Don't Give Up!

One of my all-time favorite movies is "Chariots of Fire." A favorite scene is when Eric Liddell, a Scottish runner, is knocked down by a competitor but gets up to finish and win the race.

Eric Liddell went on to be a gold medal winner in the 1924 Olympics in Paris. But his greater victory was finishing his life well as a missionary in China.

Liddell is a modern-day example of one who ran the race of the Christian faith well and never gave up. His heart was fixed on Jesus, the focus of his faith.

He learned the importance of removing whatever would hinder his faith and trust in Jesus. Jesus saw beyond His gruesome death on the cross and was filled with joy for what His resurrection would bring to the lives of those who trust in Him.

Scripture

Since we are surrounded by so many examples ⌊of faith⌋, we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially sin that distracts us. We must run the race that lies ahead of us and never give up.
We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith. He saw the joy ahead of him, so he endured death on the cross and ignored the disgrace it brought him. Then he received the highest position in heaven, the one next to the throne of God.
Think about Jesus, who endured opposition from sinners, so that you don’t become tired and give up.  [vss 1-3]
(Hebrews 12:1-3 GW) [Context– Hebrews 12]

Key phrase—

We must focus on Jesus, the source and goal of our faith

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are Christian believers surrounded by? Who is included in this "great cloud of people?"

  • What do we need to do "run the race" and what are two things believers need to "get rid of" from our lives?

  • Who are we exhorted to focus our attention on and how is He described in relation to faith?

  • Where is Jesus now? How is this relevant to this exhortation and the whole book of Hebrews?

Reflection...

Why do we get discouraged and want to give up? Because we rely too much on our own self-effort, and because we lose sight of why we have a true hope. 

Jesus is our example but He's also the source and focus of our faith. When He is any less in our life, we will stumble along the path of life, easily distracted and drawn away from following Him.

We are responsible for what we choose and pursue. So, we need to remove what gets in our way and holds us back. But how?

We need to stop giving attention to what hinders and entangles us. We need to fix our attention on Jesus—our personal trust in Him and His life example. We need to replace the former with the latter, the better focus of our attention.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How does what Jesus suffered and endured relate to the original readers and hearers of this exhortation?

  • Have you struggled with your faith? What things in life get in your way and distract you from focusing on Jesus?

  • What are specific ways you see that would help you refocus your attention on Jesus each day?

  • Are there specific times you've overcome hindrances and distractions to your faith?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Something Special

How does something become valuable? What makes one thing worth more than another? Some things have value and worth only for a short time, while other things seem more special and their value and worth endures.

Perhaps things like precious metals and stones come to mind. Tangible things like assets and property are also seen as valuable items. The more special or rare they are, the more their worth increase.

Value and worth can also be attributed to intangible and intrinsic things like beauty or talent. But such things fade with time or their value changes with variations in culture and trends.

Internal qualities, such as character, integrity, spirituality, and wisdom, are more timeless in their value and worth, as is faith. Genuine, godly faith has eternal value and worth. It's also rarer than you might suspect, which makes it special.

Scripture

Faith caused the people to go through the Red Sea as if it were dry land. The Egyptians also tried this, but they drowned. Faith caused the walls of Jericho to fall after the Israelites marched around them for seven days. Faith led the prostitute Rahab to welcome the spies as friends. She was not killed with those who refused to obey God. [vss 29-31]

What more should I say? I don’t have enough time to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, did what God approved, and received what God had promised. They shut the mouths of lions, put out raging fires, and escaped death. They found strength when they were weak. They were powerful in battle and defeated other armies. [vss 32-34]

Women received their loved ones back from the dead. Other believers were brutally tortured but refused to be released so that they might gain eternal life. Some were made fun of and whipped, and some were chained and put in prison. Some were stoned to death, sawed in half, and killed with swords. Some wore the skins of sheep and goats. Some were poor, abused, and mistreated. The world didn’t deserve these good people. Some wandered around in deserts and mountains and lived in caves and holes in the ground. [vss 35-38]

All these people were known for their faith, but none of them received what God had promised. God planned to give us something very special so that we would gain eternal life with them. [vss 39-40]

(Hebrews 11:29-40 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

God planned to give us something very special

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • Who are mentioned as people of faith? How are they commended for their faith?

  • What are the many things spoken of that were done in faith?

  • What stands out to you regarding what they endured and the nature of their faith?

  • How can these people be known for their faith yet never receive what was promised?

Reflection...

This record of faith, people who trusted in the living God of Israel, reveals the nature of true faith. It is far more than a belief system or ideology these people held in common. This kind of faith is personal and based in a relationship of trust with God. It's a faith of substance and depth intrinsic to their lives.

