The Christian life is a marathon. It is not a 100 meter sprint. It is not the race of a lifetime but a life time’s race. We are to lay aside everything that would hold us back. You can carry a weight that will hinder you. A weight may not be a sin. It may be a person, Lot hindered Abraham, Esau held back Jacob, Amaleck held back Israel. Wrong friendships can hold you back. A hobby, a sport, many people started out playing golf or hunting or athletics or drama but now it holds them back in the race. It may be that someone said something about you and you feel sorry for yourself and leave the race. Somebody said something about me and I’m not going on as a Christian. Some people don’t like me so why bother running the race. So what, that is no treason to leave the race. It could be a habit, reading books, face book, twitter, the play station, computers, movies can hold you back. It is anything that prevents you from winning.
Why are you not running to win? Why are you not giving your all? What is holding you back. You may have grown tired. Many believers have grown tired in the Christian race, have you? Have you been weary? Have your spiritual legs grown tight and your muscles sore? Has your breathing become shallow and fast? Is your inward life spiritually drooping? Do you feel like you want to stop running? Do you need to catch your second wind? The believers in the context have become feeble in the race, their hands hang down and knees are feeble. Some who used to run the race with these believers are no longer running and have dropped out (Heb. 10:25). I am sure you know many believers who once ran with you but are now out of the race.
The Hebrew Christians life of faith was no longer compared to running in an arena but rather a slow painful walk of a sick paralysed person. Instead of looking toward the goal they began to look back at the past. Once you begin looking behind you in a race you begin to lose momentum and others may overtake you. If you keep on doing it you will fail. Instead of looking forward to the coming of Christ, the people in our context looked back at the Old Testament, the old religion that pointed them to look forward for the coming of the Messiah. They began to yearn for the types and symbols of the Old Testament instead of acknowledging the great work of Christ and all that He had purchased for them, the indwelling Spirit of God to help them though life, the provision of the whole armour to fight the spiritual battle, the great things of Christ and His work. They had become dull in their thinking and their expectations forgotten. They returned to the law. They were being held back. They were warned about failing away from the living God (Heb. 3:1-13).
Keep on Running
In the ancient world when nations conquered nations, the general would return home and parade down the main avenue with his soldiers behind him, and the slaves behind them and all the people would cheer, at the triumph. He was greatly rewarded for life. When an athlete won and went back home he received even greater acclaim. They would train early in life, spend hours every day for many years. When they came back to the city after winning, a hole was cut in the wall and a door put in it with their name on it. Poems would be written about them.
Some of the Stadiums were enormous holding over 80000 people, they held boxing, wrestling, discus, javelin, running and other competitions. They denied themselves and ran for their gods. They prepared spiritually, mentally, emotionally. Before the event they went to the end of the field where there was a priest of their god, they killed an animal and washed their hands in the blood, then lifted their hands towards the heavens and swear to live according to their religion and rules.
They had to be citizens of that country in order to be a participant. It was a shame for them to let anything hold them back. They were observed how they dealt with injury, illness, hardship.
Spiritual Application – Keep on Running
Many of the Hebrew believers had been discouraged. They had started out in glorious triumph, with joy and were afraid of noting. They gave all for the Lord. They were an amazing group of Christians but things began to go wrong. “But you recall the former days after they were illuminated they endured a great struggle with sufferings, partly made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were treated, for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in haven. Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which is your great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of god, you may receive the promise.” (Heb. 10:32-36). They had witnessed many of their friends and family turn back from following Christ. They had seen some turn back to the old ways, to false religion and doctrine. They had some any personal hurts.
Discouragement can knock you out of the race. Satan uses discouragement to stop you witnessing and reaching out to others. I have been a pastor/teacher for many years. I have met people who were sold out for God. People who gave up their job and comforts. I have witnessed people who were once on fire for God but have grown cold and go back to the old life or take a back seat in church. Some have made shipwreck of their faith. Some have become liberals, some have believed false doctrines, some have gone back into the world, some have gone back to the old ways of religion.
