Summary: The writer of Hebrews seeks to encourage and remind them that those who are faithful to God have always faced persecution, but that the end result will be a glorious victory even beyond their imagination. (PowerPoint Available - #307)
MELVIN NEWLAND, MINISTER
RIDGE CHAPEL, KANSAS, OK
(The PowerPoints used with this message are available for free. Just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org & request #307.)
TEXT: Hebrews 11:32-12:3
"It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ."
Those words make a beautiful song, but some of the Jewish Christians to whom the letter of Hebrews was written were not sure that it was really worth it all to continue following Jesus.
As Jews they had endured cruel persecutions at the hands of both the Syrians & the Romans. But after they had become Christians, the persecutions were worse than before. Not only were they being persecuted by the Romans, but now as Christians, they were also being persecuted by the Jews themselves.
So all through the letter of Hebrews, the author seeks to encourage them - to help them understand that being a Christian is really worth it all. He reminds them that those who have been faithful to God have always faced persecution, but that the end result will be a glorious victory even beyond their imagination.
In Hebrews 11:32-34 he says, "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.
He continues on in vs's 36-38, "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 - the world was not worthy of them."
Then in the next few verses he tells them to do 3 simple things. #1, Remember your heritage; #2, Throw off everything that hinders; & #3, Fix your eyes on Jesus. Listen as we go on to chapter 12, vs's 1, 2, & 3.
"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.
"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."
What a heritage is ours - not only all the heroes of our faith - but most of all, Jesus Christ, our Savior & our Lord!
I. REMEMBER YOUR HERITAGE
Paul tells them that it is important for them to remain faithful because of the example, the witness of all who have gone before. And he portrays it like they are in a race, & the stands are filled with those who have already run the race & won the victory.
For some of us today that is a very good motivation, because, like it or not, we realize that we are being watched.
ILL. A friend of mine tells about the time when he & his family & a bunch of relatives rented several cabins in Colorado for a vacation. And, of course, they took lots & lots of pictures.
On the last day together they decided they wanted a picture with all 16 of them in it. But then, who would take the picture? Well, one of them had a camera with a delay system where someone could push the button & still have time to run back & get in the picture before the camera shutter clicked.
So that is what they used. And here they were, all 16 of them on the porch - their arms around each other, with smiles frozen on their faces - waiting for the camera to click. A few moments passed & then someone muttered, "I didn't hear it click. Did you hear it click?"
There they stood, not daring to move, but becoming acutely aware that people walking by, who couldn't see the camera, were staring at them, evidently wondering what in the world they were doing. All they saw was 16 people with their arms around each other, standing absolutely still & grinning.
Well, why do we care what people think about us, & the way we look? What is it about us that wants people to be concerned about who we are & what we do?