Hebrews 12 B: Looking Unto Jesus
From last week’s lesson and the lessons life has taught us, we have learned keeping the faith is a fight to be fought and a race to be run.
In today’s lesson, Hebrews 12:4-11 we look at the mystery of God’s Providence in the pain and suffering in our lives. Certainly the enemy attacks us during these times and as is his custom he introduces the idea God the Father does not love you or is not listening to your prayers based on the suffering and pain you are enduring. In these passages today, we will see the proof of our Heavenly Father’s love and concern for us.
Is there a prayer in your life regarding a long term problem or situation from which you do not seem to be getting an answer? Then let us consider and take to heart what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount regarding prayer: “Ask and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him.” (Matthew 7: 7-11) And we are told to pray without ceasing.
Jesus never mentioned unanswered prayer. Therefore we are to pray without ceasing, because Jesus told us we are to expect God to answer our prayers. Do you expect God to answer your prayer? The question is are you asking in faith, believing God is always at work, and will answer your prayer according to His will or yours? We can make our request known to God; Jesus did the same thing in the Garden. He asks His Father if this cup could be taken from Him. But Jesus said not my will but thine. This tells us we can make our requests known to God, He knows our heart anyway. We are bringing our problem to God, but we also cannot seem to keep from asking Him to solve our problem the way we see it should be solved. Yet Jesus wanted only His Father’s will, for He trusted His Father to do only what was best. Do you believe Father knows best? You say you do, but you are disappointed when He does not do what you ask Him to do. This is the battle of faith. This is when the race gets weary. James said you have not, because you ask not. Or you ask amiss, wanting it for your own selfish reasons. Jesus prayed we would be one with the Father as He was and this is the prayer God wants us to ask and it will be answered in your life. He wants you to be one with Him. Who would not want that?
And this is exactly why we are to look to Jesus. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” Do you understand what looking to Jesus means? To those of us who are saved, it means trusting Him. In Numbers 21: 4-9, we see an illustration for us. Those who were dying from the poisonous bites were to ‘look’ at the bronze serpent Moses was instructed to make and they would live. Jesus told the same thing to Nicodemus in John 3: 14-16: “ And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God so loved the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. “ Looking to Jesus is not just a single act for salvation, this is the beginning of a process which describes and defines a life which walks by faith and not by sight. I continually look at Jesus in the Scriptures to see how He lived His life here on earth. He lived by faith as a man, never relying on His divine nature. It was this faith in God, which enabled Him to see the future joy and endure the cross and the shame. He was looking at the invisible, and faith allowed Him to see the invisible. He knew He would come out of the tomb alive, He had told others He would. It was predicted in the Old Testament. This was future hope, which Jesus saw by faith. “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”
By looking to Him in every situation, by praying without ceasing, Jesus becomes not only my example, He is the one within me Who enables me to endure and keep on fighting and keep on running. And with each incident, my faith is increased. As I read and study and absorb His story, I will see how Jesus lived his life by faith. Every morning before daylight, He was up early to pray. Prayer is a sign of his living by faith. Paul tells us faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Jesus is the Word. And the Word became flesh. He came to testify to the truth and to show us the way. He is the way. He is the Truth. He is the life. George Mueller, the old saint who lived by faith and had so many answered prayers, said the first step was to get your heart neutral in the situation. Realizing how difficult this is, Mueller said when you were able to be neutral, your problem was 9/10ths solved. He also found the promise in the Scripture which related to his problem and put his finger on the very verse and prayed that verse to God as he pointed to it in the Scripture.
This Scripture here in Hebrews is not for the immature. Pain, sorrow and suffering come to each of us in our lives. This book along with Job is difficult- but it also brings light to the mystery of suffering and God’s Providence. People today want Christ without the cross; salvation without suffering, and a trouble free life for themselves and loved ones. I understand that- and want that also. But like the opera diva, Beverly Sills, said: “There are no shortcuts to anyplace worth going.”
These passages tell us why God allows this in our lives. And since we know a trouble free life is not possible, learning how to get the most and make the best out of our troubles in a very important lesson to learn in this life on earth. Here is what we want to know:
*What is the purpose or design of God’s discipline? Is it for sins I have committed or for our good?
Suffering and pain can come from those who persecute you. This was true of Jesus, the disciples, the martyrs in the Scripture and those we read of in the world today who are being persecuted for their faith.
There is suffering for our sins of commission and omission and God is in charge of this. But there is also suffering or discipline which comes as God is teaching us, training us, correcting us and transforming us. In other words, God is in charge of what is happening to us. What hostile sinners do to us believers to discourage us and harm us, God means it for good. What they mean to hurt us, God is using to help us. This is what Joseph was able to see when he looked back an all that had happened to him because of the hostility of his brothers and even Potiphar’s wife. (This is why God devoted almost 1/3rd of the book of Genesis to the story of Joseph because of this all important facet of how God works.) God rules over Satan and those unbelievers who would persecute believers. God fulfills His divine purpose of discipline in our lives by allowing them to persecute us. He is with us during all of this and has promised He would not allow us to be subjected to more than we can bear, but will with the test make a way to escape so we can bear it.
