Hebrews 12:1-2 (NKJV) 1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Last week and earlier this week we looked at three people from Mark 5 who fought through various kinds of opposition to physically get to where Jesus was when they had need. The result of their commitment and effort was complete victory for each of them. We do not have to go to a physical location to make a connection with Jesus. In our day, it is a matter of emotional and spiritual proximity that will release the power of God in our lives. How do we do in the spirit what these three people did in the natural?
Part of the answer to that question resides in Hebrews chapter 12. The Lord says that he shakes the heavens and the earth so that what is unshakable will remain. He did that in the death burial and resurrection of Jesus in an ultimate sense. However, this chapter is about us living in the world as individual Christians. I believe there is a process that we go through whereby God shakes out of us the things that make us shaky in our relationship with him. What remains is a person who cannot be shaken.
This also results in a closer walk with the Lord. Just as physical proximity guaranteed success to the three people in Mark 5, spiritual proximity with the Lord will result in success for the present day Christian. More than ever, we need to be where Jesus is in the spirit. We need his power for our own lives as well as for the lives of the people around us who do not yet know him.
Yesterday we looked at the first and main way that God shakes us to bring us to where he is. He speaks. He speaks first through his Word. Our attitude toward the Word of God will determine how God can speak to us inwardly. If we ignore the word by not giving it attention or by not obeying what it says, God will not speak to us inwardly and we will find that we are not living where Jesus is. We will have difficulty getting answers to our prayers and we will not be successful in our Christian walk.
I want to move back to the beginning of chapter 12 today. This chapter lays out in detail the ways that God deals with us. Some of what the Lord says here is difficult to hear. That is why verse one is so important. The first word in that verse is “therefore.” There is an old saying when it comes to bible interpretation. When you see a “therefore” you need to find out what it is “there for.” This word connects all of chapter 12 to chapter 11.
In chapter 11, the writer explains the “great cloud of witnesses” that surrounds us today. The whole of chapter 11 deals with the subject of faith and those who walked by faith throughout history. It is in the light of their lives and by faith that we can receive what God wants to show us in the 12th chapter.
Look at the last 2 verses of Hebrews 11.
Hebrews 11:39-40 (NKJV) 39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.
Reading Hebrews 11 we find some of the great heroes of the Old Testament. We also read of people who went through great trials. The Lord tells us here that they were not complete in themselves. All that they did led to our day. It was so that we could be what God needs us to be that they suffered and accomplished what they did.
God was working in and through them so that he could bring about his plan for us in the earth. There were times when they had to endure many things to get to where God needed them to be. It is doubtful that they understood all that God was doing through them. They were just living the life that God placed before them.
As we look back, we must realize that all that happened to them was in God’s control and for God’s purpose. We must approach our lives with the same faith in God. We do not always understand what the Lord is doing. We must trust that all he is doing is to bring us to that closer walk with him which will bring powerful results in our lives.
The five people that we studied in Mark 5 were willing to do anything they had to do because of the urgency of the trial. Sometimes that is what happens to us. A shaking comes in our circumstances and we get so desperate that we do whatever it takes to get a hold of the Lord. That is one way that we can become unshakable. God will use whatever comes to try us and remove whatever keeps us from him. I believe this chapter shows us another way.
I believe we can have the process of Hebrews 12 thrust on us by circumstances or we can seek it directly from the Lord. If we do the latter and cooperate with what God wants to do in us, we can minimize the circumstantial shaking. I doubt we can ever totally avoid it, but we can minimize it. If we do not embrace Hebrews 12 on our own, God will be faithful to apply it when we do get desperate. I believe, at least partially, the choice is ours.
There is much to say about the first few verses of this chapter, but today let me point out one thing. It says that we must look to Jesus who is the author and finisher of our faith. These two words mean that Jesus is the one who determined how real faith in God would work in the human heart. When Dr. B.J. Pruitt was with us recently he used the term “prototype.”
Jesus is the prototype of human faith in God. A prototype not only determines how a new product should work but it also tests that product until it is “ready for prime time.” In the testing process, the prototype is subjected to every kind of stress that it would face in the hands of the public. It is then taken beyond that point to stresses that it should never face in normal use.
Jesus authored what faith in God should look like in the human heart. Then he tested it and proved it in the most difficult of circumstances. He used this “prototype” faith to overcome a trial greater than any we can ever face. He overcame the sin of the world and the death and burial of the redemption sacrifice. The result was the resurrection and the purchased freedom of all men.
Look at verse 3 and 4 of Hebrews 12.
Hebrews 12:3-4 (NKJV) 3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. 4 You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.
Jesus authored and finished faith in God. We need to approach Hebrews 12 by this same faith. We need to know that the great cloud of witnesses from both before and after Hebrews 11 are depending on us to be the church that they all sacrificed to see.
We also need to know that anything God asks of us is to create in us that unshakable kingdom. If we approach the next few verses by faith and trust in God, we will soon find that we are where he is and nothing will be impossible. The process is not always easy but if we approach it “considering the author and finisher of our faith, we will be successful