Commentary by Walter Albritton


July 25


God disciplines us, in love, to bring us to maturity in Christ


Hebrews 12


Key Verse: Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? – Hebrews 12:7


          Before we examine Chapter 12, stand back for a moment and enjoy the beauty of the final three chapters of Hebrews. The theme of Chapter 11 is faith. Chapter 12’s theme is hope, and the theme of Chapter 13 is love. Here are the three dominant themes of the New Testament: faith, hope, and love. My friend John Nichols, a good and faithful teacher of the Word, pointed this out to me with this question: What New Testament writer comes to mind when you think of faith, hope, and love.

          The answer is, of course, Saint Paul. “Perhaps,” John said with a twinkle in his eye, “Saint Paul did write the Book of Hebrews, despite what the scholars say.” If Paul was not the author, then the author was deeply influenced by what Paul did write. My friend’s point is well taken.

          When we face the hardships of life, hope is an absolute necessity. Without hope, we cannot endure the misfortunes of life.  Fortunately, we do have solid hope for our hope is in God. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that God disciplines us as a wise father disciplines his children. God loves us too much not to discipline us. He uses our hardships to bring us to maturity in Christ. Out of his great love, God gives us the gift of hope – the conviction that nothing can happen to us that God cannot use for our good and His glory.

          Discipline is never pleasant. It is usually painful. While some parents may abuse their children unwisely, misusing discipline, we can trust God to always use our pain and disappointment to make us better people. We can trust his plan even when his training is difficult. God can use even suffering and persecution to melt us, and mold us into faithful disciples. It helps always to remember that He is the Potter, and we are the clay. We are not wise enough to mold ourselves after his will. That task He reserves for Himself.

          The writer hammers home the shining truth that we are not alone. We are “surrounded” by a great cloud of witnesses, men and women of faith who, like Paul, fought the good fight and finished life’s race. These witnesses, who are in our balcony, are good examples, or role models, for us. We can pattern our lives after their faithfulness. They persevered despite hardships. We can also, provided we are willing to “lay aside” the sins that prevent us from running a good race.

          Things, for example, can become a great encumbrance to us. Saint Paul evidently stripped his life down to the bare necessities in order to travel and proclaim the gospel. In our own time, Harry Denman was a powerful role model for many of us. Harry owned one suit. He had no home and never owned a car. He simplified his life in order to serve his Lord Jesus. Everywhere he went, he kept asking people, “Have you met my friend Jesus?” Harry got rid of excess baggage so he could more easily “run with perseverance the race” God had marked out for him. We must ask the penetrating question: Do our possessions hinder us from running the race as faithful servants of Jesus? The Spirit alone can show us the sins that we must “throw off” in order to run well life’s race.

          Our greatest example, of course, is Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith.” He endured the cruelty of the cross, scorning its shame. He refused to allow the opposition of sinful men to turn him from his mission. Jesus looked beyond the pain of the moment to “the joy set before him.” While we face opposition from others in our ministry, we can remember that it is nothing compared to that faced by Jesus. Yet he remained faithful to the mission his Father had given him. His is the ultimate example of faithfulness despite overwhelming adversity.

          The writer invites us twice to look at Jesus. First, we should “fix our eyes” on Jesus. Then, we should “consider him.” Here is great wisdom. We are too prone to focus on our problems. We should learn to “glance” at our difficulties but “gaze” at Jesus. The more we gaze at Jesus, the greater our hope that we can finish the race, by his grace.  The more we look at our problems, the greater our sense of failure. As long as our eyes are fixed on Jesus, our leader and example, we do “not grow weary and lose heart.”

          I learned something valuable from E. Stanley Jones in this regard. We were singing the familiar chorus, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” He suggested we change the word “dim” to “new,” since Jesus makes all things new. Ever since then, I have sung the chorus like this:

          “Turn your eyes upon Jesus;

          Look full in his wonderful face,

          And the things of earth

          Will grow strangely new

       In the light of his glory and grace.”

          Everything does look different once God has opened our blind eyes and enabled us to see the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. We realize that he is the head cheerleader in our balcony, urging us to remain faithful. Then, the more we look upon his face, the more able we are to reach out to those who are spiritually weak and offer them our love, hope, and encouragement. When we welcome Jesus to dwell within us, and to reign within our hearts, he himself strengthens our feeble arms and weak knees. His strengthening presence enables us to say, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

          Then, one day soon, we will hear our Lord say, “Welcome home. You have kept the faith. You have stayed the course. You have finished the race. Now you may join my great cloud of witnesses and cheer for those who must fight the good fight a little longer. Together we will encourage them to run with perseverance the race you have completed.”

          So may it be, dear Lord. So may it be. 

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