Sunday School Material 9-16-12: Faith Empowers Endurance

(Hebrews 12:1-11; 9/16/12)

Introduction: A key idea in today’s Sunday School material is that the people of God should endure hardship with confidence in God. Prayerfully, we will be challenged to endure our hardships with confidence in God’s plan.

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Read Hebrews 11:1-3

I. Running with Endurance. In our Sunday School material the author urges the readers to run a good race - to live faithfully. The inspiration of the crowd is mentioned along with the duty to take off the things that slow you down - sin. The example of Jesus' run is highlighted.

Applications -

- Inspired by the witnesses. Notice in vs. 1 of the Sunday School material that there is a crowd of witnesses that inspire Christian runners to do their best. The commentator suggests that the witnesses are those mentioned in the previous chapter. That may be the case.

However, the Pastor chooses to believe that there are others in this great crowd besides the few mentioned in the previous chapter. In the Pastor’s crowd, he images his father, role models, and faithful members. Who do you imagine?

It seems helpful to imagine whomever you choose to help you run the Christian race. Let’s find inspiration in the lives and legacies of believers who have passed on. Let’s also live so that someone will be inspired by our life and legacy.

- Taking off, preserving, and focusing. Notice in vss. 2-3 that we are to throw off those things that slow us down, preserve through the race, and focus on Jesus.

First, throw off the things that slow us down. Each believer is different, but there are things in all of our lives that we need to get rid of, so we can run better. For some, it may be smoking and drinking. For others, it may be bad friends/company. And yet for others, it may be a prideful spirit that refuses to yield to the will of God.

Second, we have to preserve. The Christian race/run/life is not a sprint; it is a long distance run. The daily dedication of discipleship comes in handy, as we strive to keep on keeping on for the Lord.

Third, we are to focus on Jesus. There are too many who focus on the Pastor, church folk, television personalities, and others. We are called to focus on our perfect example – Jesus. Let’s work on taking off, preserving, and focusing.

Read Hebrews 11:4-8

II. Growing by Correction. The author reminds the readers, in this section of the Sunday School material, that they have not suffered unto the shedding of blood.

He tells them that God's love is made evident by His discipline. He warns against hating discipline. On the contrary, the readers are to see it as a part of being God's children, and it is going to work out for our good.

Applications -

- Things could be worse. Notice in vs. 4 the idea that whatever we are going through, if we have not suffered unto the shedding of blood then things could be worse. There is a strange comfort that comes from knowing that things could be worse in our lives.

Instead of having hurting feet, we could have no feet or legs at all. Instead of having only a few dollars, we could have no dollars and be homeless.

Instead of having only a friend or two, we could have none and have many enemies. Let’s learn to thank God for things being as well as they are, instead of commiserating about how bad things are.

- Living right to avoid punishment. Notice in vss. 5-8 that discipline and hardship are parts of being loved children of God. In fact, where there is no discipline, there is no love. The commentator said in the Sunday School material that a lack of disciple often shows apathy, laziness, or selfishness.

II Samuel 7:14 and Romans 13:1-5 shows how God can often use human hands to do His disciplining. There are too many who think that being a Christian means that you can simply do what you want and God will be so patient and understanding that He will not do anything about your misdeeds.

The truth is God punishes those whom He loves. Let’s work on living right, so we can avoid God’s punishment. However, when we are punished, let’s appreciate God’s love, instead of making things worse with anger and lack of repentance.

Read Hebrews 11:9-11

III. Flourishing from Discipline. The author reminds the readers in our Sunday School material that they have grown to respect human fathers who have disciplined them. Therefore, they should be able to do the same with God their Father. Discipline doesn't feel good in the moment, but down the road, it makes more sence.

Applications -

- The duty to discipline. Notice in vs. 9 that human fathers are expected to exercise some level of discipline. Not only is this the case in the family, but it holds for church, jobs, and community.

Where there is no discipline in response to wrong doing, there is no love by those in authority, and God’s punishment of both the leaders and the disobedient followers is often not far behind.

Let’s not run from our duty to discipline wrong doing, as leaders. And let’s learn to appreciate God’s placing people in our lives to discipline us out of love.

- Punishment’s purpose. Notice in vss. 10-11 of the Sunday School material that the pain of discipline is temporary, but the lessons can provide lifelong benefits.

Think about how many benefits have been enjoyed because we learned the lessons about how hot the stove’s fire is, to look both ways before crossing the street, and to be respectful to our elders. Let’s learn to trust that God’s punishment has a purpose. God is truly working things out for the good of those who love and obey Him.

Conclusion: Let’s work on enduring our hardships with confidence in God’s plan. God has much for those who obey His will.

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