Jesus Taught Us to Endure

Steve Viars March 21, 2009 Hebrews 12:1-29

- have you ever felt like quitting?...when was the last time you felt that way?...

- what were the circumstances and why did you feel that way?...

- what were you wanting to occur that wasn’t, and how did you respond?...

- would you agree that one of the most challenging yet necessary attributes to develop is that of endurance?...being able to handle the challenges of life without giving up?...

- I’ve wondered about the kind of people who would hear those questions this morning…

1. Perhaps who’s deep in the semester and feels overwhelmed by all the work…especially if one of the professors seems unfair or the treatment you’re receiving appears harsh…

- the easy call would be to just walk away and forget about the papers and exams and projects…is that really the solution…to quit?....

2. Or the person who is struggling with a friendship that is not going well…

- it started off fine, most friendships do…

- but now you’ve hit some sort of snag and the other person seems unreasonable and you know it will take a lot of work to communicate and sort things out and you’re not sure you’re up to that…

- is it best to throw in the towel…and how many times have you done that before?...

3. Or a spouse who is becoming weary in the marriage…

- it would be nice if the other person would act like they cared…

- it would be easier if he/she would try to work on the relationship…

- but it’s hard and getting harder…maybe it’s time to quit…

4. the number of situations that could conceivably fit under that heading is practically endless…a person in a difficult job… a parent whose child is becoming more rebellious…an individual whose in-laws have turned against them…someone whose neighbors are just plan mean…can you relate this morning to the feeling of wanting to quit?...

- but then there is the clear call in the Word of God to develop…endurance…

- often with metaphors of a soldier, or a farmer, or an athlete…many times an athlete…

- everyone knows that no athlete could succeed without endurance…yet frequently that’s what Christians are compared to…with the admonition…don’t quit…learn to develop endurance…

- would that picture describe you this morning?...possessing (or at least developing) the endurance of an athlete?

- writer Art Carey described his experience of running in the Boston Marathon in the Philadelphia Enquirer…we’ll pick up the story mid-stride…

- By now, the rigors of having run nearly twenty miles are beginning to tell. My stride has shortened. My legs are tight. My breathing is shallow and fast. My joints are becoming raw and worn. My neck aches from all the jolts that have ricocheted up my spine. Half-dollar- size blisters sting the soles of my feet. I'm beginning to feel queasy and light-headed. I want to stop running. I have “hit the wall.”

- Now the real battle begins. Up the first of many long inclines I start to climb -- one-two, one-two, one-two, right-left, right-left, right-left. I keep watching my feet move, one after the other, hypnotized by the rhythm, the passage of the asphalt below . . . shoulder cramps, leaden legs, seething blisters, dry throat, empty stomach, stop -- keep moving -- must finish…A radio-listening spectator reports that the race is over. Six miles away, Bill Rodgers has won again. His ordeal is done; the most intense of my own is about to begin.

- “Heartbreak Hill”-- the last, the longest and the steepest, a half-mile struggle against gravity designed to finish off the faint and faltering. Hundreds of people stand along the hill watching… [urging] the walkers to jog, the joggers to run, the runners to speed on to Boston…Slowly, ever so slowly, the grade begins to level out…

- The last four miles are seemingly endless. Some runners, their eyes riveted catatonically to the ground, trudge alone in their bare feet, holding in their hands the shoes that have blistered and bloodied their feet. Others team up to help each other, limping along, arm-in-arm, like maimed and battle-weary soldiers returning from the front.

- Finally, the distinctive profile of the Prudential Building looms on the horizon. I begin to step up my pace. Faster, faster…smoother, smoother. Suppress the pain. Finish up strong. Careful -- not too fast. Don't cramp…

- I can see the yellow stripe 50 yards ahead. I run faster, pumping my arms, pushing off my toes, defying clutching leg cramps to mount a glorious, last-gasp kick…40 yards, 30 yards, 20 yards…cheers and clapping…l0yards…finish line…an explosion of euphoria…I am clocked in at two hours, 50 minutes and 49 seconds. My place: 1,176. I find the figures difficult to believe, but if they are accurate, then I have run the best marathon of my life.

- While times and places are important, and breaking a personal record is thrilling (especially as you grow older), the real joy of the Boston Marathon is just finishing…doing what you have set out to do.

