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How to Live a Disciplined Life

Hebrews 12

Jim Davis

Hebrews 12:1-3
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. (NIV)

There is a race marked out for each of us by those who have gone before us. The preceding chapter speaks of those who ran their race faithfully. God marked out the course for them to pursue, and through their faithfulness they have left us a clear trail to follow.

The race marked out before us is a race we must run for it is a race for life, eternal life.

When you are involved in a race for life, there is no way you can afford to be hindered. You must calculate so as to win the race. You must get rid of and avoid all that would be a hindrance in the race for life. It is easy to get entangled in things that rob us of a triumphant victory.

The Bible often refers to our salvation as a race for life.

1 Corinthians 9:23-27
I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (NIV)

2 Timothy 4:7-8
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day-- and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (NIV)

2 Timothy 2:1-5
You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs-- he wants to please his commanding officer. Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules. (NIV)

There are some essentials we must observe if we are to win the race for life.

We Must Look to Jesus

Hebrews 12:1-3
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. (NIV)

The Hebrews being addressed in this letter were getting weary and wanting to quit before they finished the race. They were encouraged to stay in the race to the finish line.

Philippians 3:12-14
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

The race for life is a race of endurance because there are no shortcuts; there must be no looking back and wishing what might have been. We must keep our eye on the goal, which is Christ.

Sin can easily entangle us and weigh us down. It is possible to become entangled in personal sin so as to get tangled up and trip. It is easy to become entangled in sin when our hearts are unreceptive to the word, as were the Hebrews (5:12-14).

Mark 4:13-20
Then Jesus said to them, "Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop-thirty, sixty or even a hundred times what was sown." (NIV)

"Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." The only way we can run the race joyfully is to allow the burden of our sin to fall upon Christ. We must allow the burden of our personal sin to fall upon Christ. However, we are not just talking about our personal sin, we are also talking about the sin of those who sin against us. When others sin against us it is easy to become weighted down with their insults, but we must never forget that the insults of others fall upon Christ. The only way we can bear up under such insults is to throw the weight of that burden upon Christ. Christ said, "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." Christ wants you to cast the burden of sin upon him.

Romans 15:1-4
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: "The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me." For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (NIV)

Matthew 11:28-30
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (NIV)

1 Peter 5:6-9
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. (NIV)

Although we have a great cloud of witness in the preceding chapter, Christ is the perfect one to whom we must look.

1 Peter 2:21-25
To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (NIV)

The Hebrews were beginning to sink spiritually because their senses had become so dull that they were losing sight of Jesus Christ. They needed to patiently endure the hardships in order to build endurance and perseverance.

Christians Should Expect Difficulties

There is no way that we can run the race for our lives without experiencing God’s discipline. Many of us seek to live a life sheltered from the difficulties, but it is impossible. In fact, it is the experience of dealing with problems that builds our spiritual muscles for a race of endurance. Too often we want to avoid the very things that will eventually make us spiritually strong.

Hebrews 12:4-11
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? 8 If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (NIV)

The Christian life has incomparable compensation, but also makes rigorous demands. If the Christian life presents no difficulties for us, then we are probably not Christians. Have you ever met anyone who acts as though they never make mistakes, these people are deceived.

2 Timothy 3:10-16
You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings-what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured. Yet the Lord rescued me from all of them. In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

We must "endure hardships as discipline."(12:7) The easiest thing to do when hardships comes is to feel deserted by God. However, endurance is developed as we allow our hardships to discipline us into a better way of living. When you endure hardships as discipline, God will help you use your difficulties to become better Christians. Through God’s wisdom we are enabled to turn our difficulties into opportunities for growth as we accept them as discipline. You may think that every problem you face has the potential to destroy you, but problems reveal our potential. Problems help us develop a proper perspective of life. They give us insight for living successfully. Don’t ask yourself, "Why do I have this problem?" Ask yourself, "How can I use this problem to strengthen myself for further service."

