Chapter twelve begins with additional marching orders for the readers of Hebrews. Having recalled (back in chapter eleven) the faithfulness of the Jewish saints of old, the author now asks his readers to be inspired by that faithfulness in the way they live their lives going forward. Specifically, he exhorts them to persevere, resist sin, and accept God’s discipline in their lives:
To persevere is to persist in doing something in spite of the difficulty involved. Imagine you are running a marathon, an event that requires a ton of perseverance to complete. As you’re running you scan the crowd, and see Serena Williams, Jack Nicklaus, Usain Bolt, and dozens of other world-class athletes cheering you on. At the same time, imagine that Jesus Himself is standing at the finish line, waiting to embrace you and congratulate you for finishing the race. This is the picture painted by the author of Hebrews as he urges his readers to persevere. He makes it clear that hindrances, hostility, and sin are a normal part of the Christian life, which is why perseverance is a crucial quality to develop. It’s fun and encouraging to imagine the “cloud of witnesses” (Abraham, Moses, David, etc.) from Jewish history in the crowd cheering you on as you run.
To resist sin means you put effort into opposing the presence of sin in your life. The problem is, it’s easy for us to get tangled up in sin, because most of the time when we sin, we gain some kind of short-term satisfaction. That’s why we need to resist sin, because sin has power and there is effort needed to keep it at bay. The writer points to Jesus as the example in this, noting that Jesus shed His very blood on behalf of our sins. He then challenges his readers, saying, “in struggling against sin, you have not yet [like Jesus] resisted to the point of shedding your blood.” In this life sin will always be a struggle, which is why the instruction to resist sin is important.
To accept God’s discipline means that we yield to God when He uses circumstances or correction to train us to follow Him more closely. This is important because we have a tendency to believe that we must avoid any negative or uncomfortable experience. This passage says something very different.
Using the example of a loving human father, the writer shows us that properly exercised discipline, while never enjoyable, can be very fruitful in our lives. He argues that if we would respect a human father for loving their child enough to discipline them, how much more should we accept God’s discipline, since He is our Heavenly Father who desires to grow us in righteousness? As it says in Proverbs, “the Lord disciplines the one He loves.”
This sounds like a lot of work! Thankfully, by dying for our sins, Jesus has already done the most important work on our behalf. Unfortunately, while we’re still here on this earth, we’re bound to face our share of struggles, hindrances, and sinful habits. The writer of Hebrews finishes this section with some words of encouragement: “Therefore, strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead.”
For the joy that lay before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Old Testament Reference
- Proverbs 3:11-12
- 1 Corinthians 9:24-27
- 1 Timothy 4:6-16
- 1 Peter 4:12-16
- Do you get discouraged? Why? What is a cause of weariness in your life? Is there a truth to remember from this passage that could make a difference?
- What is the sin that easily entangles you? How much do you struggle to resist that sin? How do we depend on God while also putting forth the effort to resist sin in our lives?
- Have you ever been in a season where you felt like God was disciplining you? Did you see that as a good thing? Did it produce the fruit of righteousness in your life?
Make a list of people who have inspired you toward endurance in your faith in Jesus. Next to each of these names, write down something specific about that person that made an impression on you. Take a few minutes to pray for these friends, thanking God for their influence in your life. Consider ways you could have similar influence in the life of someone else.
[expand title=”Life Group Questions”]
- Take a few minutes to read aloud the Scripture from Hebrews 12:1-13. What truths about God can be understood from these passages? What observations can be made about people? What questions come to mind?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, how much uncertainty are you currently experiencing? What impact does that uncertainty have on your life? On your heart? On your relationships?
- Who are some faithful “saints” (past or present) who inspire you in your own faith?
- Have you experienced God’s discipline in your life? What were the circumstances? What was the result? How did you know God was at work in your life?
- What helps you to be able to fix your eyes on Jesus? What distracts you?