Encouragement for Endurance Hebrews 12.1-2
“since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, …Jesus, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” Hebrews 12.1-2
-“through endurance” we are to run the race of faith
-Hupo = under; Meno = to remain >> To remain under
-not just passive acceptance but active persistence
-Philippians 3.14; Ephesians 6.10-11
Examples to Encourage Endurance
-Difficulties, obstacles, energy, discipline, diligence can discourage us in the race
-Hebrews 11, the martyrs who endured before us. You are part of a bigger picture than you own little race.
-Jesus, despised the shame and looked to the joy ahead.
The Cost of Enduring
-God demands great endurance but provides examples and encouragements and power to endure to the end
-What posters are on the wall of your mind?
Don’t Quit. God will give the hope and power to endure
Encouragement for Endurance Hebrews 12.1-4
Last week I introduced to you our theme verse for this year, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus”. I tried to show you that the emphasis in this verse is on endurance. The verse literally says, “through endurance let us run”. Run is a metaphor for the daily life of faith. Daily enduring faith is essential if the Christian is to obtain the promises of God. We must learn how to endure to the end in order to obtain the promises of God.
The book of Hebrews was written to encourage new Jewish converts to continue to pursue faith in Jesus Christ the Messiah, and not to give up. Persecution from outside and pressure from their own people were trying to turn these new converts back to Judaism and the sacrificial system, keeping the Law, elaborate cleansing rituals, special feasts and ceremonies, and so on. The writer of Hebrews first explains to them how Jesus is the fulfillment of past sacrifices, rituals, and prophecies; the long expected Messiah; the perfect sacrifice for sin; their great eternal high-priest; and the basis of the New Covenant through his blood. Jesus is the better sacrifice, the better priest, the source of a better covenant. Jesus is the better way and God’s final way. The writer gives them many examples of enduring faith from the Scriptures. With this teaching and these examples the author encourages these Jewish converts to continue daily in their faith in Jesus Christ so that they may inherit the promises of God.
I remember a conversation with Laura Bekkatla. She told me how their mission uses the book of Hebrews to teach new native Indian converts about their need to follow Jesus and not to fall back to their old native Indian traditions and teachings because Jesus is the better way, the fulfillment of all their past expectations and present needs.
For us today, the command to daily endurance is about not falling back into the thinking and attitudes and goals of the world from which God has delivered us. God has called us in Christ to be holy and loving and to follow God’s will, God’s truth, and God’s righteousness in a godless world. In this verse and in many other places in the NT we are commanded to endure. The NT uses words like press on, pursue, persevere, take hold of, pay attention and do not neglect, make your calling and election sure, run that you may obtain the prize, fight the good fight of faith, hold fast the confession of your hope. Through endurance we are to run the race.
I want to take a few minutes to explain the meaning of the Greek word we translate as endurance, perseverance, patience. The Greek word is hupomone. It is the compound of the prefix hupo which means under, and meno which means to remain. So this word literally means “to remain under”.
Picture in your mind the statue of Atlas holding up the world on his back and you have a picture of hupomone. The word means to remain standing under the burden.
But Hupomone is not just passive acceptance of our circumstances. It is not just standing under the burden but also active persistence in the face of trouble, opposition, and resistance. Endurance is to stand your ground and to refuse to be defeated. Endurance is walking into the wind and even though you are being pushed back and not making much progress you are remaining under the pressure and actively persisting to go forward. As we live in this world many pressures both outside of us and inside of us seek to push us down and push us back to what we once were, but endurance remains under the load and presses ahead to do the will of God and to be what God wants us to be.
You hear the language of endurance when Paul writes in Philippians 3.14, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. And you hear the language of endurance when Paul commands us in Ephesians 6.10-11, “Be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the Devil”.
The command “through endurance run the race” implies that we will encounter difficulties and obstacles in the life of faith. The idea of continually running until I make it to the finish line makes me feel like I am going to get exhausted before I make it to the end. If I read this verse with any understanding, I see that a willful, determined, conscious, all-out effort is required. Running the race requires discipline and diligence and energy. I feel tired and discouraged before I even begin “through endurance to run the race set before me”. So the writer tells us how to run so that we can have the willful endurance to make it to the end. If we try to run this race in our own strength and by our own plans we will soon become exhausted and fail, but if we run the race in God’s strength and in God’s way, we will endure to the end and gain the victor’s crown. The author tells us how through endurance we are to run the race.
The author begins by giving us two examples to encourage us to endure and run the race. First he gives us examples of those in Scripture who by faith endured by obeying God where He had placed them. Even though they did not have the full revelation of Jesus Christ, they knew God and wanted to please God, and were determined to follow God. With these examples the author wants to give us a greater vision of God’s calling on our life. The second example is Jesus enduring the cross.