What makes one keep on going on? The first thing is to keep your eyes on Jesus. Live the Christian life as you did when you first got saved. Get back to your first love. Focus son Jesus as the text says. Another thing is to remember the witnesses who encourage you in Hebrews chapter 11. They cry out to you “Keep on running. Don’t let anything hold you back or beset you.” Carry no baggage. Get rid of anything that hinders. “Forgetting those things that are behind I press towards the mark of the high calling in Christ Jesus.” “I press towards the mark.”
The Witnesses – The Encouragers
Heb. 12:1-2 “We are surrounded by a great cloud of witness.” This refers back to chapter 11.
Enoch kept on running when the world was cruel and opposed to God, He shouts out to you “Don’t stop, I made it keep on running.” I am enjoying heaven, I made it and its wonderful.
Noah lived in dark days and evil was all over the world. He focused on Gods calling for his life. He did sin and he encourages us to avoid the sin of drunkenness and loosing control . He says to us “Don’t make my mistakes. Get things right, get back into the race, keep on going forward. I am here to cheer you on, keep on going on. “
Abraham had discouragements, he had domestic problems, he had heartaches, he had problem’s that were gigantic, he calls out to you “Keep on running, you will make it.” You may have been tempted to give up because of your domestic or and family problems. You may have lied as he did about his wife. You may have failed. Abraham yells out “Keep on walking by faith”. Learn from my mistakes but run for the prize. I am living in the glory of it now.”
Joseph went through tremendous hardships was hated by his brethren, sold into slavery, framed and put into prison, he could have given up in the race and said “What’s the use, everybody is against me. But no! He shouts to you keep on running. Do you have opposition and even those close to you misuse and mistreat you . Keep on running.
Moses had more opposition than any man alive. Over 2 million people moaned and complained to him. This was not for a day or a week but or almost 40 years. Well let’s ask Moses was it worth it. “Yes” he replies, “God was with me through the difficult times. He done so many great miracle in my life, he brought me through, I endured because I saw Him who is invisible, “Keep on running.”
Samson didn’t do well but he came to his senses just like the Prodigal Son, and both of them say keep on running.
David’s great failure with Bathsheba and her husband brought awful discipline but he rebounded and shouts as a witness, “Keep on running.” Don’t fall into the same sin I fell into it will affect your family for generations. Confess you sin and ask the Lord to, “Restore unto me the joy of my salvation.” He did not lose his salvation he lost his joy.
Paul went through tremendous hardship, was beaten, imprisoned and finally decapitated. “Was it worth it Paul?” He answers “Why yes”. “I count all things but dung to win the prize”. Keep on running.
Thomas what do you say, “Well I went to India and preached the gospel. I had each limb tied to a horse and the four horses were whipped and my body was torn asunder but it was worth it . I now enjoy the pleasures of the Lord forever. Keep on running.”
Peter was it worth it for you to follow the Saviour? “Why yes, He forgive me when I fell, he went on to use me in his service. He showed me much grace and now I am here in heaven what a wonderful place. Keep on running.”
Fresh Vision and Renewal
The joy, the love, the freedom, the grace the Hebrew believers had experienced was slipping from their understanding. They had been free from the bondage of the law but now were brining themselves under bondage again. Because they were looking back and turning back they had lost hope and expectancy for the future. They need a fresh look at the wonderful work of salvation and the deliverance from they had from sin and judgement to come. They needed renewal, a decision to get back to their first love, to the place where they first started out with Christ. They were told to “hold fast” to salvation because they were losing its reality. They had to look again at the great doctrines they needed reformation. Legalism, the Law, the old rituals were drawing them away from grace They were going back to legalism and away from freedom (Gal. 5:1). All believers must watch out for failing to see the grace of God and the tendency to go back to the old ways. Keep your eyes on Jesus.
