Friday, December 14, 2018

PF Bulletin: Endure

April 9, 2015 by  
Filed under PF Bulletin

We often think of Hebrews as the book about how Jesus is better: Jesus is better than the angels, Jesus is better than Moses, Jesus is better than the Levitical high priests. A large portion of Hebrews is dedicated to the idea that Jesus is a more complete fulfillment of Old Testament figures. However, this is only one side of the book of Hebrews. The author spends time establishing the superiority of Jesus in order to inspire his audience to endure.

The book of Hebrews alternates between concepts and application. As the book progresses, the author spends more and more time on the application. By the time we reach chapter 10, the writer begins a final push toward his goal of encouraging his readers to endure. He reminds them of “the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings” (10:32). However well they endured in the “former days,” the readers now “have need of endurance” once again (10:36). The writer fills chapter 11 with examples of men and women who endured through faith, and begins chapter 12 with the exhortation, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (12:1b-3). Using the examples of the men of chapter 11 and the ultimate example of Jesus, we, like the original audience, are encouraged to endure.

The examples we have in Hebrews tell of men who endured temptation, shame, want, and physical abuse. But how do we achieve the endurance for which they are praised? We are told of Moses, who endured the temptation of riches and power because “he endured as seeing him who is invisible” (11:27). Put another way, Moses recognized that “the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:18). If we are to endure, we must maintain that eternal perspective. Second, we have to accept that endurance will cause pain. The Hebrew audience is rebuked for having “not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood” (12:4). We like the idea of endurance. Many people have begun new years with plans to incorporate distance running into their lifestyle; however, as soon as they realize that every road in Georgia is uphill and the weather in January is bitter, their commitment wanes. If we are to endure, we cannot shy away from pain. Instead, we must look past our pain to the reward, just as Jesus endured the shame of the cross by looking to “the joy that was set before him” (12:2). Sometimes our suffering may be physical abuse, like the Hebrew audience received. Sometimes it might be temptation. Sometimes our pain may be that which comes from recognizing our sins and weaknesses and confessing to one another. However, the third way we  become better at enduring depends on this sometimes painful interaction with each other. In Hebrews 12, the author quotes from a passage in Isaiah 35: “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not!’” If we are to endure the way God wants us to, we must keep our eyes on the unseen, not shy away from pain, and strengthen one another where we are weak.

The result of endurance is multifaceted. Hebrews tells us that we endure through discipline “that we may share his holiness” (12:10). Paul tells us in Romans that “endurance produces character, and character produces hope” (5:4). And finally, “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12). Endurance is difficult and painful, but its end is holiness, character, hope, and reward. “Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” (Ps. 30:5).

 

David Smelser

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