On Wednesday 18th October at the prayer meeting, Rev Kenneth I MacLeod preached on Hebrews 12, a sermon entitled 'Consider Jesus'.
The preceding chapter details the 'great cloud of witnesses' referred to in the opening verses of this one. They are placed before us as an inspiration to greater perseverance in the Christian life.
Here, that life is described as a 'race', which we are to run with endurance. Races are not just random, but follow a specific route - and God has ordained just such a course for each one of us.
We are entreated to lay aside the weight of sin which hinders us, just as athletes are encouraged and trained to become as streamlined as possible. These sins are as particular to each of us as is the route we have to follow. In some cases, we are well aware of what these sins are, whereas, at other times, we might not recognise them. The ongoing work that God does in each of us develops that awareness, but it is a process which lasts the duration of the race.
Our faith, our assurance and our witness may all be hampered by these sins.
New Christians struggle to believe that they will ever be at risk of becoming weary and faint hearted. However, there are a number of factors which can cause the Christian to be ground down over time:
- the opposition of the non-Christian world;
- hurt inflicted by other Christians;
- weariness with one's own propensity to let the Lord down.
Add to this the difficulties, trials, and the sore providences of life, and it is all too easy to become downcast in your Christian walk.
The remedy, however, is supplied by the apostle: consider Jesus.
He meant, compare your trials and complaints to those endured by the Lord. Consider Him in Gethsemane, sweating blood as He contemplated the full horror of Calvary, and requesting that the cup should pass from Him, yet submitting. And consider the brutality He endured, the taunting and the mocking, even as He hung on the cross for our sins. Even His disciples, when He needed them most, let Him down: one denied Him, one betrayed Him, and the rest abandoned Him when danger came near.
All of this, He endured as we will never have to, because He was utterly alone. Consider His cry to God - 'Father, Father, why have you forsaken me?' He and the Father had always been one, and now He was experiencing the Hell of separation from God so that we do not have to.
The great comfort for the believer in this is that, once we are in Christ, we can never be parted from communion with Him, precisely because of what He endured on our behalf. As we persevere in the race, considering Jesus, what sustains us is the knowledge that whatever we suffer, He has been there before us - and gone much further.
In fact, the great wonder is that we have not had to suffer more.
God has shown how much He wants the best for us, by coming down to us where we are. If we consider His Son, we will know that to be true.