Life At Its Best - A Consistent Life

Bible Book: Hebrews  12 : 1-15
Subject: Christian Living; Christian Growth; Faithfulness
Series: Life At Its Best

We have been looking recently at some lessons from the book of Hebrews, and we’ve been dealing with the theme “Life At Its Best.”

Thus far, we have considered the idea of “A Focused Life” from some passages in Hebrews chapter one and two. Then we talked about “A Faithful Life” from certain portions of Hebrews chapter two and three. We also looked at “A Maturing Life” from the last part of chapter five and the first part of chapter six. And then we looked at some verses in Hebrews chapter ten as we considered the idea of “A Confident Life.”

Today, we’re dealing with Hebrews 12, verses 1 thru 15. And we’re considering the idea of “A Consistent Life.”

Consistency in faith is manifested through several notable persons in Hebrews 11. They ran their race with persistence and patience, and chapter 12 begins by encouraging us to also “run with patience the race that is set before us” (Hebrews 12:1). The word “patience” in verse 1 has the idea of cheerful or hopeful endurance, perseverance or consistency. We’re thinking, then, about “A Consistent Life.”

Here are some notable quotes about perseverance and consistency. B.C. Forbes said, “One worthwhile task carried to a successful conclusion is better than half-a-hundred half-finished tasks.” William Feather said, “Success seems to be largely a matter of hanging on after others have let go.” William Blake said, “Mistakes are easy, mistakes are inevitable, but there is no mistake so great as the mistake of not going on.” Edwin Percy Whipple said, “The universal line of distinction between the strong and the weak is that one persists; the other hesitates, falters, trifles and at last collapses       or caves in.” Paul Harvey said that if there is one common denominator of men whom the world calls successful it is this: They get up when they fall down.

I think there are a couple of problems that we have with consistency. One is simply the lack of it. We are not consistent in our spiritual experience. We are up and down, in and out, here and there. And we are not reliable and dependable and steady and consistent as we should be.

Another problem that we sometimes have with consistency is that we are consistent about the wrong things. We develop habits and practices and patterns in our lives that are not pleasing to God, and those things become recurring issues. If we are consistent but consistently wrong, then we need to break that pattern.

The writer of Hebrews is advocating consistency, and he said…(Hebrews 12:1) Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

I. There Is Consistency In The Finest Example

(Hebrews 12:1–4)

We have been given a thorough listing of those who exhibited faith and consistency in chapter 11, but we are not merely looking to Abraham as our case for consistency, nor are we depending on Moses solely as our pattern of perseverance. These men were fallible and flawed, so they are not the absolute best example that we could look to. So as we “run with patience the race that is set before us,” we should be “looking unto Jesus” who is the finest example of consistency.

A. Jesus Was Consistent As He Endured The Cross


1. Let’s Consider The Meaning Of This Concept “Endured”

(Hebrews 12:2) Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

endured – Greek 5278. hupomeno, hoop-om-en'-o; from G5259 and G3306; to stay under (behind),

i.e. remain; fig. to undergo, i.e. bear (trials), have fortitude, persevere:--abide, endure, (take) patient (- ly), suffer, tarry behind.

2. Let’s Consider The Motive Of Christ’s Excruciation

(Hebrews 12:2) Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Why would Jesus endure such an awful thing? He “despised the shame.” He was publicly disgraced. There was a total loss of dignity. The songwriter reminded us that “He could have called ten thousand angels, But He died alone.” Why? For you and for me; “for the joy that was set before Him,” the joy of “bringing many sons unto glory” (Hebrews 2:10).

Marvin Vincent said that the joy was what Jesus had before…

The joy was the full, divine beatitude of his pre-incarnate life in the bosom of the Father; the glory which he had with God before the world was. In exchange for this he accepted the cross and the shame. The contrast is designed between the struggle which, for the present, is alone set before the readers (Hebrews 12:1), and the joy which was already present to Christ. The heroic character of his faith appears in his renouncing a joy already in possession in exchange for shame and death.

In this case, the motive ahead was sitting down at the right hand of the throne of God as a Prince and Saviour, to give repentance and remission of sins. (From the Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary)

B. Jesus Was Consistent As He Endured The Contradiction


1. As We Are Looking Unto Jesus, We See A Life Of Opposition

(Hebrews 12:3) For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.

contradiction – Greek 485. antilogia, an-tee-log-ee'-ah; from a der. of G483; dispute, disobedience (opposition):--contradiction, gainsaying, strife.