1) The cloud of witnesses refers back to Hebrews 11 where the author has described the faith of many OT believers. Some had remarkable success in God’s plan for them. Others suffered mocking, flogging, chains, imprisonment, and even death. All endured in faith and pleased God.
The Greek word for witnesses is martus from which we get our word martyr. A martyr is one who is willing by word and life, and even by death to identify with Jesus and to lift Jesus up. So these OT saints stood with God and God’s purposes for His people no matter what the personal cost, and they were honored by God. Hebrews 11.16 says, “God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city”.
The author wants these Jewish converts to live in the great enduring faith of their forefathers who by faith endured and pleased God. They are not running alone, they are running with all those in the past who through endurance of faith received God’s reward. They are to see their endurance as a relay race where it is their turn to run the race, to keep the faith, to reach for the promises of God, and to complete their part of the race. They are not running alone and without purpose but as part of God’s great purpose and plan, and as part of the long-line of people of faith. They are to run with those who are willing by word and life, and even by death to give all of their lives to the Glory of God. They are to be motivated to endure by the example of those who have endured in the past, and by seeing themselves as participants in that long line of enduring saints that bring to perfection the purpose of God.
The second example given by the author is Jesus and his endurance of the cross. Jesus is our supreme example. It is easy for me to say, “Well Jesus was God and was always filled with the Holy Spirit, and was more than capable of enduring to the end, but I am not God and I am not always filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus is not a good example for me.”
I want to point out that is does not say here that Jesus enjoyed the cross but that he endured the cross. Jesus despised the shame of being made sin for us on the cross. Jesus felt the pain of the whip on his back and the thorns smashed on his head. Jesus felt the sting of the insults and the betrayal of Judas. Jesus felt the agony of hanging on the cross trying to catch his breath. But Jesus “remained under the weight” and obeyed God and won the prize. God does not ask you and me to enjoy the heavy circumstances He allows into our life, but He does expect you and me to endure and obey, and live in faith.
We are told that Jesus endured because of the joy that was set before him. We are to endure because of the promises God has made to us, because of the hope of eternal life that is guaranteed by the resurrection of Christ. The hope of eternal life is a powerful incentive to enduring the pain and trials God has allowed into our lives.
God expects you and I to endure a great deal for His Glory, far more than we might expect. We wimp out too easily because that is what our culture teaches us to do, but God wants us to endure a great deal in order to live by faith in this godless world. We will see in a future message that as we endure through the circumstances that God matures us and changes us to be like Christ.
Verses 3 and 4 exhort us to, “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”. God demands much endurance in our struggle against sin and a godless world that seeks to extinguish our faith. Endurance means exposing ourselves to attack and resisting those attacks without considering personal costs. As you look to the saints of the past, and to Jesus at the cross, and to the promises of God, you can endure and not grow weary or fainthearted. We are to be encouraged by the faithful endurance of believers recorded in Scripture and by Jesus who endured the cross. We are to consider ourselves as part of that ongoing group of martyrs, who witness that Jesus is both Lord and Savior, and who endure the consequences of the life of faith.
What kind of posters hang on the wall of your mind? If you walk into the room of a teenager you will find the walls covered with posters of their heroes, or of what they desire in life, or of what gives them a sense of identity and meaning. As we get older we replace wall posters with goals and dreams and ideals that we pursue. We demonstrate by the use of our time and resources, our energies and thoughts, what our highest goals and pursuits are. We may confess as our goals what others want to hear but it is how we use our money and time and action that truly show our goals. God calls us to make it our goal to live a life of faith in God that makes God supreme in all our decisions and dreams and hopes. God has called you to a life of faith that seeks to fulfill God’s purposes and brings Glory to God. We are not to use God as a strong helper to fulfill our dreams and our goals for life. God has a race that is set before us. That is God’s path, God’s way, God’s will, and we must follow that path with endurance, perseverance, and determined willfulness. Only God knows the way that He has set before you, but no matter what that way may be, you are to run that path that God has set before you with endurance, running to the very end. You are to die running. You can endure much more than you think you can endure, so keep running.
I thank God that whenever I want to quit running the race that He always brings some encouragement, some incentive, some example, some new strength, some new vision, some new hope, some other person along, some verse from the Bible, to keep me running. If God has commanded us “through endurance to run the race that is set before us”, then God will make it possible at every moment to run with endurance the race that is set before us. Look to Him to run with endurance. God will give you the hope and the power to run the race to the end. Don’t quit.
Next week I want to study some of the things we are called to do ourselves in order to run with endurance.