The following devotional was put together by my wife and I for her to deliver at the women’s retreat for our Sunday School class this weekend. I also shared it with those who did not go on the retreat, so husbands could hear it too. See attached at the bottom for the actual Word Doc.
12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, 12:2 keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 12:3 Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up
Endurance means living by grace through Faith
- The meaning of endurance is to stay the course (What)
- The means for endurance is grace (How)
- The mission of endurance is God – our author, support and prize (Why)
Flow of thought:
- James tells us that trials bring endurance and endurance maturity
- The author of Hebrews calls trials and discipline a race to endure
- The most important thing about running the race is staying on course
- We cannot endure ourselves
- We need God’s strength to endure
- We receive His strength by grace
- Without faith – trusting God - we cannot see His grace and do not rest in His grace
- Christ ran before us, so He is the example of the running and the end – for the Father rewarded Christ with Himself
- We endure for God, with God, by God’s strength and to God as our prize
Intro: James says that trials bring about endurance and endurance maturity or completeness. Here, the writer of Hebrews calls it a race – a race we must endure. This is a wish that we all have. When money is tight, we want to endure. When there are marital problems, we want to endure. When our children are sick and no one has the answer, we want to endure. We want to do this, but what does it really mean to endure? How do we do it? WHY do we endure?
Section 1: When running a race, the main point is staying in the race. You can be the fastest and still lose if you do not stay in the race – just ask the hare that got whipped by the tortoise. There is more to a race than just staying in it – There are rules to play by (2 Tim. 2:5); obstacles to avoid (Hebrews 12:1); and a generally poor way to go about it (1 Cor. 9:24-27 & 2 Tim. 4:7 – the opposite of the “good fight”) – but we can all agree that if you do not stay in the race, which in part means to stay on course, then all of the other stuff doesn’t matter. Enduring means for us to stay the course.
Section 2: How do we do this, though? One of Rob’s favorite (on his cynical side) YouTube clips is this counseling session with Bob Newhart. It is a spoof where this woman has these issues and the only advice he gives her is to stop it. When she says she is afraid of something – “Stop it!” When she won’t do something she needs to do – “Stop it!” and so on. We some times work just the opposite with endurance. We think we should just “Do it!” Just dig down deep, stop being a baby and “Do it!” I mean you are the mom – you are the wife – just “Do it!” Whereas we are stewards and to be responsible for our lives, families and duties – I am sure that like me there have been many times that you went to dig deep and there was nothing left, the boot straps had broken and you had fallen and you couldn’t get up. This is because we are not made – not capable – nor any other affirming word – we are not able to just “Do it” on our own. Jesus said that apart from Him we could do nothing (John 15:5) We are dependent. Let me say that again – mom, you are dependent. Wife, you are dependent. We need grace – and we need it every day – all day. The reason why we come to our wits’ end is because we are relying on our wits. You might ask what that looks like . . . Paul asked for a release from his “thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor. 12:8-10). And God said, “No – my grace is sufficient.” This means that God is saying your comfort and your health and your security and your control – they are never going to help you – they will never be enough. “My grace is enough – I AM enough”, God says. And Paul responds with, “Therefore I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.”
You see, grace is seen only through the eyes of faith. When we let go of the so-called control of our lives and trust God, we see the grace that He had given us the entire time to stand strong – even in our
weaknesses. This is like feeding the kids chicken soup when they are sick. I honestly do not know exactly how chicken soup makes them better, but I know that it does – it is the right thing to feed them. We do not always (maybe even rarely) know how or why something is given by God or how we are supposed to go about it, but we know that trusting Him is the right thing to do.
The passage that I read from Hebrews starts with a “therefore” and the “therefore” came from chapter 11, which is example after example of people living by faith. Faith is hearing God and doing what you are told.
So, we know the race that is set before us – to honor God, glorify God, worship God, serve God – all through Jesus, by the power of the Spirit. The details DO NOT MATTER, God does and He will work those out – that is our race.
We know the end – Jesus is our forerunner and our prize. We keep our eyes fixed upon Him.
Now, we know the means – grace. We stay on the course and endure, never leaving the path and trusting God by faith that He will provide everything we need. He will provide strength when we need it. He will provide tears when we need them. He will provide sisters to hold us up. He will provide famine to lean us down. He will provide husbands to lead us through. He will provide vision to push us forward. He will provide children to help us love. He will provide cancer to strip us clean. He will provide happiness to help us glorify Him. He will provide death to bring us home.
John Piper says of grace-striving: (pages 26-27) [From The Roots of Endurance, by John Piper]
A Peculiar Kind of Striving
So the form of our endurance has a peculiar energy: We put out
great effort to endure to the end, but we do it in a peculiar way,
namely, in the strength that God supplies. Paul said it like this in
Philippians 2:12-13, “Work out your own salvation with fear
and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and
to work for his good pleasure.” We work and we tremble at the
magnitude of what is at stake in our endurance and what great
obstacles therearein ourselves and in the world and in the devil.
But we do not tremble with the anxiety of the abandoned. We
are not abandoned. In all our striving, there is a deep restfulness
of conﬁdence, for we are striving not in our strength but God’s.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might”
(Ephesians 6:10). Not our might, hismight.
Yes, thereis a fight to be fought and a race to be run. Paul
leaves us no question about that:
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but
only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it.
Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it
to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So
Ido not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after
preaching to others I myself should be disqualiﬁed.
But be careful in reading such texts. Oh, how easy it would
be to simply turn them into moral self-improvement programs that
have nothing to do with the blood-bought, Spirit-wrought New
Covenant promises of divine enabling received by faith in Christ.
The crucial Christian difference for Paul was that he believed
all his running and fighting and body disciplining was a gift of
grace purchased by Jesus Christ and received by faith in him so that
Jesus would get the glory and not Paul himself. For example, Paul
said, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward
me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of
them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me”
(1 Corinthians 15:10). Yes, he worked to endure, but no, it was not
ﬁnally and decisively dependent on him, but on the grace of God.
“It depends not [finally and decisively] on human will or exer-
tion, but on God, who has mercy” (Romans 9:16).
Enduring by Grace Through Faith So God Gets the Glory
The biblical call to endure in faith and obedience is a call to trust
the Christ-purchased, empowering grace of God.7 God’sgrace is
ﬁrst the gift of pardon and imputed righteousness;8 then it is the
gift of power to ﬁght the good ﬁght and to overﬂow in good deeds.
We endure by staying the course; we endure by grace.
Section 3: Finally, the why of it all. Girls, we are not running arbitrary races, just because that is what we do. There is a point to it all. God made Adam and Eve to know Him and to love Him and to be with Him – that is why we are here, to know God and love Him by being with Him. Adam and Eve decided to do something else. Two of the most ironic words ever put together were in the name “Saint Elsewhere”. You cannot be anywhere else but with God and be holy, be a “saint.” We follow Adam and Eve
all of the time – we do something else. We go somewhere else. We become someone else.
We are made to be with God, because we are made for God.
He set the race before us – stay on the course.
He gives us the strength and items needed to finish it – run by faith and stand in grace.
He is the starter, the encourager and the prize – run because of Him, with Him, for Him and to Him.
Endurance means getting the point of the race. I know some of us are off course – He is still there. I know some of us are trying to mother and be wives in our own strength – He is still able. I now some of us have lost sight of the prize – He is still sweeter and better than anything else.
 The expression I have competed well (Grk “I have competed the good competition”) uses words that may refer to a race or to a boxing or wrestling match: “run the good race” or “fight the good fight.” The similar phrase in 1 Tim 1:18 uses a military picture and is more literally “war the good warfare.”