2. As We Are Looking Unto Jesus, We See A Life Of Overcoming

(Hebrews 12:4) Ye have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin.

The Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary further said that the phrase…

Not yet resisted unto blood – (is an) image from pugilism (fighting with the fists – boxing), as from a race; both taken from the national Greek games. Ye have suffered the loss of goods, and been a gazing-stock both by reproaches and afflictions (Hebrews 10:33-34: ye have not shed your blood). ‘The athlete who hath seen his own blood, and though cast down by his opponent, does not let his spirits be cast down, who, as often as he falls, rises the more determined, goes to the encounter with great hope’ (Seneca). Against sin – personified as an adversary; whether within, leading you to spare your blood, or in your adversaries, leading them to shed it, if they cannot, through your faithfulness, induce you to apostatize.

Barnes said…

In those games, the boxers were accustomed to arm themselves for the fight with the caestus (a strip of leather like a belt). This at first consisted of strong leathern thongs wound around the hands, and extending only to the wrist, to give greater solidity to the fist. Afterward these were made to extend to the elbow, and then to the shoulder, and finally, they sewed pieces of lead or iron in them that they might strike a heavier and more destructive blow. The consequence was, that those who were engaged in the fight were often covered with blood, and that resistance “unto blood” showed a determined courage, and a purpose not to yield. But though the language here may be taken from this custom, the fact to which the apostle alludes, it seems to me, is the struggling of the Saviour in the garden of Gethsemane, when his conflict was so severe that, great drops of blood fell down to  the ground.

Surely we can endure, for we “have not yet resisted unto blood” (vs. 4) as Christ did in our behalf. As John Trapp said, “Our troubles are but as the slivers and chips of His Cross.”

II. There Is Consistency In The Forgotten Exhortation

(Hebrews 12:5–11)

A. The Writer Points Us To The Chastening Of Sons


Though these believers had “not yet resisted unto blood,” they had resisted the idea of God’s discipline, for the writer said, “ye have forgotten the exhortation … My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord” (vs. 5).

1. Notice The Reference To This Exhortation

(Hebrews 12:5-6) And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: {6} For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.

Albert Barnes said in his Notes that…

This exhortation is found in Proverbs 3:11-12. The object of the apostle in introducing it here is, to show that afflictions were designed on the part of God to produce some happy effects in the lives of his people, and that they ought, therefore, to bear them patiently. In the previous verses, he directs them to the example of the Saviour. In this verse and the following, for the same object he directs their attention to the design of trials, showing that they are necessary to our welfare, and that they are in fact proof of the paternal care of God. This verse might be rendered as a question. “And have ye forgotten?” etc.

(Proverbs 3:11-12) My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction: {12} For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.

2. Notice The Ramifications Of This Exhortation

(Hebrews 12:7-8) If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? {8} But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons.

The “chastening of the Lord” indicates His discipline, but it also encompasses the experiential instruction given to cultivate virtue in His children. Through chastening, “God dealeth with you as with sons” (vs. 7). He does not discipline a child that is not His own, and the absence of any divine “chastisement” suggests a lack of genuine relationship with God (vs. 8).

The Thayer’s Greek Lexicon says that “chastening” refers to…

“whatever in adults also cultivates the soul, especially by correcting mistakes and curbing the passions;” hence, (it is) instruction which aims at the increase of virtue (and) chastisement, chastening (of the evils with which God visits men for their amendment).

Chastening then can suggest either the instruction which purifies or the injunction which punishes.

B. The Writer Points Us To The Choice Of Subjection


1. There Is A Paternal Respect

(Hebrews 12:9) Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?

The writer is instructing us to be consistent when we face difficult conflicts and divine correction in our lives. And just as we showed respect to our earthly fathers when they corrected us, “shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the (Heavenly) Father” (vs. 9)?

reverence – Greek 1788. entrepo, en-trep'-o; from G1722 and the base of G5157; to invert, i.e. (fig. and reflex.) in a good sense, to respect; or in a bad one, to confound:--regard, (give) reverence, shame.

It was A. T. Robertson who said that reverence means “we turned ourselves to (them as an) habitual attitude of reverence.”

subjection – Greek 5293. hupotasso, hoop-ot-as'-so; from G5259 and G5021; to subordinate; reflex. to obey:--be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.

