Running the Race of Faith
5 day Plan
It’s RACE DAY. You are feeling one of two ways—prepared or petrified. The prepared look forward to running, knowing that the hours of disciplined training has equipped them to compete well. The petrified on the other hand, want to pull out—they’re not ready. Plan Eight of Nine devotional plans taking us through Hebrews illustrates the importance of being disciplined by God to finish strong our race of faith.
Hebrews 12:1–6 (ESV)
1Therefore, 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, 2looking 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. 3Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”
Thoughts on the Word
Keeping Our Eyes on Jesus
You have these great examples of faith to inspire you in your race—but look to Jesus. Keep your eyes on Him!
It is easy to be discouraged by trouble. It is easy to 'carry baggage' that slows you down. It is easy to get your eyes off Jesus and onto your problems.
He is a good Father who will correct and discipline you so you get back on track. Those of you with good fathers know that they were not afraid to discipline you to get you back on track—because they loved you and wanted the best for you! So will our heavenly Father.
Father, is there anything that is taking my focus off of Jesus in my walk of faith? I would rather be corrected with a gentle rebuke rather than something more painful. So give me a heart that listens to You. Give me ears to hear and a heart to obey.
Father, I just read about these men and women who succeeded—they inspire me greatly. They cannot get me there though—only Jesus can. So help me focus on Jesus. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Hebrews 12:7–11 (ESV)
7It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. 9Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Thoughts on the Word
How do we respond to God’s discipline?
Some of us cry a lot. It seems so unfair and unreasonable. God should give us a break because we have such a difficult life as it is.
Some of us get angry at the discipline—the things we face. Others seem to get by with a lot less discipline. We get angry at God for the seeming unfairness.
Some of us get discouraged and stop. The discipline never has a chance to produce the fruit of righteousness that it was intended. We stop before the fruit is grown. As a result, we have a bad taste in our mouths about God’s discipline.
But if we let it do its work, it produces amazing results. Let God’s discipline train you, mold you, develop you and make you. It is worth it.
Father, I pray for every one of Your children. You discipline all of us. It is different for each of us because You have a different destiny for each of us. Help us Your children today to humble ourselves under Your discipline. Give us the strength to not get discouraged, angry, upset or even rebellious. Protect our hearts and strengthen us to follow You and build into us some beautiful, bountiful fruit. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Hebrews 12:12–17 (ESV)
12Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, 13and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. 14Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. 15See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; 16that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. 17For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.
Thoughts on the Word
A Root of Bitterness
We learn a bit more about the purpose of God’s discipline. First, it strengthens us to deal with difficult things. When we struggle with weak areas in our lives discipline helps us. We learn to deal with the issues, and this effort brings strength. Areas of weakness no longer disable us. Weak areas in our lives no longer cause us to stumble in our walk with God. Satan is not able to “take us out of action” as we struggle with our weaknesses and limitations. Instead, discipline enables us to get healing in these areas of our lives. It is something every one of us requires. Allow God’s discipline to release that in you..
Second, God’s discipline exposes attitudes of the heart. The purpose of discipline is to bring holiness into our lives. Often it exposes an unwilling heart—a stubbornness to change. This stubbornness can result in a deep-seated offense against God—a root of bitterness which defiles us on the inside. Being defiled is the things we do because of spiritual weakness. God is able to deal with this quite easily. However, a hurt that touches our hearts and makes our hearts unwilling to receive God’s discipline produces a lifestyle full of defilement. We become angry people—a people that seek strife rather than peace, a people that seek to be justified in our hurt rather than receiving a blessing from God. This kind of heart cannot receive God’s blessing. God will expose it not because He wants to embarrass us, but because He is that passionate we receive His blessing. He is willing to suffer rejection from us in order to allow us to deal with the hurt and receive His blessing.
It is too easy to see a disciplining God as a punishing Father rather than a wonderful, loving Father.
Father, there are times I struggle with Your discipline. It seems so tough sometimes. You do not let me get away with things. It is for my own good and blessing. Still, it is hard to receive. Above all, I do not want to get bitter over Your discipline. I want to be strengthened. I want to be healed. I want to be blessed. It requires this discipline in my life. It enables me to let the failures of my human life to be cleaned up. What a blessing that is. They no longer stay hidden in a place where Satan can continually attack me. They get dealt with and become a place of blessing. So strengthen my heart to love Your discipline. Strengthen my heart to desire Your correction. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Hebrews 12:18–24 (ESV)
18For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
Exodus 19:12–16 (ESV)
12And you shall set limits for the people all around, saying, ‘Take care not to go up into the mountain or touch the edge of it. Whoever touches the mountain shall be put to death. 13No hand shall touch him, but he shall be stoned or shot; whether beast or man, he shall not live.’ When the trumpet sounds a long blast, they shall come up to the mountain.” 14So Moses went down from the mountain to the people and consecrated the people; and they washed their garments. 15And he said to the people, “Be ready for the third day; do not go near a woman.” 16On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings and a thick cloud on the mountain and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled.