These Hebrew Christians who were once so happy in Jesus had lost their original freshness of faith. They received persecuted Christians into their homes (Heb. 10:34). They endured personal loss and suffered many indignities and even loss of possessions (10:33-34). How could they loss their convictions, their love, their passion? How could they stop running, how could paralysis had set in? How could they stop pressing on, and triumphantly running the race. What caused them to slow up and stop? Why had they lost their vigour and become immobile? How did many of them become so called backsliders (Heb. 12:12-13)? Some of the reasons where the world, the flesh and the devil. These powerful enemies had begun to paralyse them.
- The world was giving them a hard time. It was persecuting them, putting pressure on them and their families. They had suffered social ostracism, injury in business or professional standing. They had lost human rights and it was affecting them. When they first believed they the know the Lords strength to carry the pressure and difficulty.
- The flesh was causing inward weakness and signs of fatigue. Their pray life had slackened, the numbers in the church were dropping, and their spiritual life had dropped off. They had become tired and weary on the way. Their knees began to buckle, they lost momentum in the race. Their strength had gone and they were no longer runners pressing on. The old life was calling them back into its bondage again. They had lost their joy, their happiness, their contentment. The thrill of following Jesus had disappeared.
- The devil and his demons had multiplied external difficulties to weaken and eliminate their wonderful relationship with God. They had lost their witness. The enemy stirred up the world and religious people to mock them and hate them. They were despised. The enemy had chipped away at them and constantly wearing them out and they lost heart. It became too much for them to endure. However none of them had become martyrs yet, although that would come soon, their blood had not been shed as the Lord Jesus; was, or the saints mentioned in Hebrews 11 or like Stephen and other martyrs. Others had made the extreme sacrifice and had been “stoned” or “sawn asunder”, some had been tortured, put to death by the sword. They refused to capitulate that they might obtain a better resurrection, than such an earthly deliverance. They had true freedom and went to be with the Lord. Satan and the world were fiercely attacking the Hebrew believers but their lives were spared for a reason. The flesh was fatigued.
How about us? Do we overemphasize our difficulties, our present situations, our hardships? What is our suffering compared to these men and women of faith, these great heroes? C.T. Studd says we are like chocolate soldiers in a shop window who melt when the heat of the sun reaches the window. We are like feeble old men dragging along in the Christian life. The people in chapter 11 were powerful men and women. Christ meant more to them than their own lives. They were powerful believers and did not compromise because they had hard difficult times. Modern Christians look for the good life, the easy life, they do not want to sacrifice their lives for their Master. They are so touchy and if someone makes a sarcastic remark they use it as an excuse we to stop running the race, stop going to church, forsaking the meeting place because they are so touchy. The Lord wants soldiers, fighters, men and women who will sacrifice themselves for His interests, people who have counted the cost of real Christianity. You must be ready for anything.
Helping the Hurting
Vs 12 “Therefore lift up (strengthen) the hands that hang down and the feeble knees.” The word “lift up” is anorthoo, we derive our English word orthopaedic from it, which means to “restore to straightness or erect or to reinvigorate”. He is saying “straighten up”. It was a medical word used for the act of setting dislocated parts of the body. When one loses energy in a race the arms droop, the hands hang down. The reader is expected to either or both. They are on spiritual slow down. This portion is taken from Isaiah 35:3-4 when he encouraged the despairing people who were stumbling. He says “…Be strong , do not fear, your God will come.”
As a member of the body of Christ we are all interconnected members of one body, we should strive to care for each member, especially if we see the hands hang down and the knees weaken. Especially if they are suffering (Gal. 6:1-2; Eph. 4:15-16; 1 Thess. 5:14).
“Hang down” is pariemi meaning “to let pass, disregard, neglect, to relax or loosen”. They were neglecting their prayer life, meeting together, the Lord. What are you neglecting?