It is impossible to develop such an attitude without focusing on God’s purpose for your life. When you love God and seek his will for your life, he works all things out for your good (Romans 8:28). Even our problems become a blessing under the mighty hand of God. Paul’s thorn in the flesh made him rely upon the strength of God’s grace to save him. When you develop this perspective on Christian living, you discover the joy of living for Christ.

It is only because of problems that we grow mentally and spiritually. Problems help us distinguish between success and failure. Problems create situations in which we can grow. The very things we want to avoid in life are the things that nurture us and shape us into the persons we should be.

A proper response to our problems will bring healing. "Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 'Make level paths for your feet,' so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed." (Hebrews 12:12-13 NIV)

Discipline Requires an Attitude of Thankfulness

Being part of Christ's kingdom that cannot be shaken is the bases for our gratefulness. It is encouraging to know that God rules our lives in such a way that our troubles cannot shake our faith when it is rooted in God. This is the greatest thing we have to be thankful for.

Hebrews 12:28-29
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." (NIV)

We must develop an attitude of gratefulness to prevent a root of bitterness from springing up and taking control of our lives. Ingratitude is the leading cause of bitterness. When bitterness enters our lives it opens the door to all kinds of ungodliness.

Hebrews 12:14-17
Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears. (NIV)

When we become grateful for God's work in our lives we can seek holiness rather than happiness. The Hebrew writer says, "Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many." This is hard to do in our society, because our world is geared to seek happiness at the expense of holiness. In our world happiness is the goal of life, but in the spiritual realm holiness is the thing strive for. Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart" (Matthew 5:8). If we try to bypass holiness in our search for happiness we will miss it all together.

Esau's ungratefulness resulted in ungodliness."See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. He could bring about no change of mind, though he sought the blessing with tears." (Hebrews 12:16-17 NIV) Esau's bitter tears of regret were the result of his ungratefulness. His ungratefulness was revealed in his willingness to sell his inheritance for a bowl of pottage.

Gratefulness allows us to seek solutions for our problems rather than sympathy. When we seek solutions rather than sympathy we begin to see our problems in a different light. A woman confined to a wheelchair all her life, and a friend who was trying to encourage her said, "You know, afflictions really color life, don't they?" The woman in the wheelchair replied, "Yeah, but I choose the color." Many people would solve their problems if they would go for a solution rather than sympathy.

We can be grateful because we have better promises and a better hope.

Hebrews 12:18-24
You have not come to a mountain that can be touched and that is burning with fire; to darkness, gloom and storm; to a trumpet blast or to such a voice speaking words that those who heard it begged that no further word be spoken to them, because they could not bear what was commanded: "If even an animal touches the mountain, it must be stoned." The sight was so terrifying that Moses said, "I am trembling with fear." But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. (NIV)

The legal code struck fear in the heart of Moses and his followers. They dared not touch the mountain on which God appear for fear of being struck dead. Now we come to the city of living God who makes the spirits of righteous men perfect. We have a mediator who has cleansed us from our sins in his own blood. The message now that we have been cleansed from sin is that God desires to live within each of us. God is approachable and is a very present help in time of need.

We must not allow problems to shake our faith in Christ for to do so will bring greater judgment. Our refusal to accept God's grace gratefully will bring greater judgment. The next time God shakes this earth in judgment the earth will be destroyed and only that which cannot be shaken will remain.

Hebrews 12:25-27
See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks. If they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, how much less will we, if we turn away from him who warns us from heaven? At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, "Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens." The words "once more" indicate the removing of what can be shaken-- that is, created things-- so that what cannot be shaken may remain. (NIV)

Have you allowed sin to shake your faith in Christ?

Hebrews 10:25-29
Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching. If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? (NIV)

Conclusion:

The happiest people on earth are not people without problems. The happiest people on earth are people who have learned to appreciate the possibilities for growth that problems bring. Such persons live unshakable lives.
 
 

 

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