The phone buzzed to notify that an email had arrived. I picked it up expecting to see the normal advertisement from one of my favorite publishers. Instead, I got news that one of our friends was in the late stages of pancreatic cancer. My heart sank. I made the call that no one, not even a pastor, likes to make. Thinking I was going to speak with her husband, whose number I had dialed, I got her on the line instead. Through tears we shared the overwhelming joy of gospel truths with each other, though, the struggle of her suffering was very present as well.
The author of Hebrews makes an interesting connection to our endurance and that of Christ’s. In Hebrews 12:3 (ESV) we hear the author state, “Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.”
In the context of Hebrews the author is seeking to get the Hebrew believer’s eyes off of the old ways that pointed to Christ and on to the fulfillment of those types and shadows, which is Christ himself. Previously, he spoke to them about when they had first trusted Christ and the way they had, “endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one.” (10:32-34, ESV)
It’s clear that since then, they had become “weary and fainthearted” as they were enduring their lives as outcasts from there family and former religion. So he again encourages them to consider Christ.
The substance of this encouragement is found in the pathway of Jesus. The author describes this pathway with the joy of Jesus at the right hand of the Father as the prize. For this honor, he endured the cross and despised the shame. Jesus endured the pain and suffering for the prize that awaited Him, namely His exaltation to the right hand of the Father. In the same way the author encourages them to look beyond the suffering of the day to the prize, which is Christ himself. Whatever the pathway holds, our eyes are focused upon Him and He is our goal. We endure and are able to endure, because He endured the wrath of God on our behalf and was victorious.
I recently preached these passages in our church. I always stand and greet the folks at the end of the service and generally people are very kind in stating how nice the sermon was, and so on. However, when I preached this, I noticed how those who have had to endure much suffering responded with extreme specificity in regard to their suffering and endurance. It made me realize that conceptual implication is much different than experiential application.
Within six weeks of my phone call, my friend’s journey here ended. Her suffering ended, her joy was made complete, because her faith was turned to sight and she was face to face with Jesus on whom her eyes were fixed.