I remember that when I was a teenager, I went through a structured experience conducted by Youth For Christ. It was an experience of being an “underground” Christian. When I was “caught” by the persecutor, I was “forced” to renounce my faith. My faith was put to the test. Though it was just a makeup scenario but it was a very impactful lesson for me. We are very blessed to live in a multi-racial and multi-religious country where we are allowed the freedom to practice and share our Christian faith. We are spared from experiencing persecution. Hence we may not have an idea of what it is like to persevere and endure sufferings under persecution. This is not so to the recipients of the book of Hebrews. They faced persecution and their property were confiscated (Hebrews 10:33-34) as a result of their faith. The author directed their focus to Jesus who is far greater than angels, than Moses and the Old Testament sacrificial system because Jesus’ sacrificial death has paid it once and for all. They could therefore approach God in confidence and assurance of faith (10:22, 35). This was testified by those who have gone before them (11; 12:1a).
The author further encouraged them to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles (12:1a). For the recipients, what hindered them and the sin that entangled them were the sin of apostasy and temptations as a result of persecution. As I mentioned earlier, though we do not face the threat of giving up of our faith but we may be facing hindrances and sin that hinder us from growing and maturing in our faith. In other words, it causes us to remain stagnant in our faith. The hindrances for us could be our focus on our personal struggles at work or in our studies so much that we magnify our struggles and fail to trust God. It could also be pursuing our personal desires or wants under the pressure of the world. The sin that would entangle us is when we unconsciously deify our work, studies or possessions by prioritizing them over God or at the expense of the interest of others. These are just some of the many that we could list down. So in order to stand firm and grow in our faith, we are to run with perseverance or endurance (ESV) the race marked out for us (12:1b). This implies that it would cause us discomfort, difficulties and even pain just to throw off all hindrances and sin in our race towards growth and maturity of our faith - hence the need for perseverance and endurance on our part.
To some of us, it may be the lack of perseverance and endurance that hinder our growth. The lack of perseverance to be consistent in our devotion, the lack of perseverance to continue doing what is right and good in our workplace and in school. The lack of endurance to bear with the pain of giving up our comfort zone in order to serve God sincerely. So how can we sustain our perseverance and endurance? vv2-3, “2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Verses 2-3 tell us two ways; to fix our eyes on Jesus and consider Him. We are to focus on Him the author and perfecter of our faith who will bring our faith to perfection on that Day. Early this year, I started to go for gym training to train up my muscle mass in the hope of keeping fit in the long run. It was tough and painful for someone who rarely exercises on a regular basis. It is tough because it was strenuous and painful because of the muscle aches I experienced after each training. I was instructed to focus on each stretches in order for me to persevere through and complete three sets of stretches in an hour. Hence, throughout the training my mind is solely set on the exercises that I need to do. I do not think about my work or anything else. Similarly, to focus on Jesus means we only think of Him and we filter off any other things that will distract us. Consider Him refers to a careful, deliberate thought of Him. It involves meditating on what Jesus has gone through and what He has done. By doing that, we will be strengthened and encouraged to press on in the seemingly ‘impossible’ race. For ‘In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood’ (v4).
As we are approaching Good Friday and Easter, commemorating Christ’s death and resurrection, let us consider Him as a model for us to follow after and the motivation for us to persevere through and endure as we look forward to the Day of meeting Him.