Friday, September 14, 2012

Steadfast Fortitude

The heading for the Fall Quarter is “A Living Faith.” The first Unit of the Fall Quarter looks at a five-lesson study descriptive of the sub-heading, “What is Faith?” Each of the five lessons is taken from a section of Hebrews 10-13. The first lesson was a description of the perseverance of faith as recorded in Hebrews 10:10-31. Last week we were encouraged to find the assurance that comes with faith as recorded in Heb 11:1-3, 6; Psalm 46:1-3, 8-11. Today we will consider those who have gone before us as both witnesses and models for our faith. We find our devotional reading in James 5:7-11 and the printed passage recorded in Heb 12:1-11.

It is unknown who wrote the book of Hebrews. Some believe Paul wrote it. When this Epistle opens, it opens unlike any of the others Paul wrote. However, Paul introduced himself in his other writings. As it is inconsistent with his other writings, I do not believe he wrote this book. For some reason I believe the Lord has kept the authorship of this book a mystery to mankind. We need not know the author. Regardless of who wrote the Epistle, the inspiration was “God-breathed”. He could not have received these revelations without an anointing from the Lord.

Our lessons have been speaking to the steadfast characteristic a believer must have. ‘Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.’ 1 Cor 15:58 Steadfast is defined as immovable and not subject to change.1 Fortitude is defined as having the strength of mind that enables a person to encounter danger or bear pain or adversity with courage.2 Today we shall be looking at Steadfast Fortitude.

‘Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,’ Heb 12:1 In the previous chapter we were given a description of what faith does and a sample of its many witnesses. As we transition from these heroes of faith called “great cloud of witnesses” to the current lives of faith, we are all in a race. It is the same race. It is the race to forego sin and one day see our Master face to face. It is a race approved by God. These witnesses were not spectators watching us, but they were witnesses to us by their lives of faith. They were in the race originally and have transitioned to glory. They set high standards of faith and endurance by which we must follow to run this race.

Now we must strip ourselves of anything that could cause us to lose the race. Weights that we may need to consider laying aside because they hinder our progress could include material possessions, family ties, lack of mobility, etc. Do we carry the weight of disobedience, unfaithfulness, persistence in sins, or do we lack commitment? These are only examples of weights that will cause us to lose the race. To continue with a weight (yoke) hanging around our necks would allow sin to easily gather an attitude of its own within us. Eternal damnation would result. Gen 3:1-15; John 8:34; Rom 3:20; 6;1-23 Jesus taught us, ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’ Matt 11:29-30 He will pick us up when we become weary during the race. He is our Brother and our Friend. He will assist us to the end.

Run on God’s Olympic track team, but as you run the race toward God, it must be done with patience. Satan, the adversary of the Almighty God, will do all he can to change the believer’s mind. God never promised it would be easy. ‘Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.’ Eph 6:11-12 He promised ‘…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.’ Heb 13:5b He will fight our battles and has the ability to champion each of our causes. Keep on the armor! Run this race with patience or endurance with the knowledge there will be joy in the ups and suffering in the downs. But we are running the race to win in the end! As Paul stated, ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:’ II Tim 4:7

‘Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.’ Heb 12:2-4 As we run this race with our eye on the mark of the prize (Philip 3:14), we see Christ our leader who began the race. He did this when we view His mission to come from heaven and live as a Man, His ministry, His death, burial, and His resurrection. It was all to give us the opportunity to share in eternal life. His eyes were fixed on the glory His fellow believers would receive when they gather with Him eternally. He returned to sit at the right hand of His Father God and was able to say …mission accomplished.

There was no shame in the torture of the cross. Jesus could have stopped it at any time, as the mission was more important. It brought joy to His endurance, not shame. For those who are in the race and are persecuted for their Christian belief, keep the faith and look to Jesus. No one in this race can and has ever had experiences compared to the suffering, opposition, hostility, pain, and humiliation imposed upon our Lord. Many to whom the writer was addressing the Epistle had never been tested to the point of shedding their blood as a martyr. By looking to Jesus, who endured all manner of things, believers are better able to run the race.

‘And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth’ Heb 12:5-6 The writer now reminds the runners their trials, tribulations, and sufferings are used by God to develop them as a vessel to be used along the race. It is part of God’s education/chastisement process for all sons. By this we know we are part of His family. Prov 3:11-12 tells us ‘My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.’ The chastening/discipline of God is an act of love for His sons. God forms us with discipline and instruction to become His vessels; He is our potter and we are the clay. (See 64:8; Jer 18:4; Rom 9:21) We are to maintain our courage to run this race. Do not be upset when we receive God’s discipline.

‘If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.’ Heb 12:7-8 Believers submit to God’s authority and endure the discipline. We are His sons and He shows his love through correction, reproof, and instruction. We must endure His chastening and learn the lessons He is teaching as He refines us into the image of Christ. Those who do not experience God’s discipline are considered illegitimate and not true sons of God. A loving father chastens his child. Our loving Almighty God chastens His children. We continue to run the race because we are thankful for our relationship with God and His loving chastisement which proves we are sons. We shall endure ‘til the end!

‘Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness.’ Heb 12:9-10 Many of our fathers have corrected us for our wrongs and attempted to encourage us to go forward. We look back at our yesteryears and many times may consider his actions were proper in our upbringing. They had/have a chance to have a great influence in disciplining their children for a short time. Our earthly fathers discipline(d) us for all betterment in our physical life. Some of us may say he did (or did not) do a good job. How much more respect should we give God for chastening His sons in this race? Our spiritual Father disciplines us for eternal life, the best goal, the profit of our soul. We will be able to see His holiness face to face when we finish the race. As the Creator of each of us (Gen 2:7), we can’t say God does not do a good job. Therein lies only one alternative to that statement. God always does a good job. Even He said His creative work was good. (Gen 1)

‘Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby. ‘ Heb 12:11 At the time we are receiving God’s discipline/chastisement, it does not come with a label “Anger Issues 101” or we may need the advanced course “Gossip 305”. However, we will learn a love lesson from God sooner or later. He is as a righteous tree. From His tree, we shall be as fruit of righteousness. We shall exercise ourselves unto godliness as we run this race. ‘And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.’ Jam 3:18 As we are trained by God, we become more at peace when we adhere to His Word. The fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) shines in our every day Christian lives as we run our race.


Written by Deborah C Davis

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