Sermon: Your Second Wind (Hebrews 12:12-17)

Getting Your Second Wind

Hebrews 12:12-17 (ESV)

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,  [13] and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.  [14] Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  [15] See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;  [16] that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.  [17] For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

Truth Taught– As believers running the race of the Christian life, we must seek holiness and peace with one another.

Our modern day world is so quick to equate suffering with bad or evil.  We think that the ultimate goal in life is prosperity, and comfort.  When we enter into suffering, no matter the form, there is a pill readily available to help take the edge off.  Often times, it could be that we find ourselves working against the Holy Spirit when we take pills for depression, for example.  If you suffer from depression, ask yourself why?  Also ask yourself what is the Lord telling me through these dreary days?  By medicating yourself, you may miss what God is doing, therefore prolonging the misery.

Last week, we learned that pain is not hatred from God but the love of God.  We know this from the text from last week.  We are not enemies with God but sons of God.  He isn’t punishing us but working for our good.

Hebrews 12:5-8 (ESV)

And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?

“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor be weary when reproved by him.

[6] For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.”

[7] It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  [8] If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

This is an extremely important text of Scripture.  Last week we learned how to think about God’s discipline.  We saw that He only disciplines us because we are sons and daughters and He is our heavenly Father.

One point I want to make very clear this morning before we launch into this text, is that as believers, we should never think of God’s discipline as punishment.  God never punishes one of His children.  We are so used to thinking of God apart from grace that we think we will be punished for sin.  Jesus Christ was punished for our sin.  He alone paid for our sin debt.  God will not punish the same sin twice.  The entire wrath of God that His children have accumulated was spent on Christ.  Those sins we have committed and ones we will commit have been punished already.

Hebrews 9:28 (ESV)

so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.

So, what this means to us as believers is that as we suffer and when we ask God questions like, “Why is this happening to me”?  We can automatically know that God has designed that we walk through whatever struggle it is so that when we come out on the other side we will be stronger and more mature believers and He will receive more glory.

The text before us today is a command to do something because and only because Christ has already done something.  His work on the cross for His children has changed everything.  His death has changed death for believers…

1 Cor. 15:54-57 (ESV)

When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

[55] “O death, where is your victory?

O death, where is your sting?”

[56] The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  [57] But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus’ death has changed death for His people.  His suffering, likewise, has changed suffering for His people.  Just as our death only brings about good things, so our suffering only brings about good things.

This text of Scripture before us today is extremely important.  This text shows us that proper theology must lead to proper practice.  In other words, what God is after isn’t ultimately for us to understand truth but understanding by faith, leading us to action.

That’s why this section of Scripture begins with “Therefore”.  Therefore, based on all that has been said so far in Hebrews, do this…

It’s sort of like putting together something using the instructions.  It’s the night before Christmas and you’re trying to assemble the new bicycle for your child.  You look to the instruction sheet, read through it, and you understand what it says and what it means.  However, instead of beginning to assemble the bicycle, you never open the box and it just sits there.  Understanding the instruction sheet is not why it was produced.  It was written to be used to assemble the bicycle.  Simply understanding the Bible is not the end to why it was written.  It was written to be an instruction sheet for glorifying Christ.  Once you read it, it should determine how we think about God and live and then lead to proper assembling of a biblical worldview leading us to action.

If we do not take action, our salvation is not real because our faith is not real.  We’re not taking action to earn anything or to get God to do something; we take action because God has already done something.

Because our suffering is ordained by God for our good, take action to strengthen what is already there.

Race imagery is still in the mind of the Apostle.

We take action because God has taken action in us already.  However, there are times when we become spiritually weak and almost ready to quit.

1.  Seek Spiritual Strength (Hebrews 12:12-13)

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees,  [13] and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed.

We are running the Christian endurance race.  The great cloud of witnesses is cheering us on.  We know Christ is at the finish line waiting for us.  But our strength is all but spent.  Like the Hebrews to which this epistle was written had all but come to the end of all their endurance, we too, at times, are spiritually weak.  The situation is this: Your arms are hanging to your side; you can’t lift them any longer.  Your legs are like rubber.  You’re also weaving back and forth from exhaustion.  What do you do?  Quitting is not an option.  What do you do?

