Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore.
Jesus, ready, stands to save you,
Full of pity, love, and power.
I know this hymn is an invitation to salvation, but it describes me pretty well right now. How about you? This year, one that will live in infamy, has asked each of us to endure a bit more (or possibly much more) than we feel able to shoulder. Like me, you’re probably ready for Christ to return in His robe of righteousness and establish peace on earth. But He hasn’t come yet. For now, He calls us to endure without losing heart. But how do we do that? The writer of Hebrews has some ideas. He gives his weary readers something to consider and something to remember so that they won’t lose heart.
Something to Consider
First, consider Christ.
Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. (Heb. 12:3)
The author has just told his readers to run their race with endurance, free from the entanglements and sins that slow them down. To do this, he says, we must fix our eyes on Christ, the exemplary Marathoner. We must remember that Jesus is the Pioneer of our faith; He ran the marathon first. This must have been something that the original readers really needed to hear, because scattered throughout the epistle are reminders that Jesus ran the same race we are running. He didn’t cheat or have superhuman strength. He did it all as a human, just like we do.
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect. (Heb. 2:17)
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Heb. 4:15)
The author, who repeatedly exhorts his readers to endure, points them—and us—to Jesus, our example of endurance.
He left the ineffable glory of heaven to live an inauspicious, humble life on earth.
Yet He endured.
Even after He became a household name, He often didn’t receive the positive press we would want if we were in His position. His opponents entrapped Him (or tried to) in every interchange; rumors swirled about the company He kept; and one of His closest, most trusted friends betrayed Him to His enemies for a bag of silver.
Yet He endured.
Finally, after an egregious miscarriage of justice, He hung on the cross, bloody, despised, mocked, humiliated, and forsaken by His Father.
Yet He endured.
Jesus ran His race, rife with suffering, without missing a step or cutting a corner. He endured to the very end. And because He did, you and I can endure as well.
This isn’t just the power of positive thinking at work. Friends, this is theology in action! If you know Christ as your Savior, then you are united with Him. His righteousness is your righteousness. His resurrection is your resurrection. His endurance is your endurance. Because He endured, you can endure, too.
Something to Remember
Not only must we consider Christ, but we must remember our Father.
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.” (Heb. 12:5)
The writer of Hebrews tells his readers that they’re weary because they’ve treated discipline from the Father lightly and fainted under it. The Greek word translated discipline in this passage is paideia, which could be defined as “God’s comprehensive training program.”
When we think of a parent disciplining a child, we might picture a spanking, a time-out, or a period of grounding—and those methods would certainly qualify for this definition. However, training a child includes much more than just those more severe forms of chastisement. A parent’s paideia also involves potty training, teaching “please” and “thank you,” how to cross the street safely, how to drive a car and change a tire, how to deal with disappointment and unfair treatment, and a million other lessons. Likewise, God’s paideia includes everything from major suffering to minor spats, from a broken appliance to a broken heart, from an interrupted to-do list to a heart-wrenching loss.
But the author of Hebrews is not primarily interested in the nuts and bolts of the paideia. He wants the weary reader to remember the Father behind the discipline. Yes, His training is comprehensive and sometimes painful, but the writer wants to draw our attention to the Father’s heart.
He reminds us:
- God disciplines only those whom He loves and He never singles a person out for sadistic scourging (v. 6).
- God trains us as our Abba, our kind and loving Father Who is doing His job (v. 7).
- God trains us because we’re His children. He wouldn’t waste His time on someone else’s kid (v. 8).
- God always gets our training right. In verse 9, the author makes the comparison to earthly fathers, noting that we applaud them for the conscientious training of their children. They do their best, but they don’t always get it right. But our Abba does.
- God’s training is for our good and is done with an important purpose: “that we might share His holiness” (v. 10).
Yes, His discipline can be painful at times; but it brings a wonderful fruit. The NIV renders it this way: “Later on, however, it [God’s paideia] produces a harvest of peace and righteousness” (v. 11).
Peace. Righteousness. Sounds like just what the doctor ordered, doesn’t it? Our wise Father never wastes a single circumstance in bringing about this harvest.
Are you weary? Have you lost heart? Consider Jesus. Remember your Father.