never Quit!” I read something this week in Mere Christianity (C.S. Lewis) and it made me think differently about the challenges and struggles of life:

Very often what God first helps us towards is not the virtue itself [love, courage, peace of mind] but just this power of always trying again. For however important chastity (or courage, or truthfulness, or any other virtue) may be, this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still. It cures our illusions about ourselves and teaches us to depend on God.

-          I share this with you because it ties in directly to Hebrews 12. The author of Hebrews is about to spend considerable time encouraging us to endure. Stay in the running. Keep moving forward. Look to Jesus. The author is reminding us that “this process trains us in habits of the soul which are more important still.” Press on, friends. He’s teaching you resilience. Get up again and again and again…

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:

“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

-          Verse 3 reminds us that when we’re feeling down and out that we must “consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself.” Go back through the Gospels and consider what Christ endured. No matter what you’re experiencing right now—bankruptcy, failed relationships, abuse, depression, exhaustion, brokenness—Jesus bore more, and He bore it all. That’s why we’re told in verse 2 to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. He started and finished His race, and He’s calling you to do the same.

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? 10 For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. 11 Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

-          Discipline is hard to give, and hard to take (when done rightly). As we drift from the Word of God, the Father corrects us to bring us back into submission and obedience. God desires that we share in His holy character, and He corrects us so that we look more like Him.

-          As it talks about in verse 11, no discipline seems joyful at that time, but it yields “peaceable fruit of righteousness.” I have someone at my work who has known me for years and has spent many hours coaching and mentoring me. Recently, he also corrected me. It was hard to take—it always is. I go through a cycle of discouragement—because you feel like you’re never going to be ____________. Then, you’re mad. Sometimes at yourself, sometimes at others. You want to defend and reason out why you did what you did. And finally—if your heart is soft and willing to be corrected—you submit. In that moment of submission and surrender to correction, there is deep peace. There’s a reassurance knowing that you did what was in alignment with the character of God and that will produce righteous living in you. I know discipline is hard, friends, but it a form of love.

-          Because we know that God is love (1 John 4:8) and love conquers all (1 Corinthians 13), we can repeat to ourselves these next two verses in confidence: “Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.”

14 Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: 15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. 17 For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.

-          Verse 14 tells us to pursue peace and holiness with all people. That’s a tough truth to swallow, especially with the stirring division and sin in our nation. But, it’s clear in saying that without peace and without holiness, no one will see the Lord. Meaning, people can’t see Jesus if you’re not exhibiting His character—which ties back to the discipline lesson because we know God desires that we share in His holy character, and He corrects us so that we look more like Him. It’s all about Jesus, not us.

-          Let’s talk for a moment about Esau. In Genesis 25, Esau trades away God’s lifelong gift in order to satisfy his short-term appetite. That is the danger of sin: it has a short-term pleasure and a long-term consequence. Every. Single. Time. Jesus had the long-game in mind and that’s why He was able to endure so much more in His lifetime: He understood the eternal reward.

-          So often, I take my eyes off the long-game. I get tired of the fight. I feel overwhelmed or my schedule gets too congested. I can identify the pattern nearly every time: the morning quiet time wanes, I listen to music to let my mind drift, I become more weary and want to sleep, I lie in bed thinking about an easier, more adventurous life, and I fail to keep my eyes on Jesus. Not a healthy pattern. “Lord, help us to have faith! Help our unbelief. Help us to see the long-game and not quit. Thank you for your never-ending strength and love. You are so good to us.”

18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”)

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.

-          Let’s talk about this mountain business. The Law (think: Ten Commandments) was given on Mount Sinai and the Israelites were terrified of God’s holiness. Despite the fear, it did not promote holiness in the life of the Israelites. They were a rebellious people and in less than 40 days, they worshiped a golden calf. Nevertheless, God was faithful to His people.

-          Our relationship, because of Christ Jesus, is not modeled after Israel’s experience on Mount Sinai. We come to Mount Zion, the name of the hill upon which Jerusalem sits.

-          David Guzik makes several comparisons between Mount Sinai and Mount Zion, which are worthy for us to ponder:

-          Mount Sinai was marked by fear and terror; Mount Zion is a place of love and forgiveness.

-          Mount Sinai spoke of earthly things; Mount Zion speaks of heavenly things.

-          At Mount Sinai, only Moses was allowed to draw near to God; at Mount Zion, an innumerable company, a general assembly, is invited to draw near.

-          Mount Sinai is all about Law; Mount Zion is all about grace.  

25 See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, 26 whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” 27 Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain.

28 Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. 29 For our God is a consuming fire.

-          “See that you do not refuse Him who speaks.” Earlier, we talked about discipline and I shared an experience I recently had. God will use others to speak to you. It’s important, though, to not let just anyone “speak” into your life. There are two questions you can ask yourself to discern whether it is from God:

-          “Does this correction/truth align with the Word of God?”

§  We must always test and see if what is being said is confirmed through God’s Truth. Go do some digging!

-          “Does this individual have the authority to speak into my life?”

§  Be cautious of people who randomly walk up to you or leave you a comment proclaiming a word of correction or direction in your life. Think back to the prophets in the Old Testament—God had established men to speak His truth. They had credibility, loved God, and displayed His likeness. If you’re unsure of whether someone is legit, go back to question #1 or ask a godly guardrail in your life to explore what was said with you.

-          God is a mover and a shaker. He is busy about His Kingdom work, awakening the people in the last days. As Warren Wiersbe asks, “What shall we do as we live in a shaking world?” Think back to what we’ve already learned in this chapter: Don’t quit. Accept discipline. Receive grace. Stay focused.

-          While I was writing this study, my 6-year-old, Liam, came in to check on me. He wanted to write something about Jesus, so I told him he could practice writing his own Bible study. This is what he wrote (I left the extra spaces in there to maintain his curly-headed flair) and I believe they are simple and powerful truths to anchor ourselves to as we fix our eyes on Him.

-          Jesus “is  lovable   and   faithful   and      peaceful.” Amen.