Today, thousands of people live by this same faith in God but are persecuted because of their faith. They endure oppression and even die for their faith. What motivates them? Why do they remain so faithful?

As it says in another version of this text, "the world was not worthy of them" (Heb 11:38 NIV). Yes, we need to pray for those who are persecuted for their faith, but we need to emulate their faith. We need to have this same faith. But how?

What was the "something very special" God planned for all who have this genuine, enduring faith? Not just the hope of eternal life but the very presence of God living in us through the Holy Spirit.

The presence of God's Spirit living in them is the distinct difference between the Old and New Covenant. When we have a personal trust relationship with God through His Son Jesus, He promises to be present in us—in our innermost being. That is special!

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • Why didn't the world "deserve these good people"? What made them "good"?

  • How is the faith of the people in this Scripture text different than a set of beliefs or ideology?
  • What is the "something very special" that God gives true followers of His Son Jesus?

  • Is your life of faith governed by the Old Covenant Law or have you received this "something special" in a New Covenant relationship with God?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Choosing Freedom Over Pleasure

The life of Moses is generally venerated throughout history, especially within Judaism and Christianity. Some may malign him but when Moses is portrayed in movies, he's seen as a great leader.

His life is extraordinary and there are many lessons to be drawn from it. But a mystical view of Moses' life might be out of sync with reality. In the book of Exodus, we see a fuller view.

Moses didn't start out as a man of faith, he grew into it. He led a life of ease and privilege until he started to identify with his Hebrew heritage.

His Hebrew faith was passed onto Moses by his family, especially his mother as his nursemaid. His faith became his own when Moses fled for his life into the desert (Exo 2:11-15).

Faith is most often forged in the fire of life's challenges and difficulties.

Scripture

Faith led Moses’ parents to hide him for three months after he was born. They did this because they saw that Moses was a beautiful baby and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s order.

When Moses grew up, faith led him to refuse to be known as a son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to suffer with God’s people rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a little while. He thought that being insulted for Christ would be better than having the treasures of Egypt. He was looking ahead to his reward. [vss 23-26]

Faith led Moses to leave Egypt without being afraid of the king’s anger. Moses didn’t give up but continued as if he could actually see the invisible God.

Faith led Moses to establish the Passover and spread the blood ⌊on the doorposts⌋ so that the destroying angel would not kill the firstborn sons.

Faith caused the people to go through the Red Sea as if it were dry land. The Egyptians also tried this, but they drowned. [vss 27-29]

(Hebrews 11:23-29 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

He thought that being insulted for Christ would be better than having the treasures of Egypt

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What did faith lead Moses to do and when did this happen?

  • What did Moses consider was better than the treasures of Egypt? How is this seen?

  • What was the attitude Moses had when he left Egypt? Why was he not afraid? 

  • How does all of this relate to the judgment and celebration of Passover?

Reflection...

Moses made life choices based on his encounter and relationship with the true and living God. He saw beyond what the natural eye sees. The choices Moses made were not based on what his human nature desired.

Moses' life became extraordinary as God worked faith into him through the challenges and tests in his life. Those times were decision points for him and required him to make certain choices.

Each step Moses took in trusting God led him to a deeper level of faith. This is what brought Moses from the ordinary life of pleasure he had in Pharoah's court to an extraordinary life as God's deliverer for Israel.

Moses forsook the pleasures he had in Egypt and endured the insults and scorn as a man who trusted in the God of Israel. Because Moses chose insult and suffering over pleasure, God set him free and he led Israel into freedom and out of Egypt.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  •  How is it possible that Christ is referred to in relation to Moses' time in Egypt? [see the story of Passover in Exodus chapters 12 and 13]

  • Do you see how the writer of Hebrews connects Christ and the freedom Passover brought to believers then and for us now?

  • What are your life choices based on? Do you choose the ordinary or the extraordinary?

  • In what way do you make extraordinary faith-based decisions?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

Far Sighted

When faith is reduced to an abstract concept, a spiritual dynamic, or positive thinking, it becomes blind. Approaching faith in these ways strips it down to an impersonal and human-based belief-ism.

True faith in God must be personal. It is based in relationship with God not beliefs about Him. Are theological beliefs important? Of course! But they are what we believe about God.

Faith is a personal trust in God Himself. Who He is and what He's promised in response to our trust in Him (Heb 11:6).

This is the faith Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph had that enabled them to see beyond their own lives. It was a faith focused on God whom they trusted with confidence. Their trust in God opened their eyes to see what other did not see.

Scripture

When God tested Abraham, faith led him to offer his son Isaac. Abraham, the one who received the promises from God, was willing to offer his only son as a sacrifice. God had said to him, “Through Isaac your descendants will carry on your name.”