To understand what the writer is getting at, we must see where these verses come from.  He cites the Old Testament for us and is coaching us to do what it says.  It’s as if the Holy Spirit is running beside us telling us what to do to gain the spiritual strength we need to keep on going in the race.

Isaiah 35:3-4 (ESV)

Strengthen the weak hands,

and make firm the feeble knees.

[4] Say to those who have an anxious heart,

“Be strong; fear not!

Behold, your God

will come with vengeance,

with the recompense of God.

He will come and save you.”

Proverbs 4:25-27 (ESV)

Let your eyes look directly forward,

and your gaze be straight before you.

[26] Ponder the path of your feet;

then all your ways will be sure.

[27] Do not swerve to the right or to the left;

turn your foot away from evil.

Immediately we see that spiritual strength comes from God and our stride becomes straight as we run straight to Christ.

Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV)

Have you not known? Have you not heard?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

[29] He gives power to the faint,

and to him who has no might he increases strength.

[30] Even youths shall faint and be weary,

and young men shall fall exhausted;

[31] but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

they shall walk and not faint.

2.  Seek Spiritual Strength through Peace and Holiness (Hebrews 12:14)

[14] Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

We’ve been told so far in Chapter 12 to let go of the sin that so easily entangles us.  We’ve been told to look to Christ.  Now we’re told what to pursue.  We are to pursue peace with others and holiness.  These are two things which give us spiritual strength to endure the race.

First we seek to live in peace with everyone.  Some folks strive for peace in the sense that it’s peace at all costs.  Do we allow people to have their way all the time so that we can live at peace with them?  No, of course not.  Peace must be had in context.  We only truly can live in peace with others as we center that peace in the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ and His gospel.  We can only truly be united with others when it is through Christ.

The writer has in mind the community of believers living in unity and peace as they together look to Christ.

The writer also commands his people, at the same time, to pursue holiness.  There is a sense in which believers are holy set apart for a purpose at salvation.  There is another sense in which this holiness is a life-long process by which we submit our will to the will of God.  By pursuing peace through Christ and by pursuing holiness in Christ we find our spiritual legs to be strengthened and we begin to run straight.  Disunity and unholiness weaken our endurance.

3.  Seek the Grace of God (Hebrews 12:15-17)

[15] See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled;  [16] that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.  [17] For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

Here the writer reminds us how important the local church is.  Together as we pursue peace with others we are to also watching out for others. [15] See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God;

We are our brothers keepers.  Every member is to keep watch over every other member.  The local church must function as a safety net for God’s grace.  This is the number one responsibility for elders as well.  The elders of a church function to guard their people spiritually.  As your elders our calling is the spiritual safety of the church.  Your calling as members is spiritual submission to the elder’s leadership.

Hebrews 13:17 (ESV)

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.

In the Christian race of endurance we all are to look out for those around us who may be in danger of failing to obtain the grace of God.

What shows up as dangers in a church?  root of bitterness, sexual immorality, unholiness. Each of these things if left unchecked will cause trouble in an individual and in the local church.

The writer uses the illustration of Esau.  As far as we know, Esau’s problem wasn’t sexual immorality.  His problem was that he traded God’s blessing for a bowl of soup.  His problem was not sexual adultery but spiritual adultery.  He would rather have his physical need met momentarily that have God.  His worldly passions held him captive.  He would rather have the things of the world than the things promised by God.

Esau, lived this way his whole life, despising the things of God.  In the end when he desired his blessing, he refused to repent and Isaac on his deathbed blessed Jacob instead.  Isaac and God rejected Esau.  It’s important that as a church we look out for each other.  If you notice someone who begins caring too much for the world and not enough for God, lovingly go to that person and speak with them.  Repentance is still available for us today.

If you find yourself spiritually weak, don’t allow it to continue.  Go to someone and speak with them.  Utilize the tool God has set in place to promote endurance.

Just like Canadian Geese that fly in a “V” capitalizing on the wind draft from the one in front, we are in this endurance race together.  How can Grace Community Church help you run your race of faith?  Ask yourself, “How can I be a help to others?”

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