Summary: Are you at the end of your rope? Suffering from trials and troubles? Perhaps it is the Lord’s discipline- given out of love for your good. Find hope and help in the first part of Hebrews 12.
The Apostle Peter to me is one of the great men of the Bible - not because he was so perfect and strong and patient and so much like the Lord - but because he was so imperfect and impetuous and impatient and so much like us!
One of my favorite stories about Peter is found in Matthew chapter 14. Turn there. Jesus has just supervised the feeding of 5,000 men, besides the women and children. He tells His disciples, including Peter, to get into a boat and head out across the Sea of Galilee. The wind came up and whipped the waves into a frenzy. The boys were trying their hardest to get somewhere but to no avail. Then Jesus comes to them - walking across the lake!
To say the least they were pretty afraid. And Jesus says one of His most wonderful statements - "Take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid."
So then comes a Peter moment. You know - those times when Peter has a flash of inspiration followed by the loud bang of him falling flat on his face.
Matthew 14:28-33 And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water." 29 He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." ESV
There is so much to love about this story - but what I want to focus on is this. Peter was bodacious enough to trust Jesus to do something through him that was way beyond anything he had ever done - walk on water, and in the midst of a raging storm. He waits for Jesus to tell him, then he steps out of the boat and does it! All goes well as long as he has his eyes on Jesus - but as soon as he begins to glance about at the wind instead he begins to sink - and Jesus reaches down and grabs him.
How many times are we like Peter - wanting to do great things for God - but as soon as we step out we fall flat. Yet, no one else did what Peter did - Peter’s problem wasn’t that he stepped out of the boat but that he took his eyes of Jesus.
The Hebrews could learn a big lesson from Peter. And in chapter 12 we get a glimpse at just why they are in the state we find them in - ready to turn away from Jesus and go back to Judaism. It’s because, like Peter, they focused on the storm of persecution around them, instead of the Savior standing before them.
In chapter 11 the author focuses on faith, and those who trusted that God is who He says He is and that He’ll do what He said He’ll do. Now it’s time to for them to put that faith into practice in three ways:
1. Throw off that which holds back
2. Focus on Jesus, instead of the storm
3. Lean into the discipline so that you will find strength to walk a straight path
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
I’m going to use the Peter story as a template for Hebrews 12. Verses 1-2 is where Peter has to decide - do I stay in the relative safety of the boat, or do I respond to this thing in my heart that is urging me to "go for it."
He had Jesus urging him on - the Hebrews, and we, have all these people who came before us - who saw terrible things and faced awful circumstances, yet still trusted God. If they could do it, then so can we - we don’t have to let storms and waves hold us back.
We lay aside weight and sin "which clings so closely." There is nothing that will hold you back from really serving God as much as sin. Examine your life, your habits, your attitudes, your relationships - are they enhancing your walk, or holding you back? Sin is like static cling - it’ll glom on to you and hold fast unless you act to remove it.