Abraham believed that God could bring Isaac back from the dead. Abraham did receive Isaac back from the dead in a figurative sense. [vss 17-19]

Faith led Isaac to bless Jacob and Esau. While Jacob was dying, faith led him to bless each of Joseph’s sons. He leaned on the top of his staff and worshiped God.

While Joseph was dying, faith led him to speak about the Israelites leaving Egypt and give them instructions about burying his bones. [vss 20-22]

(Hebrews 11:17-23 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

While Joseph was dying, faith led him to speak about the Israelites leaving Egypt

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are we told faith led Abraham to do? How could faith lead him to do this?

  • Why was Abraham willing to sacrifice his son after waiting 25 years for Isaac to be born?

  • Who blesses whom and what do each of these blessings have in common?

  • What did Joseph tell the Israelites to do and why? Why was this important to Joseph?

Reflection...

Many people can't get beyond wondering why God would ask Abraham to sacrifice his son. They imagine God as barbaric. Why? Because they can't think beyond their own feelings and reason. I spoke about this in another post— A Father's Sacrifice.

Faith is a matter of trust not reason. When we can't see beyond our own feelings and logic we can't trust. This makes us spiritually blind.

The nature of faith enables us to see beyond what is obvious and observable by others. It is not blind but sees God and trusts in Him. So, is it risky to trust in God? It depends on how you view God and His nature.

God's legacy is seen in those who trust in Him with their lives. Those who trust in Him without reserve like Abraham are the true offspring of God.  Each person has a legacy not of themselves but of those who are their offspring—both natural born and spiritually born.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • How is the testing of Abraham's faith relatable to the original hearers (readers) of the book of Hebrews and us now?

  • How are the blessings Isaac and Jacob spoke related to the promise of God to Abraham?

  • What is your legacy of faith? How has and does your faith influence and impact others?

  • In what ways do you trust God beyond your fears, doubts, and human reasoning?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews

A Better Country

Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each election cycle with the hope of making our country better. But what is better? It depends on your point of view.

Too often, people settle for what seems better but it's not good enough. Better is a term of comparison. Better than what? It depends on what the comparison is.

Many people will accept the status quo and mediocrity because it's familiar and they're not willing to risk losing it for a possibility of gaining something better.

We won't risk losing what we have unless our hope for something better is stronger than our fear of loss. True faith—trust in God—enables us to see beyond the status quo and seek what God promises is better—much, much better, in fact, the best.

Scripture

Faith enabled Abraham to become a father, even though he was old and Sarah had never been able to have children. Abraham trusted that God would keep his promise. Abraham was as good as dead. Yet, from this man came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the grains of sand on the seashore.

All these people died having faith. They didn’t receive the things that God had promised them, but they saw these things coming in the distant future and rejoiced. They acknowledged that they were living as strangers with no permanent home on earth. [vss 11-13]

Those who say such things make it clear that they are looking for their own country. If they had been thinking about the country that they had left, they could have found a way to go back. Instead, these men were longing for a better country—a heavenly country. That is why God is not ashamed to be called their God. He has prepared a city for them. [vss 14-16]

(Hebrews 11:11-16 GW) [Context– Hebrews 11]

Key phrase—

These men were longing for a better country—a heavenly country

Digging Deeper...

Review the Scriptures above as you answer the following questions

  • What are we told about Abraham and his faith? How did reality in his life seem to contradict God's promise to Him?

  • What promise did God make to Abraham and did it come to pass?

  • What is a seemingly contradictory statement made about Abraham and others before him?

  • What is the testimony of Abraham and Noah's faith according to these verses?

Reflection...

We Americans are free to complain about our country and have the freedom to bring change in it. But as believers, we have a better country to look forward to than any nation on this earth.

Are you longing for a better life on earth or a better country in this world? As Jesus said, "Wherever your heart is—what it longs for—is where your treasure is."

Faith isn't wishful thinking, like hoping to win the lottery. Faith is a confidence in God and all His promises. It is a hope based in our relationship with God that remains even when circumstances seem to contradict His promises.

True faith enables us to move forward when others turn back.

Make it personal...

Read through the Scripture text again as you consider and answer these questions

  • If these men didn't receive all that God promised, how and why did they continue to trust God?

  • In what way is this "better country" a fulfillment of what God promised to Abraham?

  • How are Abraham's and Noah's life testimonies of faith relevant for us today?

  • Are you longing for a "better country" and do you have assurance in your heart about that?

©2017—Word-Strong


Here's a free introduction for the book of Hebrews— Intro to studying Hebrews