In Hebrews 12, the author is arguing for a life of growth, a growth that costs us our comforts but offers us a greater comfort in growing more like Christ.
Hebrews 12:1-13 (CEB)
Key verses are bolded
1 So then let’s also run the race that is laid out in front of us, since we have such a great cloud of witnesses surrounding us. Let’s throw off any extra baggage, get rid of the sin that trips us up, 2 and fix our eyes on Jesus, faith’s pioneer and perfecter. He endured the cross, ignoring the shame, for the sake of the joy that was laid out in front of him, and sat down at the right side of God’s throne.
3 Think about the one who endured such opposition from sinners so that you won’t be discouraged and you won’t give up. 4 In your struggle against sin, you haven’t resisted yet to the point of shedding blood, 5 and you have forgotten the encouragement that addresses you as sons and daughters:
My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline
or give up when you are corrected by him,
6 because the Lord disciplines whomever he loves,
and he punishes every son or daughter whom he accepts.
7 Bear hardship for the sake of discipline. God is treating you like sons and daughters! What child isn’t disciplined by his or her father? 8 But if you don’t experience discipline, which happens to all children, then you are illegitimate and not real sons and daughters. 9 What’s more, we had human parents who disciplined us, and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live? 10 Our human parents disciplined us for a little while, as it seemed best to them, but God does it for our benefit so that we can share his holiness. 11 No discipline is fun while it lasts, but it seems painful at the time. Later, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness for those who have been trained by it.
12 So strengthen your drooping hands and weak knees! 13 Make straight paths for your feet so that if any part is lame, it will be healed rather than injured more seriously.
Unpack it! The author of Hebrews is unknown, but the purpose seems to be to encourage a congregation of believers as they endured the trials common to Christian churches in the early decades of the Christian movement. This passage attempts to help them understand the trials they face as a part of God’s work in raising them up to be stronger Christians. The author uses the image of a parent/child relationship and the loving discipline present in the parenting relationship. Like any passage of the Bible, we have to be careful not to extend its meaning beyond its purpose. This passage does not attempt to address all pain and suffering encountered in life, nor does it try to offer a one-size-fits-all approach to understanding all suffering we may encounter. As we discuss this passage and its application in our lives, we will focus on what it does address, the loving correction and discipline that God offers us as children of God.
Discussing the Text
When the author talks about the “baggage” of sin that we need to throw off, what comes to mind in your own life? Have you thrown off baggage in the past, or are you currently working to unload some baggage in your life?
“Endurance” is a common theme in this passage, and yet it seems we live in a day and age when instant-gratification is universally desired. How can we intentionally work as “endurance-minded” Christians in a culture of instant-gratification?
“Discipline” may carry a negative connotation for you, but in a healthy parent-child relationship, positive discipline is essential to the child’s growth and maturity. How have you felt God lovingly provide discipline in your own life?
Have you ever been in a difficult season in life that when looking back was really a season of growth for you? Where do you see God at work in that time?
Questions for a Deeper Faith
Is it easy for you to try new things or to leave your comfort zone? Why or why not?
When you think about who you were 5, 10, or 15 years ago, how have you grown? When you look ahead, how would you like to grow?
The author makes clear that growing in faith and becoming less sinful is a “struggle” (verse 4). What can be some regular spiritual practices that help you in your efforts to endure and grow in your faith?
Thank you for the opportunities in life you give us to step out of our comfort zone and try something new.
Help us this week as we work to unload some of the baggage that weighs us down.
Help us to feel the freedom of life in closer relationship with you.