-  the question this morning is, when you think about the challenges God has placed before you…how would you rate yourself on the matter of endurance…

- to help us in that endeavor, please open your Bible to Hebrews chapter 12 (page 176 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…)

- we’re coming down to the end of our verse-by-verse study of the book of Hebrews…we plan to land this plane next week, just before Palm Sunday…

- we’ve called this study, Finding Hope in Our Sufficient Savior…

- this book was written to a group of Jewish individuals who had formed a small church not more than 30-35 years after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ…

- and the challenge is that the newness and excitement that comes with trusting Christ is wearing off at the very time the pressures they’re facing for being followers of Jesus are on the rise…

- some of their family members have rejected them when they became Christians…

- and the persecution of the church by those in their community is increasing…

- so now there’s more of a price that has to be paid for identifying with Christ…that has a way of ferreting out who’s the real thing and who isn’t…

- the reason we believe this book was written about 67 AD is because throughout this book references are made to the existence of the Jewish temple…

- what the readers could not possibly have known is that in 70 AD, the temple would be destroyed…and Judaism as an organized religious system would be wiped out…

- and the persecution of the church would even become worse…

- it was crucial for these men and women to come to final conclusions regarding what they really thought about the superiority of Jesus Christ…

- for those who had not ever really become Christians…they needed to get across that threshold right away – that’s why we see the constant emphasis throughout this book on the word “today”…right away…

- and for those who were believers in Jesus…they needed to learn what it meant to draw near unto God…and develop the kind of church family where men and women would stimulate one another to love and good works…

- to develop lives of faith…similar to the great heroes described in chapter 11…

- but of course the natural tendency when the fire gets hotter, or things are not going our way…is to quit…

- endurance is a skill that is learned…

- that is the point of Hebrews 12 --- another reason that Jesus if superior, it’s because Jesus Taught Us to Endure

- read Hebrews 12:1-29…

- there’s obviously a lot of important truth in this text – let’s work through these verses to find 3 necessary components of finishing well.

I. A Superior Model of Endurance – vv. 1-4.

- one of the beauties of biblical Christianity is that you never have to be first…

- God always gives us models, or examples…

- That’s why verse 3 says…v. 3 – Consider Him who has endured…

- right along with the theme of this entire book…another way that Jesus Christ is superior is His example of endurance…

- now let’s back up and get a running start at what these verses are telling us…obviously what we’re reading is…

A. The call to finish well.

- and we’re given several reasons right off the bat to take this seriously…

1. Because of the cloud of witnesses.

- v. 1 - Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us…

- now, some people believe that this is teaching that there is a big stadium in heaven where men and women sit and watch the choices we make on earth…perhaps you’ve heard sermons like that before…

- I don’t believe that’s the point here at all…remember, in Bible study, it is always important to consider the context…the verses before and the verses after…

- I believe the witnesses in this verse are all the people discussed in the previous chapter…

- they are not witnesses of us…they are witnesses of God’s faithfulness…

- the point is – because they finished well, you can finish well…

- because they had endurance, so can you…

- and it doesn’t matter if you’re old, you can be like Abraham and Sarah

- it doesn’t matter if you have a checkered past, you can be like Rahab…

- it doesn’t matter if you’re being asked to endure for a long period of time…consider Noah…

- God has proven that He can take ordinary people and translate them into extraordinary models of endurance…and if He could do that with them He can do that with you…


- then what about the next part of this verse…the matter of laying aside one’s besetting sin…

- some have taught that every person has a particular sin that is hindering them from enduring, and you have to identify your particular sin and then put it off…

- you could make that case from other places in the Bible that we sin differently and so what one person really struggles with is different than the person next to them…but that’s not the point here…

- again, the context has all been about walking in faith, and developing endurance…

- the opposite of that is unbelief…and that’s the point here…

2. Because of the needless weight of unbelief.

- again, the picture is of running a race…

- and every runner knows that you have to shed as much unnecessary weight as possible if you want to endure…

- people don’t run marathons with backpacks…at least not successful ones…

- And what hinders many of us from possessing the level of endurance God desires is the unwillingness to take Him at His Word…that’s what faith is…

- and that sin of unbelief is like weights around a person’s waist, or perhaps even one’s neck…and it makes it practically impossible to endure…

3. Because of the nature of the race.

a. race – agon – (agony)

- this isn’t a quick sprint…

- it’s certainly not a leisurely stroll…it’s like a marathon…that’s why endurance is such a prevalent theme…

- and remember what else the Bible tells us about this metaphor…

b. wise people who enter a race do so in order to win.

