“What’s the point?” “Is this worth the effort?” We have all heard such comments and perhaps even asked such questions in certain situations.
When such thoughts reveal a floundering faith in Christ a physician’s care may be required. Just as athletes might need some athletic tape or analgesic spay to press on, Hebrews offers remedies for going the distance in moments of doubt and discouragement.
Space does not permit outlining all of Hebrews’ remedies. However, if we are open to assistance, consider these two powerful prescriptions. The author reminds us to remember who our God is whom we serve.
For God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do” (Hebrews 6:10).
While the enemy might try to discourage us with thoughts that nobody cares about the effort we are putting forth to serve Christ, our God who examines our hearts remembers every time our love has spilled forth in service. Do we remember all of the phone calls, words of kindness and encouragement, visits to the sick, prayers offered, the hours spent in preparing for classes and teaching, anonymous financial gifts, etc. that we did five or ten years ago? We may have forgotten, but God has not.
And so when we consider today, we need to remember God will remember every time we love others and serve Christ. Accordingly with this thought in mind the author of Hebrews could write: “And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Hebrews 6:11-12).
However, what if our resolve is not suffering from feelings of ineffectiveness, but rather incapability to take another step forward. Perhaps the obstacle or mission just seems too great to tackle. Now what?
Hebrews calls us to envision our Christian lives as running a race within a giant stadium filled with God’s faithful people who have passed on (Hebrews 12:1). While we might derive some encouragement from imagining these heroes of faith as spectators cheering us onward, the author has a much more tangible and powerful idea in mind.
Rather than emphasizing that they are looking down, we are called to look up into the stands to consider their life testimony (Hebrews 11). Witnesses are those who testify (Acts 1:8; Luke 11:48). Their stories of faith in the midst of duress, trials and doubt proclaim – I overcame my obstacles by faith. You can too!
We can relate. Their examples are inspiring. No imagination is required to use this stadium resource. From scripture we know about their faithfulness in spite of seemingly insurmountable hurdles. We also know about our own heroes of faith who have passed on, whether they might have been related to us or not.
And just when we’ve become accustomed to using the stadium to encourage us further down the track, Hebrews takes this exercise to another level. Don’t just focus on what you can learn from the lives of these heroes of faith, step up to “fix your gaze upon Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith” (Hebrews 12:2).
That’s right, learn from Jesus. What did he do when he was running in the stadium and facing his darkest hour? He did not allow his impending suffering to encompass and smother his vision, rather he also looked upward and beyond. He looked forward to the joy that awaited him beyond the cross.
We are to learn from our pioneer and trail blazer who has shown us how to live with faith. “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (Hebrews 12:3-4).
For deceased heroes of faith, the final chapter of their lives under the sun has been written. They passed through the same types of difficulties and trials we experience. Yet, they were able to finish the race. We can too.
So, what will the story of our life proclaim?
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