2. There Is A Positive Result

(Hebrews 12:10-11) For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. {11} Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.

Why should we “be in subjection” to Him and submit ourselves to His authority and discipline? Because His paternal operations have a positive outcome. He chastens us “for our profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness” (vs. 10). As verse 11 reminds us, it is not a joyful experience, but chastening eventually “yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness.”

profit – Greek 4851. sumphero, soom-fer'-o; from G4862 and G5342 (includ. its alt.); to bear together (contribute), i.e. (lit.) to collect, or (fig.) to conduce (it is conducive to righteousness); espec. (neut. part. as noun) advantage:--be better for, bring together, be expedient (for), be good, (be) profit (-able for).

Again, A. T. Robertson said that it is “peaceable after the chastening is over.” And he said of the phrase “exercised thereby,” that it is “picturing the discipline as a gymnasium.”

III. There Is Consistency In The Faithful Experience

(Hebrews 12:12–15)

A. Let Us Be Faithful To The Christian Path


1. This Involves Being Lifted In Our Weakness

(Hebrews 12:12) Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;

This is a quote from Isaiah 35:3…

(Isaiah 35:3) Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.

We are becoming righteous through God’s instruction, “therefore” (or “wherefore”) the writer says, “lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees” (vs. 12). Albert Barnes explained that “the hands fall by the side when we are exhausted” and the knees “tremble as if their strength were  gone.” Perhaps this suggests a weakness in service and prayer. In any case, we can find renewed strength in the Lord.

lift – Greek 461. anorthoo, an-orth-o'-o; from G303 and a der. of the base of G3717; to straighten up:-- lift (set) up, make straight.

Vincent’s Word Studies says that this term was used by medical writers and it meant, “to straighten; to set dislocated parts of the body.”

Perhaps this refers to lifting up our own limbs, or perhaps it refers to helping mend the brokenness of others’ limbs.

2. This Involves Being Level In Our Way

(Hebrews 12:13) And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.

Adam Clarke said…

Take the straight path that is before you, do not go in crooked or rough ways, where are stones, briers, and thorns, by which you will be inevitably lamed, and so totally prevented from proceeding in the way whereas, if you go in the even, proper path, though you have been wounded by getting into a wrong way, that which was wounded will be healed by moderate, equal exercise, all impediments being removed.

B. Let Us Be Faithful To The Christian Principles


1. The Writer Advocates Consecration

(Hebrews 12:14) Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord:

The writer declares in verse 14 that we should pursue the principles of peace and purity. Kenneth Wuest said that to “follow” means “to seek after eagerly, earnestly” and thus has “a sense of urgency about it.” We see how important it is to pursue holiness in particular, for without it, “no man shall see the Lord.” In other words, without His holiness at work in our lives, the holy God will not have communion with us.

2. The Writer Advocates Caution

(Hebrews 12:15) Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled;

What happens to that one who doesn’t heed the Lord’s instruction and chastening? The cautionary message of verse 15 says that a man can “fail of the grace of God.” It didn’t say that the grace of God fails, nor did it say that a man could fall from grace. Rather, it means that you let something hinder or detain you, and you lag behind in the Christian journey. There is a further word of warning in verse 15 about the troubling and defiling root of bitterness. But in spite of these potential dangers, let us be faithful and consistent.


Steve May wrote…

Walter Elliot said, “Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another.” Many would define perseverance as one consistent day after another, but the fact is that no one is consistently consistent in all things 100% of the time. A better way to say it is that perseverance is 4 consistent days out of 5. Or 9 consistent days out of 10. I love Paul’s use of the phrase “press on” in Philippians 3. It communicates the idea of not just trying, but trying again. Paul admits that he is not perfect, has not yet attained all that he desires to be ... (v. 13-14) But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal. Perseverance isn’t so much  a matter of winning one long marathon as it is a matter of winning (or even “placing” in) the short races you run day after day, hour after hour. It requires us to press on, even after minor setbacks and temporary defeats. Perseverance is a lifetime accomplishment ... lived out one day at a time, one 40- yard dash at a time.

Those before us exemplified faithfulness and consistency, and we should also leave a legacy of persevering service. As Steve Green wrote, we are “Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run the race not only for the prize. But as those who’ve gone before us, let us leave to those behind us the heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives. May all who come behind us find us faithful!”