Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2
What is holding you down? Keeping your feet from moving forward? Pulling you under? Is it comparison, sin, pride, control, insecurity, fear, doubt? Whatever it is, take it off. TAKE IT OFF! And if you have tried and tried and can’t seem to pull it off and lay it aside, spend today again in prayer. God WILL help you.
KEEP RUNNING YOUR RACE…not your neighbor’s race, not the race of that person you follow on social media, not the race of your mentor or your best friend…YOUR race. The race set before YOU. Run hard, friend; run with endurance.
Don’t look to the side, don’t look to self-help books or podcasts, don’t look to others…they don’t know your race; they don’t know the path set before you….LOOK TO JESUS. The ultimate example of faith and a long, eternal view, rather than a quest for human comfort and accolades. The perfect example of living fully in God’s plans for Him. The greatest example of eyes focused on the true prize.
Do not grow weary. You can do this hard thing. You can get through these hard times. He has been there…all the way to death. He won’t leave you.
Keep adjusting; keep an eye on your path; keep running.
This life is HARD. In it, we will be lovingly disciplined by God, and we will also be hit from all sides by things not condoned by Him. But He is in it all and will use it all. Don’t let the lies of the world shake your faith and alter your course. Don’t let culture tell you following it will be better than following God. Keep the faith. Look to Jesus. Get rid of all that is holding you down and holding you back. Keep running YOUR race.
Questions: Are there things in your life hindering your “race”? Are you stuck trying to run someone else’s race? Look to Jesus as your example.
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1
THIS is faith, the writer of Hebrews tells us. Believing without seeing. Assurance and conviction. Strong words.
“And through this faith, the people of old received their commendation,” the writer continues, followed by example after example of faith in the Old Testament. Their faith was in something beyond the now or short term. Their faith was not in their current circumstances or immediate outcomes. Their faith was rooted in obedience and Heavenly, not earthly, rewards from seeking God.
They believed what they could not see. They went not knowing where they were going. They kept building when there was no rain in sight. They were willing to sacrifice when it made no sense. They hid their child without knowing what would happen. They chose God’s people. They stepped into the water. They marched around the city walls. They welcomed enemy spies. They conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, became mighty in war… And….
…they didn’t receive the things promised in their lifetime, but greeted them from afar. But…they are now in a better place; a city prepared for them…the thing hoped for that they held onto with assurance and conviction, despite not being able to see it at the time.
Faith isn’t faith if it is only in seeking comfort, security, and earthly rewards. Faith is far-looking and future-oriented. It is in something bigger than we can see here. Faith overcomes fear because faith believes God is truthful, trustworthy, powerful, and good. We won’t be as scared of obedience and short-term outcomes if we have assurance and conviction about who God is, what He can do, and the future He has prepared for us.
Question: Do you have full assurance God is who He says He is and can do what He says He will do?
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25
We are sold out for Jesus. We genuinely believe that He is the answer to everything. We believe He came, died, rose from the dead, and will come again to bring us all home. We believe He is good; that He sees us and loves us. But, right now…
Things are so stinking hard. There is still so much suffering. People are so difficult. We still don’t have that thing we have been faithfully working toward and praying over for years. Watching disease and death and depression envelop loved ones we are earnestly and steadfastly praying for is so painful. The liars, cheaters, persecutors seem to be thriving.
As a result, we become discouraged in the watching and waiting, and we tend to withdraw. But the withdrawing does far more harm than help. We need each other. Real-life each other too. In our withdrawn state we can scroll through social media to feel connected, but it is actually often pulling us further away. In fact, many studies have been published showing a link between time spent on social media and increased depression and loneliness.
The writer of Hebrews has something beautiful to say about what we should do instead…
Hold fast. Don’t let discouragement cause you to withdraw or wander. Stick to, and with, your people. Don’t neglect time together. Stir one another up in love and good works. Set your eyes above and on others. It is an antidote to loneliness and discouragement. Encourage one another, and then encourage each other more. Remind yourself and each other of this truth: HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL!
Question: How do you find hope when you are discouraged and everything seems to be falling apart around you?
They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. Hebrews 8:5a
What if all you ever saw of a human was a shadow? You would have some idea of what a person was like; the shape of their body, how they move, things they do. But it wouldn’t at all give you a true picture of the fullness of a person. Once you finally met a real person, the shadow wouldn’t be of value to you in your understanding of a person. You would want to engage with the real person to learn more about people. You realize there is so much more to a human than what you gathered by just looking at the shadow.
The writer of Hebrews is painting the picture of the signs, rituals, high priests, sacrifices, temple worship, etc. the Jewish people are clinging to as being the shadow of the real thing.
The old things are not unimportant, but they are a mere shadow of the actual substance, which is Jesus. Once reality is realized, the shadow is no longer the thing. The shadow gives us clues about the real thing, but it isn’t the thing. Jesus is the thing, and He has come.