“feeble “ is the same word rendered “sick of the palsy” (Matt. 8:6). The word is paraluo, to loose on one side, to loose or part thing side by side, to loose, dissolve, weaken, enfeeble, suffering from relaxing the nerves of weak limbs.
“that which is lame and be not turned out of the way; but rather be healed.” We are to get a new freshness in our lives so that we can strengthen other believers.
“say to them with a fearful heart , “Be strong, Fear not” this is taken from Isaiah 35:3-4. There may be many who are lame and weary and need restoration and revival. Do not pass by their external need. Look and see their condition, their dangers. Looking unto Jesus will sharpen your spiritual eyesight concerning the distress of other brethren. We must awake out of our self-centred lethargy. We must put muscles and strength in to our faith. God and the world want to see our actions.
Vs 13 “straight paths” or make level, plain or smooth paths. Make the course clear for yourselves and your fellow Christians by removing the stones or debris out of your life so that there is no stumbling or laming. Get the path in better order so that it makes it easier to run. The word “paths “ is troichia “ a wheel or track”.
The word “lame” is “cholon” means lame or halting or put out of joint or disabled. How long do you halt (go lame) between two opinions? How long do you intend to go on limping as a Christian in the race? How long are you going to let people, situations or persecution affect you? We are to help the weak and encourage them to keep on going on.
The Jewish believers were being warned that a limping Christian life would cause unsaved Jews to turn out of the way. Even though they had a good start they would turn away from their Messiah.
“turned out of the way” is another medical term, ektrepo, “to turn or twist out”, wrenched out of place, put out of joint, out of position. The believers were encouraged to run well so that a weak limping testimony would not hold back unsaved Jews from trusting the Lord. Don’t turn away from the Lord or the finishing line. Avoid stones an d debris that hinders.
Vs 14 “Follow” is dioko “to turn swiftly or pursue or chase after in order to catch someone or thing, to run after, to press on”. It is used of one in a race who runs swiftly to reach the gaol. It is to pursue or seek after eagerly, earnestly endeavour to acquire”. It has a sense of urgency about it. The pursuit of peace excludes the world.
“peace with all” do not to have a quarrelsome spirit. We are to “pursue peace with every man” that is every man in the faith. We are to try and live in harmony with every true believer and with our neighbours. Conflict in life is inevitable we may have peace with God but find it difficult to have peace with men but her we are to make every effort to have peace with other believers and not feel alienation towards those who seek to be united with us who left the straight and narrow path. Satan’s plan is to conquer and divide Christians and if he succeeds it brings glory to him not to God. We must not let him infiltrate the fellowship of believers but rather endeavour to restore them to unity of the faith. We are to use peaceful means to restore a brother and not be angry or quarrelsome with them. We are to “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3). “Blessed are the peacemakers , for they will be called the sons of God” (Matt. 5:9). Every true born again person belongs in the race and are striving towards the same mark. We are of the same mind and pursue peace with all true believers because Christ is our peace and brought us into a peace relationship with the Father and so we desire to do the same with the family of God. The attitude of the saved towards the unsaved Jews who were renouncing their faith toward the messiah and of turning back to temple sacrifices was bad.
We are also to “make every effort” to be peaceful with the unbelievers. Pray for your enemies and those who spitefully use you. Paul said, “If possible, so far as it depend upon you, be at peace with all men.” (Rom. 12:18). Sometimes it is not possible. Sometimes men do not want to be at peace with you but when you have exhausted the ways of having peace with them and they refuse, commit them to God and get on with your life. We are to “pursue peace with every man” that is every man in the faith.
- It is because we are “endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism;one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you] all” that we love one another and have peace with one another. We are of one mind, one faith and one in our attitude of love regardless of the differences among us. We can live in peace one with the other and give each the right hand of fellowship, receiving each other as Christ has received us.
- Love is not a feeling, not an emotion, not a sentimental thing although they may follow love. Love is an act of the will, a choice, and a practical action. Loving and receiving one another is on the basis of belief of the fundamentals of the faith.
