22nd December 2022
Read (Hebrews 12v1-17)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
Have you ever heard the phrase "life is a marathon not a sprint"? It means that we not to burn ourselves out too soon because a long road is in front of us. The Christian life is a marathon not a sprint and we run that marathon with endurance. No one wants to run any race loaded down with baggage and so as we run the race we are take off the weight of sin (v1). The Christian is justified yet sinful but as we trust the promises of God like the cloud of witnesses in chapter 11 we are to press on knowing that we stand forgiven by faith in Christ.
I have never run an actual marathon but I'm told that there comes a moment when you "hit the wall". Apparently in such a moment you feel like you can't continue and many athletes give up and stop. The Christian often knows what it is to "hit the wall" in our walk with the Lord but when we do we are to look to Jesus (v2). He is the one who has both founded and perfected our faith (v2). This means that salvation depends on Christ. He laid the foundations of our faith by His obedient life and sacrificial death. He moved from death to life and is alive forevermore at the right hand of God (v2b). By His death He finished or perfected His work and by faith in Christ, He makes perfect all who draw near.
Therefore as we run the Christian race we are to constantly keep Christ in sight. Jesus faced incessant hostility during His earthly ministry and we shouldn't be surprised when we face the same (v3). Yet when we do meet opposition we are not to grow weary or fainthearted (v3b). Christ didn't give up and we shouldn't either. Where do our difficulties come from? Sometimes from those who oppose the Gospel but more often than not our biggest opponent is the person we see every morning in the mirror.
Thus far our difficulties have not resulting in our blood being shed or our lives being taken and so until that day we are to enter into a struggle with indwelling sin (v4). My brothers and sisters, we are not perfect people and our motives, attitudes and actions are all tainted by sin. We must war against sin. We must make a daily practice of repentance. We must seek the Lord as He ministers to us by the ordinary means of grace.
Regardless of opposition from outside or inside, the Lord uses difficulty to discipline us and grow us up in the faith. Discipline sounds like a dirty word and surely a loving God and discipline don't go together? But they certainly do. The Lord has received us as children and like any good parent the Lord brings discipline to us because He loves us. The Apostle underlines his point by quoting from Proverbs 3v11-12 “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
And so we can say with confidence that the Christian will often know difficulties but we can be equally confident that the Lord uses all things for our good. If we know His discipline then it assures us that we are His children (v7). Those who do not know this discipline are not legitimate children of the King (v8). Therefore we are to receive the Lord's discipline with joy. We received discipline from our parents and respected them, so we should accept the discipline of the Lord with even more maturity (v9). The Lord works in this way to sanctify us and while we know that discipline is painful - God is working in us to produce the fruit of righteousness and holiness (v10-11). He is preparing us for heaven.
Brothers and sisters, you may be aware of the heavy hand of God's discipline and perhaps you believe that you can go no further. But please hear me...lift your eyes to Christ and consider Him. Lift your hands and strengthen your knees (v12). May the Lord straighten the path before you and heal your sore aching joints (v13). Respond to opposition and discipline by making peace with those around you (v14). Strive and hunger for holiness without which you will not see the Lord (v14b). Dig out any "root of bitterness" in your heart for this only causes trouble to you and to others (v15). Learn the lesson from individuals like Esau who followed his sinful desires and later found no opportunity to repent (v16-17).
The Christian life is certainly a marathon and it will inevitably hurt, sting and wound. But dear brothers and sisters, press on. The Lord who has begun the work in you will continue and finish it and when the marathon is over we will discover that Christ Himself will carry us across the finish line.
Q30 How doth the Spirit apply to us the redemption purchased by Christ? The Spirit applieth to us the redemption purchased by Christ, by working faith in us, and thereby uniting us to Christ in our effectual calling.