- 1 Corinthians 9:24 - Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.

- too many Christians seem to be way too cavalier about whether they’ve truly entered the race…

- and others who are Christians seem to be way too contented to walk along at a leisurely pace…

- both problems were evident in the church that received this letter…

- and the Holy Spirit who inspired these words knew something about the future that these persons certainly did not…that their condition in just a few short years was about to get entirely worse…

- and they would only make it through if they had truly entered the race (namely trusted Christ as Savior and Lord…) and if they had put off the weight of unbelief and were running with all their might…

- that’s why we try to take things pretty seriously around here…

- and it’s not that we’re competing against other Christians or other churches…

- but we are certainly racing against our adversary the devil and the weaknesses of our own flesh…

- and we want to accomplish all we can as a church and all we can as individuals so we are committed to do whatever is necessary to develop endurance…

 

- so what’s one of the keys to doing this?...what’s emphasized next is…

B. The important issue of focus.

- anyone who’s been involved in running or even watching track events knows that one of the keys is what you do with your eyes…

-  if you’re watching your feet, or looking around at the position of the other runners or the people up in the stands, you’re done…you have to be singularly focused on the goal ahead…

- see, please think about some of the possible scenarios we mentioned in the introduction…

- if you’re in a situation right now where you’re tempted to throw in the towel…what are you looking at?...what are you focusing on?...where are your eyes?...

- are they here?...

1. Fixing our eyes on Jesus.

- why?...because He is…12:2 - fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith…

- he designed life to work this way (faith was His idea) and He stands ready to prefect it in you…you don’t have to “lose this weight of unbelief” yourself…

- now, how did Jesus do it?...

2. He endured the cross because of the pending joy.

- v. 2 - …who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…

- in a race it’s not about the present pain or difficulty, it’s about where you want to be at the finish line…

- Jesus could look beyond the pain and torture and shame and hostility at the hands of sinful men to the joy of finishing the race the Father had assigned to Him…

- isn’t that the exact terminology Jesus used when teaching us what it means to be a faithful steward?...

- what would motivate a person to faithfully invest whatever God had given them into meaningful ministry regardless of the pain and sacrifice involved?...the desire to hear these words at the finish line…

- Matthew 25:23 - His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.

3. This kind of focus makes it possible for you to “not grow weary and lose heart” (v. 3).

 

- now let me ask you this – is it possible that one of the reasons you struggle with endurance is because your eyes are focused on the wrong things?...(develop)…

- so the first component of finishing well is a superior model…

- now, to understand where these next verses fit in…what are the kinds of situations in which it is especially difficult to endure?...

- the answer is…though you might not use these exact words…when you are undergoing some sort of discipline…

- anyone can be happy on a holiday…but what trips up many people is that they lack…

 

II. A Clear Understanding of Discipline – vv. 5-11

- now, it is very important to note how this pastor is firmly but gently exhorting these men and women to whom he’s writing…and he talks about…

A. The importance of remembering and applying what you’ve been taught.

- Hebrews 12:5 - and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons…

- we’ve pointed out several times that the writer of this book does not mind repeating himself…he even challenged them about being “dull of hearing”…

- the Bible teaches very important principles about the way God disciplines His children…but there’s real “use it or lose it” character to all of this…

- if you are not skilled at thinking through these principles in real time, you’ll forget the truths when you especially need them…

1. What discipline is.

- we probably should insert a definition in here somewhere just to be sure we’re all on the same page…

- discipline – paideia – pais – “child” – “the training of a child”

- so the metaphor has changed from that of a race to that of a family…

- and the word discipline is used 8 times in nine verses…

- “whatever parents or teachers do to train, correct, cultivate, and educate children in order to help them develop and mature as they ought.”

