“Therefore strengthen the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated, but rather be healed.” Hebrews 12:12-13 (KJV)
Last week we spent time in Peter’s letter to the persecuted church in what is now modern Turkey. His message to those believers was to “arm” themselves with the mind of Christ. This week our Basics for Christian Living comes from the writer of Hebrews. Although there is much debate as to who was the author of this general epistle, its message clearly speaks to a group of people who were being challenged to “stay true” to what they had been taught in the gospel of Christ (Romans 16:17). The pressure and persecution they were experiencing threatened to weaken not only their witness but also their continued walk of faith. Noted theologian and teacher, Alistair Begg has often stated that, “Endurance is a key indicator of spiritual fitness.” The world tempts us to “take the easy way around problems.” Our Lord, on the contrary, encourages us to “walk through them” so that we might be strengthened and become mature Christians (James 1:2-4).
Our text opens with the adverb “therefore”, which is used to indicate the “result or consequence of a previous action.” In Bible interpretation, “therefore” is utilized as a “connector” to the previous scripture; it invites the reader to explore the preceding scripture in order to understand the conclusion that follows. In Hebrews 11, we are given examples of Old Testament believers whose faith helped them to endure and persevere against enormous obstacles. Hebrews 12 expands this teaching on endurance by providing the ultimate model of endurance—“Jesus the author and finisher of our faith” (v. 2) who endured the Cross in order to accomplish God’s plan of salvation. It is with these examples in mind that believers (therefore) are able to push forward in faith (Heb. 12:3). Rather than give up in defeat, believers can be assured that if they endure, they will be rewarded (Gal. 6:9).
Against this backdrop the author of Hebrews illustrates endurance with the metaphor of a race. “Hands that are hung down and feeble knees” do not describe the patient endurance required to finish the course. It has been suggested that “joints not firmly held” and “muscles not properly tensed” might suffer dislocation or a sprain” thereby rendering the runner incapable of completing the race. The believer is told to “strengthen” the hands and “make straight paths” for the feet. Then they are prepared to complete the race successfully.
This process is not dissimilar to that which is needed to build spiritual endurance. When adverse circumstances and difficulties occur in the believer’s life, instead of complaining, we are to accept the discipline it offers and be strengthened through it. During those times, God has provided the resources we need to “push through.” The first is the Holy Spirit, who is there to strengthen and keep us. With His assistance we are able to do all things (Phil 4:13) and complete the work God has designated us to do (Phil. 1:6). The second resource is the community of faith. The Holy Spirit has gifted both the universal and local church “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ep. 4:12). It is in community that believers find encouragement and support for spiritual growth and development. Through the Holy Spirit and in Christian community the believer is able to build spiritual endurance. The writer of Hebrews gives sage advice as to how we can build spiritual endurance and in so doing increase our “staying power” for the Lord.
Good to the Last Byte…
Believers are called to act on the truth that has been revealed in Scripture concerning endurance. Spiritual endurance has been commanded (Matt. 10:22; 2 Tim. 2:3), exemplified (2 Tim. 2:10; Heb. 10:32-33) and rewarded (2 Tim. 3:1; James 1:12). Take time this week to read and meditate on endurance scripture. They will help you find your “second wind” for this Christian race.