By Mark Scott
One of my college professors titled a chapel sermon, “Love.” We thought the text would be 1 Corinthians 13, or John 3, or even Hosea 11. Instead it was our text for today. Simply put, discipline is love, and Jesus modeled it. Our text today shows that Jesus is the model of endurance, and it is achieved through the rigors of discipline.
The Hebrew believers were in danger of coming up short on endurance (Hebrews 10:39). They were in danger of drifting away from their superior salvation in Jesus (2:1). They were in danger of falling away from the faith (6:6). They were in danger of not walking by faith (11:6). Our text is really the climax to Hebrews 11, and in it we find three metaphors of endurance.
The Metaphor of Racing
Many people modeled endurance in the hall of faith (Hebrews 11), but no one modeled it better than Jesus himself. Jesus ran his race, and we must fix our eyes on him to run ours. The Christian experience is an endurance race—not a sprint. We are helped in this race by doing three things.
First, we must take note of our surroundings. We are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses. Are these the people mentioned in Hebrews 11? Are these faithful believers who have died and now reside in the presence of God as they cheer for us? Are these angelic beings in the spirit world? It is hard to say. But it would seem that others are conscious of our race.
Second, we must travel light. We must throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. Are there two thoughts here or one? Could everything that hinders be anything bad or good that hinders, or is it the sin mentioned in the latter phrase? It probably matters little. We do not need anything tripping us up.
Third, we must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. Jesus’ role, his joy, and his endurance are all mentioned. He is the pioneer (architect) and perfecter (one who brings to completion) of faith. The cross was not a symbol of joy. But Jesus knew that on the other side of the cross was the joy of the empty tomb. He endured (remained under) opposition. Jesus keeps us from growing weary in our race.
The Metaphor of Struggle
The Christian life is not only a race, it is also a struggle. The metaphor means “against agony.” In another passage Paul pictured it as a boxing match (1 Corinthians 9:26). Yes, we must run the race by playing according to the rules (2 Timothy 2:5). Yes, we must run in such a way as to win (1 Corinthians 9:24). But whether running or boxing, the Christian life at times can be agonizing. It is a struggle. Jesus struggled all the way to the point of shedding his blood. For the Hebrew Christians it had yet to get to that point.
The Metaphor of Children
The largest part of our text illustrates endurance with the father/son metaphor. Dads (and moms) discipline their kids. In fact, only an unloving parent would not discipline a child. The Hebrew writer used Proverbs 3:11, 12 as the biblical basis for the metaphor. God disciplines his children because he loves them, and that teaches the children endurance.
There are three parts to this discipline. 1—It marks out our identity. If we are disciplined by God, and he is our Father, then we must be his children. 2—It does not last forever. (Though the child might think so.) In reality it is only for a little while. God’s goal in this momentary discipline is goodness and holiness. 3—It is not pleasant but painful. That is why it takes endurance. Sin is fun—but only for a season (Hebrews 11:24-26). Discipline is not fun, but it produces a bumper crop of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.
Our text also ends in metaphors. The writer likens our ability to endure to feeble arms, weak knees, and lame feet being healed by God. Three cheers for the endurance driven by discipline!
Dr. Mark Scott teaches Preaching and New Testament at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri.
Based on International Sunday School Lesson, © 2012, by the Lesson Committee. Scripture quotations are from the New International Version ©2011, unless otherwise indicated.