- now, let me ask you this?...is discipline ever joyful when it is actually occurring?...this is…

2. Why we often forget.

- Hebrews 12:11 - All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful…

- and God is honest about that – but that’s the problem…the very point at which God is trying to mature us, and teach us, and develop us is also the very time that many of us are tempted to quit…and too often do quit…

- what we need is what these verses provide…a clearer understanding of discipline that we can quickly and easily remember if we choose to…that’s why he quotes from Proverbs 3…

B. Avoid two pitfalls when being disciplined.

1. To regard it lightly.

- v. 5 – My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord…

- and you might say – PV, aren’t you listening, that’s exactly what I don’t do…

- I regard it as terrible…as hopeless…that’s why I quit…

- what that fails to take into account is the “of the Lord” part…

- what we too often take lightly is what He is trying to do in and through us by allowing that trial to come our way…

- there is a direct relationship between building endurance and learning to recognize the sovereign hand of God…

2. Quitting too soon.

- v. 5 – nor faint when you are reproved by Him.

- now, please keep this in mind…if you are a Christian, you will never face God’s wrath…that was placed on Christ on the cross…

- that’s why we can say with confidence…

- Romans 8:1 - Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

- so in discipline, God is not a judge, but a Father…

- can I just pause and ask you at this point in the discussion – is it possible that one of the reasons you’re tempted to quit, or that you do quit…is because you fall into one of these two errors?...

- I can’t tell you how many times I’ve said to people on the phone – don’t quit…

- because often at the very point God wants to teach them a new lesson, or stretch them in some new way…at that very moment the person throws in the towel…and the “growth counter” resets to zero…

- now, if you say – but how can I change that?...

C. Remember what discipline proves.

- the text is very clear, isn’t it?...

1. His love.

- v. 6 – for whom the Lord loves He disciplines.

- and you might say, Oh, are you going to pull out that old saw about how a spanking hurts the parent more than it hurts the child?...

- every parent here knows that’s true…

- it’s true – an undisciplined child is an unloved child…

- church father Jerome – The greatest anger of all is when God is no longer angry with us.

- now, the passage is also very clear about what else discipline proves…

2. Our sonship.

- if you’re think correctly as a parent, if there is a group of children misbehaving including one of yours…the first child who is going to be “addressed” is your own…

- my parents never seemed particularly interested in the misbehaviors of all the other kids in the neighborhood but they certainly cared about mine…because I was their son…

- Proverbs 13:24 - He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently.

- and wise is the person who instead of fainting or quitting when we are being disciplined by God, recognizes the blessing of additional proof that He cares about enough to help us grow…

- A.W.Pink – “Remind yourself of how much dross there is yet among the gold and view the corruption of your own heart and marvel that God has not smitten you more severely.  Form the habit of heading His taps, and you will be less likely to receive His raps.”

 

- now, there’s one other aspect of this that rounds out our understanding of discipline…

D. Rejoice in the products of discipline.

1. Life.

- Hebrews 12:9 - …shall we not much rather be subject to the Father of spirits, and live?

- I realize you might say – but the discipline is going to kill me – actually the opposite is true, the discipline is intended to kill what is killing you…sinful habits that don’t please God and that harm your relationships and your witness…

- the more you properly respond to the discipline of God, the more abundant and productive your life will become…

2. Holiness.

- v. 10 – so that we might share his holiness.

- v. 11 - Hebrews 12:11 - All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.

- the relationship is clear, isn’t it – the more you value holiness, the more you welcome discipline.

- so, how do you finish well – we need a superior model (we certainly have that in the endurance of our Savior) and a clear understanding of discipline – that is available right here in this passage for everyone who wants it…now what’s left is…

III. A Determined Willingness to Act on What we Know – vv. 12-17.

A. Strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble.

- runners certainly recognize that part of the metaphor because when you’re tired while running, what often goes first are your hands and your knees…

- the principle here is – examine the areas of your heart and life where you’re tempted to quit and shore them up right away…

 

B. Make straight paths for your feet.

- look ahead and plan the ways you are going to continue to move forward…

- and please note the motivation…

- Hebrews 12:13 - …so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.

- some students of Scripture believe that’s speaking of those who have not yet trusted Christ…and your model of faithful endurance may be exactly what they need to see in order to be motivated to repent and believe…

 

C. Pursue peace with all men.

- Hebrews 12:14 - Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.

- many times the situations in which we are tempted to quit involve other people…

- it takes time and effort and endurance to communicate and solve problems…

- Don’t quit…

 

D. Beware of bitterness.

- Hebrews 12:15 - See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up causes trouble, and by it many be defiled

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video