- Love seeks a brother’s benefit. Love accepts a person who believes and accepts God’s Truth and has been saved by the great work of Christ on the cross. We can love the unsaved but we cannot welcome them in as a family member in Christ. Love accepts the on-going work of God in true brothers and sisters soul and desires not to hinder them, permitting them to learn and develop.
- Love is able to forgive. If there is genuine repentance love enables us to make a new start. It kills a divisive spirit. Love brings together the saints of God, not in some ecumenical charade or something church leaders have manufactured but only on the basis of Truth. Love units the hearts and leads to fellowship of all those who truly love and follow Christ. Love motivates us to serve the Master. Love confronts wrong attitudes, doctrinal error or deception and speaks the truth in love. Love does not treat people coldly but draws them into the warmth.
“holiness” here it is drawing near God away from the world and the Old Jewish system with a clear conscience (Heb. 10:4). The world system and the world standards want us to conform to their carnal ideas and philosophies. We are to be morally separate from the values of the world. When we operate by Godly standards we will stand in the light rather than the darkness. Do not be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
“Without which no man can see the Lord.” We will not see the Lord if we will not draw near to Him and leave the old life and systems of belief.
Keep a Sharp Lookout
Vs 15 “See to it that no one misses the grace of God…” God’s grace is overflowing towards us don’t fall short of it. Dot fall behind He gives grace daily keep receiving it. You can miss the grace of God by continuing in sin, by neglecting the Word of God, by staying away from the fellowship of believers. Don’t continue to be disobedient to Him or walk in sin, you will miss out on His grace. But “look diligently” is episkopeo meaning overseeing or looking over, the Jews should exercise oversight over their lives to the end that they do not fail of the grace of God.
The word “fail” is husstereo “to miss or come late, fall away from”, here it means to “fall away from or off from, to fall back from”. They were not progressing as they should. The unsaved Jew was being led along to the knowledge of Christ by the Holy Spirit in convincing the sinner and they were to be brought to a place of repentance. God did not want them to draw back from the grace being offered. The real believer would not go back to sacrifices (6:9). He has been regenerated and baptised into Christ, the head of the body, the church (Chapter 6). In Hebrews 4:1 it means to be left behind in the race and fail to reach the goal, to fall short of the end”.
“that no bitter root grows up to defile many”. God warned the Jews against apostatizing from Him (Deut. 29:18). Here it refers to the first century Jew who is were committing the same offence. We must be vigilant that we deal with any seeds or weeds and tear them out before they take root. It is bitterness in the church.
“Spring up” that is the process of the evil character. “Many” is the majority of the church.
Have You Got Spiritual Paralysis?
What about you? What hall you do? Have you fallen into a situation also. What about your zeal? What about your state? How often do you pray and read and hear Gods word? Is it any wonder that some of us have feeble knees and arms that hang down? Have you grown weary and have got spiritual paralysis? Has the demon powers been allowed to get to you behind the lines and attack you? Have you lost the inspiration for the battle? Is there a way to overcome this fainting condition? Can you regain the vision? Will you be able to start running again? YES, YES, YES, it is possible to be devoted again.
Power To Run Again- He Will Heal your Paralysis
“Therefore lift up the hands that hang down, and the feeble knees”. Begin running again and pursue the goal. You can get strength back again from His word. God can renew your strength and you can mount up with wings as eagles. He will give you back the energy and the rhythm in the race. He will “make straight paths for your feet, less that which is lame be turned out of the way, but rather let it be healed.”
Looking unto Jesus will make fatigue go and the freshness comes into your life. If you have been wounded or hurt in the race you need healed by Him, He will do it. He will give you fresh courage and confidence will once again fill your soul. You can put your life in order and will not overestimate your trouble’s but will see them in a real balanced way. “I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me” He gives you strength. Golgotha proves that God loves us and since God did not spar e His own Son, give us with Him all things (Rom. 8:32).