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Sunday School Lesson: Explore the Bible - November 19

Persevere amid difficulty

By Bob Orgeron

Focal Passage: Hebrews 12:1-29

Call for endurance (vv. 1-3). In one of the great, moving passages of the New
Testament, the writer points the reader to the cross as motivation to face the
difficulties involved in living out their faith.

The personal pronoun “we” in verse 1, links the writer to his readers. He places
himself as a fellow runner in the race. The word “cloud” refers to a throng of
people. The “witnesses” are those who have given witness to the faith. The writer
pictures athletes in a relay race, running for the finish line. The great gallery of
witnesses about us encourages us to run well. We are exhorted to prepare to run
the race, to “throw off everything that hinders.”

In verse 2, we are to run the race with our eyes fixed on Jesus. He is the one
toward whom we run with undivided attention. The “author and perfecter of our
faith” indicates that Jesus walked the way of faith first and brought it to

In the expression rendered “for the joy set before him,” the preposition translated
“for” sometimes has the meaning “for the sake of,” which is preferable here. With
this understanding of the term, Jesus went to the cross — “because of the joy,”
that was set before Him. He looked right through the cross — to the coming joy.

Call for discipline (vv. 4-11). Suffering comes to everyone. It is part of life, but it
is not easy to bear. Yet, it is bearable if it can be seen as meaningful. The writer
has just pointed out that Christ endured His suffering on the cross on account of
the joy set before Him. His suffering had meaning. The writer points to the
importance of discipline and proceeds to show that for Christians, suffering is
rightly understood only when seen as God’s fatherly discipline, correcting and
directing His children.

Call for consistency (vv. 12-17). From the acceptance of life’s discipline in
general, the writer turns to the way this discipline is applied in Christian

In verse 12, “therefore” links this exhortation to what has gone before. Because
of what they now know of God’s loving discipline, they must put forward their best
effort. The “hands” as pictured are “limp” and useless. The knees are “weak.”
“Therefore strengthen,” presents the picture of someone whose hands and legs
are out of action. The exhortation implies that the readers are acting as though
they are spiritually paralyzed. They are urged to put things right and get moving.
Verse 13, is a quotation from Proverbs 4:26, the idea is to put the paths into
better shape in order to facilitate travel, specifically for the lame. The writer is
mindful of the fact that Christians belong together. They must have consideration
for the weak among their members.

The New Testament contains a number of exhortations to believers to be at

“peace,” either with one another or with people in general. For them peace is
imperative, and they must put forth “every effort” to attain it.

Coupled with the call to peace is an admonition “to be holy.” Holiness means
being set apart for God. It is characteristic of believers to live differently from and
separate from the world. It is characteristic of believers to live differently from and
separate from the world.

Call for gratitude (vv. 28-29). Verse 28, shows that the author understood
ultimate reality in terms of God’s sovereignty, in contrast with earthly systems. It
is not quite certain how we should understand the expression “let us be thankful”
it may be literally rendered “Let us hold on to God’s grace.”

Verse 29 is an expression apparently taken from Deuteronomy 4:24, that

emphasizes that God is not to be trifled with.

— Orgeron is pastor of Park Avenue Baptist Church, Nashville.