Summary: Endurance and encouragement are needed to end well in the race of the Christian life
Shiloh Bible Church
Finishing The Race
[Show newspaper.] I enjoy reading the column entitled “History Lesson” in the Press Enterprise. It appears on page 2 of the paper and it lists several events of interest that happened in the past on that particular day.
For example, on Saturday, June 30th, the History Lesson featured Blondin—the tightrope walker. The History Lesson stated that on June 30th, 1859: “French acrobat Blondin (Jean Francois Gravelet) walked a tightrope above the gorge of Niagara Falls as thousands of spectators watched.”
Wow! That would have been quite a sight—watching someone walk above Niagara Falls on a tightrope. Tightrope artists are incredible! Can you imagine attempting to balance yourself and walk on a thin wire high above the ground?
In his book Why Leaders Can’t Lead, Warren Bennis writes, “The Flying Wallendas are perhaps the world’s greatest family of aerialists and tightrope walkers. … I was struck with [Karl Wallenda’s] capacity for concentration on the intention, the task, the decision. I was even more intrigued when, several months later, Wallenda fell to his death while walking a tightrope without a safety net between two high-rise buildings in San Juan, Puerto Rico. … Later, Wallenda’s wife said that before her husband had fallen, for the first time since she had known him, he had been concentrating on falling, instead of on walking the tightrope. He had personally supervised the attachment of the guide wires, which he had never done before.”
Karl Wallenda fell to his death because his focus was in the wrong place. Likewise, we can fall away and experience spiritual tragedy in our Christian lives if our focus is in the wrong place. That’s why the writer of Hebrews tells us in 3:1: “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus.” Please turn with me to Hebrews chapter 3 in your Bible.
The writer of Hebrews addresses his book to a congregation of Hebrew Christians who were in spiritual danger. They were seriously contemplating leaving the Christian faith and returning to Judaism. But the writer of Hebrews tells them not to do that—it would be a huge mistake. What they have in Christ is vastly superior to what they had in their former religion. In chapter 1, the writer tells them that Christ is better than the Old Testament prophets. In chapter 2, that He is better than the angels. And in chapter 3 the writer points out that Christ is better than Moses.
So the writer of Hebrews encourages these Christians to remain true to Christ and to His Word. And the writer does so by presenting 5 encouragement passages in this book. The first is in 2:1-4 where he encourages these believers not to drift from the Word. The second encouragement passage is found in 3:7-4:13. There the writer encourages his readers not to doubt the Word.
This morning we resume our study in 3:12. There we are encouraged to guard ourselves against unbelief. And so we read in 3:12: “See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.” The writer gives us the same encouragement at the end of the paragraph in verse 19: “So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.”
Last week we saw from verses 7-11 that the nation of Israel was not allowed to enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief. Their complaining revealed a lack of faith in God. And so instead of entering the land of promise, they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years until that generation died off.
Now, we don’t want to make the same mistake that Israel made. That’s why the writer says in verse 15: “As has just been said: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.’”
Once again, the writer of Hebrews quotes from Psalm 95—just as he did up in verses 7 and 8. And he points out the tragic mistake of Israel in that they refused to listen to God and obey His voice. And the writer of Hebrews elaborates on this in verses 16-18. He asks 6 questions given in 3 pairs. The first question of each pair asks a question. Then the second question answers it. And the questions are designed to drive home the importance of trusting and obeying God.
So, let’s consider the first set of questions in verse 16.
· Question: “Who were they who heard and rebelled?”
· Answer: “Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt?”
· Point: The ones who hardened their hearts against God were the same ones who saw God’s mighty works. The people of Israel saw the 10 plagues that God rained down on Pharaoh. They saw the Red Sea part. They walked through the Sea on dry ground and arrived safely on the other side. They experienced God’s deliverance from slavery and bondage in Egypt. They left Egypt with great hope and great expectation. And yet in the wilderness they chose to disbelieve and to disobey.