Hang on in there! Hebrews 12:1-3

Five weeks in lockdown. The novelty has worn off. The initial excitements of adjusting to new ways of living have definitely faded. And the end is not yet in sight. Life is not going to go back to normal next week or next month. We may well not be able to gather together as a church for months. We are realising that we are in this for the long haul. We are still mourning what we have lost and still learning how to sing the Lord’s songs in this foreign land. And the message of the Bible for us in these strange times is now this. Don’t give up! Hang on in there! Persevere.

1 ¶ Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

It’s a lovely picture. The Olympics have arrived! Throw off everything that hinders – run the race to win the prize. An inspiring picture! It’s a shame we usually take it out of context. We forget how impossibly hard the race is going to be!

Consider Jesus … who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its
shame, … 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

This isn’t a fun sprint. This is a marathon where everybody who competes wins the prize – but where you have to get to the finishing line to win!! Hang on in there.

The message of Hebrews is that Christians will all always face the danger of drifting away or of neglecting our salvation (2:1-3); When the going gets tough, the temptation is so often just to give up! A number of years ago now we looked at Hebrews 3 and 4 and thought about a number of things could do when the going gets tough.

Even when the going gets tough that is never a reason for just giving up. When the going gets tough there may be things which God wants us to learn through these experiences. Sometimes the right question is not, “When am I going to get out of these troubles?” but “What am I going to get out of these troubles?”

Sometimes the lesson God wants to teach us is to Stop doing things we should not be doing. At other times the challenge is the opposite: Start doing things God wants us to do.

Sometimes our experiences of suffering are given to us to build our character.
“we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4)

Sometimes we need to learn to depend on God and on His grace – as Paul did from his thorn in the flesh.
2 Corinthians 12:8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me.
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

So sometimes the reason we need to learn to endure suffering as disciples are because it builds our character, or because it teaches us to rely on God instead of on ourselves and our own limited resources. One thing we must NOT think is God has stopped loving us.

Even when we don’t understand why we are going through hard times, or why sometimes God appears to be silent, or seems not to answer our prayers. We should never doubt the truth that God loves us with a love which will never let us go!

In hard times we can always look for help from our Minister and from our Church and from our Christian friends. And the example of Jesus will inspire us to carry on! Hebrews 12:2 points us to Jesus.

2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,

That phrase “a cloud of witnesses” are the heroes are faith catalogued in Hebrews chapter 11. They are the Old Testament saints who bear witness through their lives to the grace of God. Their faith is an example and an inspiration to us not to give up, however tough life gets.

So we should throw off everything that hinders. All the weights of possessions and materialism and greed. All the the sin that so easily entangles, Hebrews says. Besetting sins and our fallen sinful human nature which can drag us down. And we should run the race of faith with perseverance. Keeping on going and not giving up. That great theologian Dolly Parton explains perseverance like this. “I never stopped trying and I never tried stopping.” As Magnus Magnusson and John Humphrys say on Mastermind, “I’ve started so I’ll finish!!”

We follow in the footsteps of all the heroes of faith, of course of our ultimate example and inspiration – Jesus Himself.

2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith,

Jesus is the source and the object of our faith. Our lives have their beginning and their end in Him. So we should fix our eyes on His wonderful example. The example of His life and ministry. The example of His passion and His death. And the example of His glorious resurrection. Especially in the hard times – fix your eyes upon Jesus!

Consider Jesus … who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its
shame, … 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

However tough our lives may get – consider Jesus. Consider everything that Jesus endured for us, for our salvation. So we should not grow weary or lose heart. He hung on in there for us. We should hang on in there for him!

Jesus endured the suffering of the cross and all the opposition of sinful men, for the joy set before him. As Rebekah reminded us this morning, when the going gets tough we need to look beyond this world to the next. Colossians 3:1 Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2 Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

Fix your eyes on the prize. If you will not bear the cross you won’t wear the crown. Run the race with perseverance! When the going is getting tough, Hebrews 12 encourages us. Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Hang on in there!

Prayer of Sir Francis Drake
0 Lord God, when thou givest to thy servants to endeavour any great matter,
grant us also to know that it is not the beginning,
but the continuing of the same unto the end,
until it be thoroughly fininshed, which yieldeth the true glory:
through him who for the finishing of thy work laid down his life,
our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Amen.

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