Growing up I played competitive sports. While that edge has left me, I still have a drive to finish what I start. To do well at whatever is before me. The problem is, I no longer have the endurance I once did. The years have brought with them increasing responsibility and I’ve too often allowed it to excuse me from the race before it’s over.
I find myself tired and not willing to handle sin in my children in the firm yet patient way He calls me to.
I find myself overwhelmed and leaving the most important things fall to the side in favor of the most convenient.
I find myself rushing right past the little moments where He calls to my heart because there simply isn’t time to listen.
But He is calling me, us, higher.
Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. (verses 1, 2)
What are the little struggles that hinder your Christian walk? What sins do you find yourself most easily entangled in? Because that is what is being referred to here. Those tendencies toward evil (even when it seems only mildly bad to our carnal way of thinking) that chain us to the tempter. It would do us well to consider our natural propensities toward sin and seek the face of God for deliverance. That is the finishing of the race we read here. It’s tapping into the endurance, through Jesus Christ, to patiently trod the often wearisome path before us.
But did you catch that it said to lay aside every weight? That’s significant to me because it seems to indicate it’s possible there are things that aren’t sins but that hinder our walk. For me, in my own life, one example I can think of is oversleeping because it causes me to either rush or completely miss my reconnecting time with the Lord. Sleeping is not a sin, but continuing to sleep rather than meet with God is definitely a weight in the Christian experience.
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. That is a recipe and a promise. It’s the how-to we so often miss and then end up looking to ourselves to accomplish that which is before us. Isn’t that just like us? An independent, hard-headed humanity who sets out to do the things of God without the God who established the things? No wonder we’re all so tired!
Notice, also, the mention of the witnesses. This is likely a reference to both those who walked the narrow path before us and those about us now, who watch closely to see how we walk in the truth we profess. It’s an encouragement and a warning wrapped into one.
For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him; For who the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth. (verses 3-6)
Here we see an appeal to our weakness. Or, more accurately, an appeal to latch onto His strength. He endured to the death for us and yet we grow weary the instant we encounter resistance or trouble. If we were to look at our trials as loving chastisments, rather than feeling abandoned and confused, we’d garner the strength to bear up under them with greater courage. God uses every scourge satan throws our way as a tool to chisel us; no struggle, pain or heartache we encounter is too great to be used for our ultimate good.
If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. (verses 7-10)
In fact, in those verses we see confirmation that trials are indeed the chastisement of a loving Father. Without them, we’d not even have the assurance that we were His children. Because every true father trains His children to walk in truth and when they step off the path he must be faithful to not only allow them to experience the consequence of their action, but also to give them the help needed to get back on track.
The corrections of God are not condemnation. We must train ourselves to see our afflictions as merciful calls to the heart which need be both heeded and learned from.
Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievious: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. Wherefore lift up thy hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed. (verses 11-13)
I don’t know about you (though I have a hunch you’re not much different from me) but I don’t enjoy training through trials. I tend to feel God’s favor is upon me only when things are going well. As soon as the tide turns and things get shifty, I begin to feel as though maybe He doesn’t like me.
Let me interrupt myself to say that when I typed that last sentence, I was shocked. Because it just came flowing out and I realized it’s true. I all too often relate good things in my life with God’s love and bad things with His denial of love. As if, perhaps, He’s mad at me because I wasn’t good enough when the reality is I’m never good enough and it’s His great love and tender pity that causes Him to put forth the effort to save me from myself.
So instead of having hands which hang down (discouragement and an unwillingness to accept rebuke) we should look to Him for the healing of our weakened characters.
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. For ye know that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. (verses 14-17)
How often do we try to find God without noticing the people we’re knocking over in our pursuit? We forget that finding God, which is the pursuit of holiness, brings us face to face with the people He places in our path. We cannot live at peace with God while we are refusing to live at peace with people.
Because people are by and large the most common stumbling blocks in our journeys. They frustrate and infuriate, they cheat and defile, they hurt and betray. But the words lest any man fail of the grace of God has meaning easily overlooked. William Barclay has suggested that those words might also be translated failing to keep up with the grace of God which would indicate God’s grace is moving on, beyond old hurts, pains and betrayals. And that we’re being called to do the same.
Living with our hands firmly gripping the hurt of old wrongs is sprinkling fertilizer on those roots of bitterness. It is just as if we were to sit down in a garden of our own tightly clenched grudges, tending them carefully so they grow unfettered. Because the crop we tend then gets distributed to the people around us, to either nourish or poison them.
So many professing Christians as easily sell their birthright of redemption as did Esau his inheritance of blessing. We are bought by the world with so little price when Christ offered to purchase us with everything He had. Which is everything!
For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight,that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But ye are come unto mount sion and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an inumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. (verses 18-24)
Remember Sinai? And how the Israelites were terrified by the presence of God? They wished for His word to be spoken no more and by the time Moses came down from the mount they had already begun bowing down to a god of their own making. We’re being called up onto the Mount; invited to come before the majestic throne by means of the blood shed by our Mediator. But we’re being exhorted to faithfulness that we don’t lose courage and re-cast our allegiance with the god of this fallen world. Because while the Israelites approached Zion with trembling we are to come boldly, without reserve.
We must capture the promise of the inheritance held within these verses. We’re all heirs of God entitled, by His grace, to the blessings of the birthright reserved for the first-born.
See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven: Whose voice then shook the earth: but now he hath promised, saying, Yet once more I shake not the earth only, but also heaven. And this word, yet once more, signifieth the removing of those things that are shaken, as of things which cannot be shaken may remain. (verses 25-27)
Who among us doesn’t have a hard heart? Or ears deaf to His call when it doesn’t line up with our shortsighted will? There were consequences at Sinai and we should expect no less, perhaps more, even now. His voice shakes the earth and rattles our conscience. If we respond, we can walk in assurance that we will one day walk in the land that will never be shaken away.
Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear: For our God is a consuming fire. (verses 28, 29)
We’re called to grace, which He so freely imparts, so that we may not only serve Him, but serve Him well. Because He is a consuming fire and that which is not fit, having not prepared in this testing ground of earth, will not remain to further taint Heaven or the promise of the new earth.
Disclaimer: I feel like it’s important to point out, I am a Bible student and not a Bible scholar. These studies are a reflection of my own personal journey each morning through one chapter of Scripture. I open the Word only after praying for discernment but I also fully understand the Lord brings increasing light over time, as it is sought. Therefore, I recognize there is much I have not yet come to understand. I welcome Christlike discussion on any of my posts.