Verse 5 & 6 are direct quotes from Proverbs 3 and tells us ‘do not despise the chastening of the Lord, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him. For whom God loves He chastens, and scourges every son He receives.”
. Now this scripture is very honest and tells us all discipline for the moment does not seem joyful, but sorrowful. The writer gets it- he does not say this pain you are enduring is joyful, he lets us know it is sorrowful; it is painful for the moment. And while you are going through it, it seems so painful and it seems as though nothing good can come from it. Do you see what you wrestling with? You are wrestling with pain and sorrow and this can wear you out and drain you of your energy. You are in danger of growing weary in the battle and losing heart and giving up in the race.
Here is what we must believe: our pain is not the effect of God’s hatred, it is of God’s love, and He disciplines us. It is for our good. The question is – will you believe this? God reigns over all the circumstances in your life and in the universe. This is what His Sovereignty is about. God may not reveal to you all of the reasons for this. I do believe when you are chastened for sin- you will know the sin you have committed. In other situations when you search your heart and ask God to search your heart and no sin is revealed, then you must walk by faith believing God has told you all you need to know: He has done this because He loves you. And you must believe God is too wise to be mistaken and too good to be unkind. So you will trust His Heart as One of such great love, He let His only Son die and suffer in my place.
I love what Paul writes in Romans 8 and find it to be so fitting for such occasions and seasons of suffering: “What shall we say to all these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Romans 8:31, 32)
Jesus said He came to give us life and life more abundantly. God allows difficulties in our lives to deepen our faith, train us, and strengthen us in areas of weakness which need to be strengthened. Conditioning in football makes the difference in the fourth quarter where fatigue can become a factor. Those who have gone through the discipline of conditioning who had a strength coach who had put them through grueling training in order to give them exactly what they need to win the battle, to keep fighting , to keep running and find the strength to finish the race and experience the abundant life at its very best. Jesus in not just our strength Coach- He is our strength.
This scripture also tells us if you are enduring chastening, it is a sure sign of God’s love for you. He is treating you as His own child.
“Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for good, that we may share in His Holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who are being trained by it.”
Let’s concentrate on four very important benefits found in these words: our good, our holiness, our peace, and our righteousness. Jesus said we are to be holy as God is holy. No one is declared righteous by keeping the law; no one can keep it, except Jesus. God has credited us with Jesus’ righteousness. He has given us His Pure White Robe of Righteousness which we are now clothed in. These are the benefits which come from discipline and can only come through discipline. This is the reason and design of our loving, all-knowing Father that comes to us through pain of discipline. It is the principle of sowing and reaping.
It is for our good.
It is for our holiness.
It produces peace.
It produces a harvest of righteousness.
Earthly fathers chasten their children and it is not something they enjoyed doing. But the benefits afterward make it clear the chastening was for our good and came from their love. Jesus said if you earthly fathers, who are evil, know how to give good gifts, how much more will your Father in Heaven, who is perfect, give to you.
The benefits: instead of continuing in sin, we will do what is right. Then there is peace instead of war with your Father (either earthly or heavenly)
How do you respond is of utmost importance. You despise it and grow faint under it – or you can learn from it and show reverence to the Father by submitting to His will.
Matthew Henry writes regarding these passages: “There is proneness in the best to grow weary and to faint under the trials and afflictions. The best way to prevent this is to look unto Jesus. Faith and meditation will fetch in fresh supplies of strength, comfort and courage.”
And Paul writes in Romans 15: “For everything written in the past was written to teach us that through endurance and the encouragement of Scripture we might have hope.” Their examples and the example of Jesus Christ are recorded to teach us and for us to imitate. They were written for our use and benefit. First for our learning. Secondly they were written that we might have patience, hope, comfort and encouragement. These very words: patience, hope, comfort and encouragement tells us we are to expect trouble, trials, suffering and sorrow. And patience creates experience and experience, hope; hope which does not disappoint.
God knew we would worry, be afraid and be anxious this is why He gave us instructions what to do when we are fearful, anxious, or worried.
What time I am afraid I will trust in the Lord.
Be anxious for nothing, but pray about everything. Let your requests and petitions be made known with thanksgiving and God will give you the peace which passes understanding and guard your heart with all diligence.
Be still and know that I am the Lord.
Wait I say, wait on the Lord.
God is at work all the time.
And He is working all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to the purpose.
LOOKING UNTO JESUS THE AUTHOR AND FINISHER OF OUR FAITH!