As the writer of Hebrews encourages readers to live by faith, he tells them to run “with endurance” and to keep their eyes on Jesus, “the source and perfecter of our faith” (Heb. 12:1-2). What does the source and perfecter of faith teach us?
Verse 12:2 often reads that Jesus endured the cross “for the joy set before him,” as if His vision of what would be in eternity carried Him through His sufferings. But the Greek word translated “for” means “instead of.” So instead of the joy of being pure spirit with His Father, Jesus became human, endured the cross, and faced hostility from sinners. This verse speaks of what He gave up, not what He would gain (Php. 2:5-11).
Suffering is the measuring line of faith. Sometimes, evidence of the divine seems absent from this world. What about when “evidence” contradicts divine realities? When things are antagonistic or bent on harming us? Do we believe then? Jesus did.
The writer gives deep encouragement: not only does suffering not disprove God, it proves His devotion to us. God is treating us as sons, disciplining us so we can grow into the fullness of His Son, Jesus.
This encouragement was most necessary for the Jews Hebrews addressed. There was no fair-weather believing for them. Many were rejected by their communities. Some faced imprisonment, beatings, and more. To them, the writer holds up the example of Jesus, who had faith in the face of hostility and death.
Suffering takes many forms. Anyone who claims to be free of suffering is living in a strange kind of delusion. People live with physical ailments, mental health problems, grief, long stretches of apathy, hunger, addiction…the list is as long as history. If we are suffering anything, the writer holds up the example of Jesus to us as well. No slave is above his master (John 13:16). Jesus believed in the face of suffering.
Scripture is clear that Christ calls us to embrace suffering, weakness, and the like. Hebrews says to endure hardship as God’s loving discipline, which makes us grow. James says to count it all joy when we have trials so we can mature (Jas. 1:2). Peter says trials purify and prove the genuineness of our faith (1 Peter 1:7). Paul boasts in his weaknesses that Christ’s power might reside in him (2 Cor. 12:9).
How can we embrace suffering—not just get through it, but truly value it as scripture recommends? Only by grace. Only as God brings suffering into our lives so that we have opportunity to trust its value and purpose even as it hurts. It is not that we enjoy hardships. But we cling to the fact that God is making all of it work together to conform us to the image of His Son and to give us the holiness “without which no one will see the Lord” (Rom. 8:28-29; Heb. 12:14).
Then the question becomes: What do we value more? Christ or comfort? Christ and comfort go together at times. But when Christ calls us away from comfort, do we deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow? Do we pout and allow a root of bitterness to spring up? (Heb. 12:15). Do we choose immorality like Esau “who sold his birthright in exchange for one meal”? (Heb. 12:16). Esau didn’t value Christ enough to put up with a rumbling tummy.
All of these responses and more are options in the face of suffering. The writer of Hebrews urges us to keep our eyes on Jesus, on the One whose faith enabled Him to endure the cross.
Chapter 12 ends with a reminder that God is shaking everything that can be shaken “so that what is not shaken might remain” (Heb. 12:27). No matter what comes apart or falls down, God is doing it because He loves us and wants to give us a kingdom that cannot be shaken—provided we let go of what can be shaken and are not shaken down with it. To do this, “let us hold onto grace. By it, we may serve God acceptably, with reverence and awe” (Heb. 12:28).
3 Comments Add yours
Thanks for sharing! Good thoughts 😊