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Surviving hostility

August 2008 | by Edgar Andrews

Surviving hostility

 

‘Consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls’ (Hebrews 12:3).

 

The first readers of this epistle were in serious danger of becoming ‘weary and discouraged in their souls’. Spiritually speaking, they were tired, sick at heart and ready to give up. Why? Because of the same ‘hostility from sinners’ that the Lord himself endured during his time on earth.

     Once before they had ‘endured a great struggle with suffering’, being made ‘a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations’ (10:32-34). Yet then they had received these trials ‘joyfully’. But now, because they had taken their eyes off Christ, the self-same afflictions produced weariness and discouragement.

     We should not be unsympathetic. Their sufferings were far greater than most Christians experience today. At the human level, therefore, it was no surprise that they were disheartened. They were not the first to be so, nor would they be the last.

     Contestants in a long-distance race get tired. So we also can grow weary in the Christian race. But God both understands and cares: ‘As a father pities his children, so the Lord pities those who fear him. For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust’ (Psalm 103:13-14).

     How does he help us? The answer lies in another question. How do athletes overcome their physical weariness? In four ways. Firstly, by proper training; secondly, by focusing on their goal; thirdly, by overcoming the ‘pain-barrier’ and getting the mysterious ‘second-wind’; and fourthly, by keeping their eyes on the front-runner. There are spiritual parallels to all these things.

Training. Proper training means being diligent in our Christian life. No athlete can succeed unless he trains with single-minded thoroughness. Having ‘escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust’, says Peter, we should give all diligence to add to our faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love – being ‘even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble’ (2 Peter 1:5-10).

     Those who are diligent in the Christian life, and equip themselves with the graces listed by Peter, will be forearmed against weariness. And to this end, we must consistently use the means of grace that God provides – reading and hearing the Word, corporate worship, prayer, fellowship and witness. If we do, we shall have the resilience to conquer discouragement (2 Corinthians 4:1, 16).

Focusing. Secondly, we overcome by focusing on our goal. This is what the patriarchs did when they looked towards ‘a better, that is, a heavenly country’ (11:16). We shall shed our weariness, and press on with new resolution if we remember that we are racing to glory.

Relying on the Helper. Thirdly, we defeat weariness and discouragement by the gracious strength of the Spirit of God. Our ‘second-wind’ is no physiological mystery but the indwelling of Christ by his Spirit. The Spirit teaches us, quickens us, leads us, bears witness with us, helps our infirmities, strengthens us, and guarantees our inheritance in Christ (John 14:26; Romans 6:11; 6:14; 6:16; 8:26; Ephesians 3:16; 1:14).

Looking to Jesus. Fourthly and finally, we fix our gaze on the ‘fore-runner … Jesus’, our great High Priest,  who has entered through the veil into the presence of the living God (6:20). If we run ‘looking unto Jesus’, our weariness and discouragement, though oft-times burdensome, will melt away.

An edited extract from A glorious high throne (the EP Welwyn Commentary on Hebrews) by Edgar Andrews.