It’s easy to start something. It’s easy to quit something. What is difficult is continuing something. For example, it is easy to start a diet. It is easy to quit a diet. What is difficult is continuing a diet. Here is another example, it is easy to join a gym. It is easy to quit a gym. What is difficult is continuing to go to the gym. When it comes to our Christian life, we are counseled in Hebrews 12:1 to “run with endurance the race that is set before us.” As we have learned in our last few sermons in Hebrews: Those who are truly born again endure to the end because they are preserved to the end. Genuine Christians who are born again and have the Spirit of God within them will endure as God preserves us through various means. What are some aspects of God’s endurance training? Let us discuss this further.
Accept God’s Discipline (12:3-11)
The first aspect of God’s endurance training is His loving discipline. We must remember that God loves us and wants us to honor Him in all things. Because God loves us, He is a firm believer in corrective, redemptive discipline. We should “not take the Lord’s discipline lightly or lose heart when you are reproved by Him” (Heb 12:5). Proverbs 3:11-12 says, “My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor detest His correction; for whom the Lord loves He corrects just as a father the son in whom he delights.” The Lord disciplines those whom He loves and His discipline “yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb 12:11).
How does God discipline His children? Like a loving parent, God disciplines us through: 1) conviction of sin – John 16:8, 2) kindness – Romans 2:4, and 3) trials – James 1:2-3. God’s discipline is never done in anger, always done in love and produces obedience and understanding, removes foolishness and helps us revere and worship Him. Christians need to be attentive to God’s voice and accept His correction as good for our souls.
Pursue Peace with All (12:12-17)
The second aspect of God’s endurance training is through our relationships. We must understand the importance of healthy and appropriate relationships. We have a relationship with God and we have a relationship with ourselves, but God knows that another key component of godliness is that it needs to be developed in relationships with one another. God puts us in relationships so that we learn to pursue peace and avoid bitterness and resentment. We are told to “pursue peace with everyone, and holiness–without it no one will see the Lord” (Heb 12:14). We are to live peaceably with everyone (Rom 12:18) and look after one another (Phil 2:4).
As we look to the needs of others, we are being trained in endurance. Jesus said “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Charles Dickens once said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” As we live at peace we fight against bitterness that leads to sin. One of the burdens placed upon the local church is to care for one another. Hebrews 12:15 says we must be “looking diligently lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled” (Heb 12:15). Christians need to be attentive to serving and loving those around us.
Remember the Destination (12:18-24)
The third aspect of God’s endurance training is to remind us of our promised destination. We must remember where God is taking us. Our destination is the new heavens and the new earth. When Moses and the Israelites came to Mt. Sinai they were prohibited from coming closer lest they die. Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling” (Deut 9:19, Heb 12:21). Everyone was terrified and afraid. In contrast to this scene, we:
have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 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, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel (Heb 12:22-24).
Christians are being trained to endure through remembering our eternal destination is with God. As we keep the end in mind and remember its certainty, we can endure in this life.
Hear the Heavenly Voice (12:25-29)
The fourth aspect of God’s endurance training is His encouraging voice. We must listen closely to the heavenly voice so that we may “serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear.” This is the fifth warning passage in Hebrews and it is a call for us to “not refuse Him who speaks” (Heb 12:25). We learned in Hebrews 5:11 that we must not become “dull of hearing.” If we refuse to hear God’s voice we shall not escape from Him “who is a consuming fire” (Heb 12:29).
The God who shook the earth will not only shake the earth but also heaven (Hag 2:6, Heb 12:26). This is terrifying and encouraging. It is terrifying for the unbeliever because when God shakes the heavens and the earth they will be damned. It is encouraging for the believer because we cling to Jesus who cannot be shaken. Therefore all that is unreliable and unstable (e.g., house built on sand – Matt 7:26) will be shaken and destroyed. The writer of Hebrews concludes with this: “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” (Heb 12:28).