A Clay Jar

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. (2 Cor. 4:7 NIV)

Hebrews: Run With Perseverance (11:32-12:3)

The author of Hebrews has gone to great lengths to define faith. And he has mostly done that by example. Twenty-two times in the first thirty-one verses of this eleventh chapter, you will find the expression “by faith.” Each one is followed by what a person did because of their faith. Our author is not content for faith to be merely an intellectual exercise. Genuine faith will cause a person to respond in some way. You cannot remain unchanged.

This topic of faith continues in the rest of the chapter and into the beginning of the next. We will see first a quick summary of what faith led people to do. As well as an encouragement to follow their example.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

The List Goes On

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—

Hebrews 11:32-37 NIV

The list of examples of people living by faith is endless. The Scripture is filled with examples of those who lived by faith. The author seemed to have access to additional accounts that he shares here. And history, since this was penned, has many more examples. It is often tempting as Christians to understand that people under the old covenant were saved by obedience to the Law. But that is not true. And this chapter demonstrates that. These people were not commended for their faithfulness in keeping the Law. Instead, they are commended because the faith they had in God’s promises prompted them to action. They were saved by faith.

Only Together With Us

—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

Hebrews 11:38-40 NIV

The World Was Not Worthy of Them

The world is not worthy of those who have lived, suffered, and died by faith. This is a wonderful reflection on the upsidedown nature of the kingdom of God. It is not the strong and powerful, the influential or well-regarded, or those looked up to in this world who are significant. But it is those who have lived by faith. They are too good for this world. A world that looks down on them. But their time will come.

These were commended for their faith. It was the one thing they had in common. They had a faith that they lived out each day. They did not see the reward coming to them in this life. Nevertheless, they remained faithful.

Together With Us

The author of Hebrews has written extensively about the new covenant’s superiority over the old. About the new high priest we have in Jesus, who offered himself as an atoning sacrifice capable of cleansing our sin. And about the Law written on our hearts in the person of the Holy Spirit. The author would point to Jesus’ crucifixion as the turning point in history.

Those who lived and died by faith under the old covenant did not miss out on what Jesus did for us, though. Jesus’ atonement was not just for those living at the time. It was also for those of us who have lived since, as well as those who lived by faith before he came. Regardless of a person’s location in history, those who live by faith are covered under the blood of Jesus. We are all together made perfect in Christ.

Run With Perseverance

​Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us,

Hebrews 12:1 NIV

This verse paints an exciting picture. The life we live in service to Christ is described as a race that we are running. And in the stands all around us sit those who have already finished their race. Those that were mentioned in the eleventh chapter and countless others throughout history. Including some people that we might have known. I think periodically about my parents sitting in the front row, cheering me on. I find that a great encouragement to me in my own race.

Because of the great crowd surrounding me, I need to get rid of anything in my life that hinders me. The sin that trips me up as well as weigh’s me down. This world can be so attractive. But it so quickly gets in the way, distracting me from running as I should. Running is also tiring. The temptation is great to stop and rest before the race is over. Or even to quit. But don’t stop or quit. Keep running with perseverance.

Fixing Our Eyes on Jesus

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:2-3 NIV

I am not a particularly good runner, although I do pretend sometimes. In the past, I have run a few marathons and half-marathons. And one thing I found that helped me a lot was to follow someone else. I would find someone just ahead who was running at the same pace. And then follow them. I might follow several different people during a race. But keeping them in sight served to keep me moving along toward the finish line.

And Hebrews encourages me to do the same thing. As I run my race, I need to keep my eyes on Jesus. He has run his race. And he knows all of the turns, the difficulties, and the potholes in the road ahead. And his direction and encouragement are invaluable in helping me cross the finish line.

Ignore the naysayers and opposition. Don’t pay any attention to those who try and distract you from your race. Or those who tell you it’s OK to slow down and not push so hard. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and run your race. Run it to win it.

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The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

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