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Posts Tagged "Hebrews 12:4-24"

The Way of the Cross

August 25, 2019
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation is from our epistle text, where the preacher exhorts the Hebrews, Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

“God never gives us more than we can handle.” This phrase has become a bit popular in recent years, meant to encourage people who are going through a valley, a time of deep sorrow or suffering, to buck up, that they are stronger than they think and they will be able to endure. It’s a phrase, I have no doubt, that aspires to bring someone who is suffering comfort and strength to face what they must … and it’s a phrase that I have come to abhor and despise.

It’s well-intentioned, I have no doubt, but let’s be honest: it’s not true. God often gives us more than we can handle. God often gives us situations and crises that are overwhelming, devastating. Many here have known what it means to feel like you’re drowning in the cares and sorrows and brokenness of living in this world; some of you are in the throes of such agony right now. “God never gives us more than we can handle.” Ha! That concept is hogwash; God does give us trials and tribulations in our lives, some of which are, indeed, overwhelming. But contrary to the conceptions of atheists and some Christians who view God as some sort of cosmic sadist, these trials and tribulations are actually evidence … of His fatherly love and provision.

Our text comes right on the heels of last week’s epistle lesson, where we read, Therefore, 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, looking 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. Then comes our text, wherein the preacher writes, Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.

This isn’t idealism. This isn’t pie-in-the-sky, rose-colored glasses, bury your head in the sand to the grim realities of this world with a nice Jesus veneer. This is the antidote, the remedy, the hope we cling to during those times when God has overwhelmed us. It’s Jesus, the continual reminder of what He has done for His people, those who trust Him with their lives. The preacher is calling his hearers to recall the greatness and grandeur of the Father’s love – a love so deep, in fact, that He was willing to send His only-begotten son to come into this world, only to endure from sinners such hostility against Himself. With Christ set before their eyes, the preacher is saying they can endure the unendurable, bearing the impossible crosses God has laid on them because He has bought for them with His precious, innocent blood shed upon the cross. In their weaknesses, God shows His incredible strength through them as He carries them through their trials.

The preacher then goes a step further: And 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. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It 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? God bears you through these trials and tribulations, and all the while, He is treating you as His children, whom He loves like a father. In fact, He loves you so much that He is willing to risk your anger and hostility against Him to strengthen you, using said trials and crosses as discipline.

Because that’s what discipline is, right? It is correction, rebuke, training, and strengthening for a life of hardship and trial. If God hated you or if He didn’t care, He’d allow the comforts of this world to lull you into a sense of complacency, to have it easy and be swept away the moment a real crisis rears its ugly head. If He didn’t care, He wouldn’t discipline. The preacher says as much: If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides 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? For 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.

Now, this is all well and good, but that doesn’t take away the suffering in the moment. The thought that God is using this trial to strengthen and discipline me for later doesn’t make things any less painful. Well, the preacher recognizes this: For 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. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees ….

The preacher was encouraging and proclaiming these words to Jewish Christians, who bore the cross of persecution and doubt in the early church, but the same goes for you. As you are bearing crosses that God gives, you are walking in the same way our Lord Jesus did. Bearing your crosses, you rest easily knowing that you are participating in Christ’s own suffering, that God is present in your suffering, and that He will use it to discipline, teach, encourage, correct, and strengthen you.

Life isn’t easy. It’s painful and unpleasant. We lose loved ones through tragedy and disease. We are overcome by financial troubles and job complications. Marriages fail, hearts are broken, people fight. “God never gives us more than we can handle,” indeed! What He has given you … is the forgiveness of sins. He’s given you the promise of life eternal with Him and the great communion of all saints in the life of the world to come, where there won’t be any suffering or pain. And yes, He had given us our crosses to bear in life. They are heavy and burdensome, but the One who has given them to you says He will never leave you, nor forsake you, that you are His. So, Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. … lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, for your Lord Jesus died and rose for you, your sins are forgiven, and eternity with Him is what awaits you. God gives us way more than we can handle … and in fact, He has given us infinitely more than we could ever deserve. He gives us the way of the cross.

+ In the Name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. + Amen.

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