Hebrews 12: 12 – 15
We continue our study on the twelfth chapter of the book of Hebrews. The writer understands how crucial the present situation is, therefore, pens down and makes a presentation on this part of the letter so that his audience don’t get things mixed up; especially when it borders on issues concerning pain, suffering, affliction, to mention a few. He was not in denial that some of the Jews who had responded to the message of the Gospel (made a choice for the New Testament and abandoned Judaism) had started to suffer – they were under socio-economic pressure to the extent that the bite was becoming hard on them.
He advised that they should be careful on what their focus was on; he was very thorough as he made it clear to them that the focus should not be on who is doing what or where the pain and suffering was coming from, but they should have their focus on God who has allowed their present pain as an avenue to correct, nurture or protect them as they continued to walk with Him. In other words, our pains are supposed to help us become better people as we continue in our journey with God here on planet Earth.
He had initially likened this journey to running in a race. First the athletes have to be qualified to run (in our case, responding to the message of the Gospel), and that qualification for the race opens you up to another dimension that the writer termed, DISCIPLINE. DISCIPLINE is what makes the athlete not only fit for the race but the athlete disciplines him/her self so that they can run well even to winning in the race. The DISCIPLINE in this example can be likened to the many things we go through that we call pain, suffering, affliction and many more in accordance to what our perspectives are.
When our perceptions are not right, we miss out on the lesson(s) we ought to learn from the pains we suffer. Not only do we miss the lesson, we grow bitter as we pray because we are praying against someone we perceive to be causing us the pain. We know that when we don’t pray in accordance to the Will of God, our prayers become an exercise in futility. We would have succeeded in blowing hot air when we don’t do it according to God’s way.
According to this writer, the pains that we suffer today will either bring correction, nurturing or a protection from the evil we cannot see because we are finite beings. God is infinite and He is able to see ahead of us hence, His reason for the protection as a loving Father.
THE WRITER’S ADVISE AS WE GO THROUGH SUFFERING
His attention now is on the Christians and again he has used the same example of the one who is qualified to run and has started to run the race. He never fails to mention of the dropping arms and the wobbly knees of the athlete. No athlete runs in a race with his arms by his side neither do they run with their knees wobbling. If these two things happen, it means the athlete is either tired or is about to give-up running. He also told them as they started to run, to fix their eyes on Jesus and not the cloud of witnesses.
This is a vivid picture of the Christian who is qualified by responding positively to the message of the Gospel. They have started to run the race and chances are that because of their stand on the New Testament, they were put under pressure and the tendency to go back to Judaism was stirring them in the face, and the writer is telling them not to give up. They needed to strengthen their fellow Jewish Christians as they continued in the race being watchful and being diligent.
If the arm refuses to co-ordinate the body, the knees would begin to wobble. While we fix our eyes on Jesus, we need to strengthen other Christians who are weak so that they can be encouraged to continue to run until the end without fail. It could be very painful and discouraging but the idea is for us as Christians to maintain our trust in Him knowing that SUFFERING is an indication that we do have a Father who has our back. It is an indication that we are not illegitimate children.
In his words, he said, “So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.” Jesus said, “by this shall all men know that you are my disciples, when you have love, one for another.”
If we look around us today and especially at many Christian churches, we would notice that most of our prayers stem out of bitterness because we have been taught that anyone who is presumed to be the reason for the things we suffer, has become our enemy therefore we must pray that God destroys them so that we wouldn’t suffer the pain again. We have become bitter because our attention has been drawn away from God to the so-called enemies. This is one of the satanic deceptions unleashed against the Church because a wrong focus produces a wrong attitude.
We can’t afford to be bitter at times like this, rather we should focus on the lessons that must be learnt; lessons that will prepare us for the next phase of our lives. We do not choose our pains, God allows them for a reason and the focus must not be lost. There is a lot ahead of us and God has to prepare His children so that they are not found wanting.
No matter how painful you think your sufferings might be, God has allowed them to either correct, nurture or protect you even like He did for the many cloud of witnesses highlighted in the previous chapter.
I conclude with what Clive Staples Lewis said in his book, titled, “The problem of Pain”. He said, “You may have noticed that the books you really love are bound together by a secret thread. You know very well what is the common quality that makes you love them, though you cannot put it into words: but most of your friends do not see it at all, and often wonder why, liking this, you should also like that. Again, you have stood before some landscape, which seems to embody what you have been looking for all your life; and then turned to the friend at your side who appears to be seeing what you saw — but at the first words a gulf yawns between you, and you realise that this landscape means something totally different to him, that he is pursuing an alien vision and cares nothing for the ineffable suggestion by which you are transported. Even in your hobbies, has there not always been some secret attraction which the others are curiously ignorant of — something, not to be identified with, but always on the verge of breaking through, the smell of cut wood in the workshop or the clap-clap of water against the boat’s side? Are not all lifelong friendships born at the moment when at last you meet another human being who has some inkling (but faint and uncertain even in the best) of that something which you were born desiring, and which, beneath the flux of other desires and in all the momentary silences between the louder passions, night and day, year by year, from childhood to old age, you are looking for, watching for, listening for? You have never had it. All the things that have ever deeply possessed your soul have been but hints of it — tantalising glimpses, promises never quite fulfilled, echoes that died away just as they caught your ear. But if it should really become manifest — if there ever came an echo that did not die away but swelled into the sound itself — you would know it. Beyond all possibility of doubt you would say “Here at last is the thing I was made for”. We cannot tell each other about it. It is the secret signature of each soul, the incommunicable and unappeasable want, the thing we desired before we met our wives or made our friends or chose our work, and which we shall still desire on our deathbeds, when the mind no longer knows wife or friend or work. While we are, this is. If we lose this, we lose all.”
Keep it right here and be refreshed!