Thoughts on the Word
Warning #5 Pt. 1
This is the start of the fifth and final warning. It covers today’s and tomorrow’s word.
This fifth warning talks about the difference between God coming down to Sinai and speaking to His people and our ability to go into His presence—to His very throne. If they did not treat God’s presence on the mountain with honor, fear, and reverence at mount Sinai, they were killed. It was very simple.
Now we have the privilege of entering His very Presence at His throne. There, we are surrounded by not just the presence of God the Righteous Judge, but angels who do His bidding perfectly, those who have suffered to follow God’s commands in ages past, and Jesus Himself—the One who died for our sins.
Sometimes, we forget these things when we focus on our suffering. We forget that others suffered and held on tight to obedience. We forget the cost of sins—the suffering of Jesus, God’s Son. We forget that God is a true and righteous judge who will judge everyone impartially. When we come into His presence, all the things we face here on this earth come clearly into perspective.
If we reject this picture and turn our backs on Jesus, what chance do we have?
The second thing I want to bring out is the last line—that the blood of Jesus speaks.
First, it speaks about good things: forgiveness and healing. The blood of Abel cried out for vengeance and justice. His death was the result of anger, rebellion, and pride. It’s voice cried out to God for justice. One of the most powerful words spoken on our behalf is the blood of Jesus. It can set us free, it can change our lives with a few words, “I paid this price in full!”.
Father, the spiritual world is so difficult to see and understand. I focus on what I see and even that should be enough to hold tightly to Jesus. If I could see the spiritual realm clearly, it would be even more obvious to me that Jesus is worth holding tightly to. So today, I ask for another perspective of Jesus—one that sees Jesus in His glory and His honor in heaven. I know that I need to walk by faith here, but there are times when a brief glimpse is so powerful. When I get weary, when I get discouraged, or when I get wounded by people (and it threatens to allow a root of bitterness), help me to see Jesus. Give me that picture afresh so I never allow my heart to draw back from Jesus. Father, that is my prayer. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Hebrews 12:25–29 (ESV)
25See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29for our God is a consuming fire.
Deuteronomy 9:1–3 (ESV)
1“Hear, O Israel: you are to cross over the Jordan today, to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than you, cities great and fortified up to heaven, 2a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know, and of whom you have heard it said, ‘Who can stand before the sons of Anak?’ 3Know therefore today that he who goes over before you as a consuming fire is the Lord your God. He will destroy them and subdue them before you. So you shall drive them out and make them perish quickly, as the Lord has promised you.
Thoughts on the Word
Warning #5 Pt. 2
“See to it that you do not refuse Him who is speaking.”
This fifth warning is about rebellion.
Chapter 2 – Warning against drifting from God.
Chapter 3 – Warning against an evil heart of unbelief.
Chapter 6 – Warning against falling away.
Chapter 10 – Warning against willfully sinning.
Chapter 12 – Warning against rebellion.
It is the fifth and final warning. It comes after the portion we read previously—how God disciplines us. The discipline is hard to receive because it is painful and we fight against it. We struggle under it, and at times we rebel against it. We will all appear before Him—the Judge. The fires of trial we face are nothing compared to standing before Him if we rebel. It is a warning. A very strong warning.
We have seen how merciful and forgiving God is. We have seen how much Jesus has done so we can come into God's presence with boldness and faith. Here is the other side of our God. Sin and rebellion will be judged. It is tough, it is severe, but it is true.
It will be followed by words of encouragement in chapter 13. But let us take time and just think for a day on the justice of our God. We will stand before Him and He will test everything we have said and done.
Father in this time of joy, it is hard to take a day and think about You as a Judge who will test everything I have said and done. Still it is also truth. I come before You today and ask that You expose the hidden things of my heart. I want to have You correct me now, before that day. I want to have You burn out sin and pride here rather than later. It will be much less painful.
Father, I remember as a child the times of painful discipline and how I would run to my parents for comfort after being disciplined. I want to do the same today. As You discipline me, fill my heart with a desire to be comforted by You and to receive the peace and joy that comes from Your embrace. In Jesus' name, Amen.