Summary: Make every effort to keep your eyes fixed on the Lord your God
READ: HEBREWS 12: 1- 15
TEXT: HEBREWS 12: 14-15
SING: PSALM 125: 1,4
PSALM 18: 7, 9, 10
PSALM 38: 7, 8, 10
HYMN 9: 1-5
HYMN 10: 1, 9, 10
Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, brothers and sisters:
The author of the letter to the Hebrews begins chapter 12 by picturing a Christian as being in a race. He tells us in verse two to run the race with perseverance. We all know what that race is that we are engaged in. We are in a race against satanic influences, against the world, against demonic forces, against our own flesh. And he encourages his readers not to give up. They must win that race so that in the end every single one of them will be a winner and receive his/her reward. If you are unsuccessful, then the prize of winning will elude you. Then you will not receive the crown of life.
Now, we all know that in a foot race not everyone is as good as everybody else. There are always winners and losers. That is because not everyone has the same hunger for the price. And not everyone has the same stamina or ability as everyone else. Nor does everyone have the same physical attributes, the strength, and the discipline and the focus. There are also the handicapped and the lame. They can barely get to the starting line, let alone run the race. And therefore in a foot race only a few are able to compete and win. There is only one winner, and the rest are all losers.
But now, when you lose the kind of race the author of the letter to the Hebrews is talking about, that spiritual race, if you lose that race, beloved, then you face destruction. Losers within the spiritual realm end up to be eternally damned; they end up in hell. As it says in the text, they will not see God. Everyone must be a winner. There may be no losers.
And so, how does that go with us in this spiritual race? How can we all become winners in that race? For also in our spiritual struggles we are not all the same. There are a lot of people who are spiritually handicapped. Not everybody’s faith is as strong as the next person’s. Many of us are weak in our faith. Our flesh is also weak, making us sin all the time. And furthermore there are also so many distractions that make you forget about the race that you are in. For the world has such a strong pull. It is so attractive. It makes you forget the race that you are in. And furthermore, our knowledge is also so limited. There are so many things in our lives which makes it hard for us to run that spiritual race.
Well, beloved, that is why these words were written. For the author gives us some very good and sound advice; advice designed to make each and everyone of us winners. And if you take those words of this text to heart, then will you too be certain to also be such a winner. You cannot lose. Then your victory is assured. I have summarized the message as follows:
MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO KEEP YOUR EYES FIXED ON THE LORD YOUR GOD.
You can only do that if you
1. Make a unified effort;
2. Avoid bitter roots.
The text begins by stating, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy." Other translations such as the RSV and the KJV have similar wordings. For that reason many commentators see this statement as a parallel to passages such as the Romans 12: 18 where it says, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone." According them the idea these texts is trying to promote is that it is our duty to live in harmony with everyone. Only then can there be peace.
Indeed, that statement as such is true. However, is that what the author means here in this particular text? For that is doubtful. There is no evidence in this letter that the Hebrews were not getting along. That was not their problem.
What then was their problem? Well, their biggest problem was that some of them were falling behind in the race. It looked like some of them were not going to make it to the finish line. They had given up. It took too much effort. They were not helping each other along either.
That is also what the author was referring to in the verses just prior to our text. He speaks there about those with feeble arms and weak knees, and about the lame. And then he gives them some very sound advice. He says, "make level paths for your feet." In other words, remove all obstacles. Make the road smooth. The weak, the lame and the feeble cannot make any progress when there are obstacles in the way. They cannot jump over them. They cannot run on rough terrain. They cannot make it over the hills and through the valleys. And therefore every effort has to be made that whatever impedes their progress, be removed.