Today’s Chocolate: Chocolove Dark Chocolate Coffee Crunch
Today’s Passage: Hebrews 12
Hebrews chapter 11 has been a particularly compelling passage throughout my life. In college, my sophomore essay on faith investigated it in-depth, and I’ve read and re-read it countless times both before and after I wrote that essay. It’s encouraged me to investigate what merits my trust and to place my trust in the sources that merit it without hesitation. In the twelfth chapter, there are a few verses that have similarly stuck with me in life. This should come as no surprise, considering that the author’s primary topic here is my favorite food: discipline.
The second verse has especially resonated with me over the years. The author writes: “[L]et us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (1-2). If there’s one thing that compels me to stay in the race of faith, it’s the person of Jesus Christ–his courage and conviction, his intellect and teaching, his love for humanity as demonstrated on the cross. As Jars of Clay says in their song “Liquid,” “Arms nailed down, / He didn’t die for nothing. / This is the one thing that I know.” It’s because of him that I’m still in the game.
Also, I think there’s a lesson to be learned about suffering from that verse. I’ve heard plenty of people try to convince me and others that Christianity is anti-happiness, that Christians aren’t allowed to enjoy anything but God, or that the logical conclusion of Christianity is that the highest good is the highest suffering. They want to demonstrate that Christianity is insane, but honestly, I think it’s insane to think Christianity is about masochism or absolute self-abnegation. Jesus Christ didn’t embrace suffering for suffering’s sake. He did it for the joy set before him.
Jesus’ example reassures me that we don’t need to embrace a life of constant suffering in order to follow him. He suffered when it came time to suffer, and he didn’t have to enjoy it, either. He endured the cross. He despised the shame of it. And it’s okay to grit your teeth and hate it when the only good thing to do is suffer for another’s benefit. You do it for a reason: to get to the joy.
That said, the author of Hebrews very quickly comes to another verse that stands out to me. He writes, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (4). And as true as that was for his original readers, it’s just as true–if not more so–for me. I consider myself fortunate to have had so very little physical suffering in my life and to be able to choose most of my physical pain in exercising rather than having it forced on me. I’ve never been presented with a choice between renouncing my faith or being thrown to the lions. I’ve never been whipped. A lot is wrong in the world, but I thank God that the turn of the century has been good to me. But I know I need to press in.
And that’s where the discipline comes in. I can’t cover everything, and I encourage you to check out the details of the points about discipline in Hebrews on your own. But there’s one last verse I wanted to point out before moving on from this chapter. The author writes, “But if you are without discipline, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate children and not sons” (8). There’s that suggestion again that you can forfeit your inheritance or at least demonstrate that you were an illegitimate child all along, never having a claim to the inheritance to begin with. Even if you subscribe to the doctrine of eternal security, you’ve got to concede that some have only the mere appearance of salvation–to misappropriate a Homestar Runner quote, faking the funk on a nasty dunk.
And if you remain in the anarchy of your sins, rejecting discipline, you might fool others, and you might even fool yourself. But you’re certainly not fooling God.