So, what does this mean to us in our lives today? We also have a shadow in a sense. We have ways we should live, love, serve, behave, etc. The problem is when we make these the thing, we miss THE thing, a relationship with God through Jesus. How we live is intended to be a reflection of the main point, not the main point.
Following rules and obeying God’s commandments are good things no doubt, but we must always be careful that we are chasing after the REAL THING (Jesus), rather than the shadows that only point to or reflect the real thing.
God, help us to seek you FIRST and always remember that YOU ALONE are THE point. You alone are the way, truth, and life.
Question: In what ways do you see the law and prophets and history up until Jesus came as the shadow of what was to come?
So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you” Hebrews 5:5
In the Old Testament, only the high priest could enter the holy of hollies, and only once a year. On the Day of Atonement (or “Yom Kippur”), the high priest, following very specific instructions, went in and made a sacrifice offering on behalf of all the people. He stepped into the tabernacle beyond the curtain and approached the mercy seat, sprinkling sacrificial blood over it. Blood was shed for forgiveness of sins. Fitting that it was shed over the ark of the covenant, the place where the law was kept. The law that no one could ever keep.
This was a day to acknowledge the sins of the people and make a sacrifice to be temporarily reconciled to God. It was temporary because it has to be repeated every single year.
Much was required to approach a holy God. It was not to be taken lightly. The priest was to bring two young goats and a bull. At God’s direction, one goat would be sacrificed with the bull, and the other one set free.
The blood from the sacrificed goat and bull was sprinkled on God’s mercy seat; on the Ark of the Covenant. The priest then put his hands on the other goat and confessed the sins of the nation, transferring them onto the goat. The goat was brought deep into the wilderness and released with the sins of the people.
Two goats – payment for sin and removal of sin. Bloodshed and freedom. It was a shadow of the sacrifice Jesus came to offer. Hebrews shows Jesus as the great high priest…both sacrificer and sacrifice. Not only did Jesus come to die on the cross to shed blood in payment for our sins, but He also transferred His righteousness to us. He took our punishment AND set us free. Free from guilt and condemnation. Free to approach a holy God. One sacrifice for all time. Only Jesus…the great high priest and spotless lamb.
Question: How was Jesus both the sacrifice and the offering priest?
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
The Bible – the inspired word of God – was written over a 1,600-year period by more than 40 authors … royalty, farmers, fishermen, a tentmaker, homeless prophets, a doctor, a professional scribe, vocational musicians, pastors … in three continents (Asia, Africa & Europe).
The Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. In the original languages, the Bible has about 611,000 words.
The full Bible has been translated into over 500 languages, and partially translated into over 2,800 languages
It is the most owned item in the world.
The Bible is the best-selling book in history, with total sales exceeding 5 billion copies.
Discoveries regularly come to light that support the historical accuracy of the Bible.
An edifying word can encourage you.
A smart word can enlighten you.
A motivating word can inspire you.
A witty word can improve your mood.
But only God’s Word can change you; transform you; save you.
What other book of words could be read, re-read, and studied for thousands of years and still not fully understood? Indeed, the Bible is LIVING and ACTIVE. So much more than mere words. Life.
Challenge: Spend time meditating on the power of God’s word. Pray that God never lets you lose the awe and wonder of this gift to us.
Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. Hebrews 2:8
You know what everything means? It means EVERY THING. All. Things. And the writer of Hebrews tells us that EVERYTHING was put in subjection to Jesus. NOTHING was left outside of His control.
That addicted loved one? Part of everything. That wandering child? Yep, part of everything too. That chronic illness? Still everything. That financial burden? Everything. That bully and abuser? Every. Thing. That missed opportunity and broken relationship? Also in the everything category.
Like me, you might be asking, “If Jesus is in control of everything, why can’t He just fix this situation? Why do bad things happen? Why is there so much pain and suffering? Why is life so hard? Why does it sometimes feel like Jesus isn’t in control of everything?”
The author answers these questions in the next statement. “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to Him.” God’s story is unfolding, but it has not yet been fully revealed or executed. We are further along than our biblical ancestors, but we are not yet at the end. We live in a fallen world, so suffering and pain and death are still part of our lives. However, the Bible tells us that one day God will fulfill all of His promises. His story will be complete and those who have put their faith in the finished work of Jesus on the cross will spend eternity with Him. There will be no more tears, no more suffering, and no more pain.
The writer of Hebrews tells us we must pay close attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. We must be anchored in God’s truth or slowly and steadily – perhaps without even noticing – the tides and currents of culture will have us drifting away. To do nothing is to drift.
Though we do not yet see or understand many things in our world, it is still absolutely true that EVERYTHING is under the control of Jesus. HE’S GOT THIS! Our job is to remain anchored in His truth; His word.
Question: What are you struggling with believing God’s got in your life?