Hebrews 11 starts with these words: Faith is the assurance of the things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. This whole section is known as the "faith chapter." And this chapter is a reflection of the author's intention to strengthen the faith of the early believers who were enduring some intense persecution, imprisonment, and martyrdom. So the author, one after another, laid down stories after stories of man and woman of faith. From Abel, Enoch, and Noah to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses. From Gideon, Barak, Samson, to Jephthah, Samuel, and David. With their exploits, adventures, sacrifices, and sorrows. In spite of the twists and turns, ups and downs, they stayed faithful on the path of their calling. And then the author ended with 3 key ways so we can do the same (Ch. 12:1-2)
1. LAY ASIDE THE WEIGHTS
NIV translation says, "Throw off everything that hinders." The Living Bible says, "Strip off anything that slows you down." In our faith journey, sometimes, we carry:
- backpacks full of weights sometimes of regrets, sometimes of guilt.
- or sometimes a heavy "carry-on-bag" of worries and concerns.
- Or maybe the weights of shame; the loads of fear.
Why do we travel heavy, when we can lay down these weights? --so we can actually move forward, or we can actually enjoy the journey! The invitation in Matt. 11 is still open: "Come to me those of you who are tired." Because the goal of the journey is not to have a perfect set of luggage and suitcases, or backpacks full of stuff. The goal of the journey is to travel light. And traveling light (according to Max Lucado) means "trusting God with the burdens you were never intended to bear."
2. RUN WITH PERSEVERANCE
Here is a little background: the author was probably thinking about an ancient Greek athletic called: "foot races, " where athletes were pushed beyond their physical limit to gain the honor of victory. The encouragement is "persevere" because God did not promised a straight, flat, stress-free faith-journey
- This is a journey that involves deep dark valleys,
- This is a journey that sometimes includes extreme, steep mountain,
- This is a journey with seasons of dry deserts.
The author says, "let us run the race with perseverance" with the encouragement in # 3:
3. LET US FIX OUR EYES ON JESUS (v.2)
We look unto Jesus, because if we constantly look at our problems then our faith will be discouraged. We look unto Jesus, because if we are lured to look at distractions, then our faith will get damaged. Fixing our eyes on Jesus can mean that we need to ignore voices that will say, "its too late to start over." Or "you are not smart enough; not good enough, or you will not measure up."
Verse 2 says let us fix our eyes on Jesus because he is the one who endured the cross. He is the highest model of endurance. But not only that, it also says he is the perfecter of our faith. Meaning, the very source of energy that will push us to move forward--God is able to supply that too.
HERE IS ONE LAST THING:
Verses 29-34 narrates stories of people passing through the sea, conquering kingdoms, escaping the sword, or stories of weaknesses being turned into strengths. Then in v.35, something drastic will change. The author starts to narrate stories of torture, or believers being imprisoned, stoned to death, persecuted, mistreated, or people being destitute because of their faith. For the author, all these are examples of faith.
I believe that victories and letdowns are not literal depiction of our inner faith condition. They can be manifestations of faith. But faith per se is not situational. Faith is internal. Sometimes faith looks like stories of victory, provision, healing. But sometimes faith is also the internal strength even when sickness, and problems, crisis remains. People look at the achievements and say, "that's faith." Some people look at failures and say, "that must be a lack of faith." But God looks beyond the trophies and failures; healing and the sickness; poverty or riches and God looks at the heart. Because in our heart lays the true condition of our faith.
And so this week may we go on with the blessing of faith. In faith, may we lay down our burdens. In faith, may we run with strength. And in all situations, may we look upon Jesus the author and finisher of our faith. Amen.