…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls. (Hebrews 12:1-3, emphasis added)
“Consider Him… lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.” I love this verse. Perhaps it isn’t terrifically obvious at first glance how this works. After all, I don’t think anyone walked out of a showing of The Passion of the Christ pumping their fists, ready to take on the world. At least for me, thinking about blood, torture, and humiliation doesn’t generally fire me up for action. So how does considering Jesus’ endurance of suffering give our hearts strength?
There are lots of potential answers to that question. In fact, there are lots of right answers to that question. But one in particular has been striking my heart lately — and here’s a hint: It’s not about inducing a guilt trip.
I suppose that’s one interpretation of this passage with which I disagree. I don’t believe the author of Hebrews is trying to shame the readers into endurance. “Well, Jesus endured the cross, for crying out loud; the least you can do is get a little beaten up now and again.” Now, I’m all for understanding that we owe Christ everything we have, but I don’t like sending people on a guilt trip. It might motivate us to keep trudging along for another miserable mile or two, but it doesn’t really answer the problem of a weary heart. If anything, it makes it worse, heaping an already tired believer under the added burden of failing Jesus in the very area where He endured so much for us.
I believe a right understanding of this verse lies elsewhere — and again, there are several valid ways to look at this passage. But lately, as the Lord has been more and more speaking about the Cross to me, one angle has stood out above the others. To quote Mike Bickle, the basic principle is this: “Lovers will always outwork the workers.”
To explain what I mean, perhaps it’s just best to take the journey… to consider Him.
Consider the Son of God — the eternal, uncreated, all-glorious Son, there with the Father in the beginning, lacking nothing. Out of overflowing love, the Triune Godhead creates humanity in the very image of God. The Lord lavishes so much on us — paradisiac living conditions, strong bodies, dominion over the earth, and unhindered fellowship with God Himself. In that fantastic context, with all we could ever want or need at our fingertips — we listen to a snake and blow it. We make the insane, unjust decision to seize the one thing God forbade us to have. We ruin the good creation, throw ourselves headlong into death, and shun the love of the One to whom we owe undying allegiance. We commit reprehensible sin. We deserve to die. We deserve to suffer forever.
But the Lord does not give up on us. The Triune God — who doesn’t even need us to begin with — still loves us. So the Second Person of the Trinity, truly and fully God, humbles Himself to the most unimaginable extent and becomes human, all for the sake of love. He desires to make Himself known to us again. He is willing to walk among us, push His way through our rebellion and disbelief, and shine light into our darkened hearts. He wants to reconcile and redeem us to God. And all the while He’s on earth, serving, healing, teaching, and ministering, people misunderstand and hate Him.
As if He has not humbled Himself enough, He bows still lower. Willingly — even gladly — He lays down His life. He isn’t some mere pawn in the Father’s plan. He isn’t simply a victim of an unjust system. He isn’t a brave martyr for a noble cause. He is God, in the flesh, choosing to pour out His soul unto death to make intercession for unworthy sinners.
Consider Him. Really consider Him. Picture Him on that cross. Remember how He never was obligated to create us, never owed us His love, and certainly was never under any requirement to redeem us when we brazenly cast off His goodness. See how, in love, He is dying for the very ones who spit in His face and mock Him at His death. See how He is pierced through for His dearest friends who denied and abandoned Him in His greatest hour of need. See how He is crying out to the Father to forgive. See how, even in the throes of maximum human cruelty, there is not one shred of bitterness, malice, or offense in His heart. See how every drop of blood He sheds is screaming volumes about the greatness of His love.
But even more, realize that He knows you in this moment. He sees your need, He is fighting for your destiny, and pursuing your heart in love. See the wounds and stripes He gladly bears for you, to cleanse your soul and to heal your body. See the unsurpassed, relentless pursuit of Savior who refuses to abandon you to the despair of those who forsake God. See the One who is willing to sacrifice everything for your sake. See Him on that cross, and see the love in His eyes — pain, yes, but also that tenderness, that beautiful zeal, determining that nothing is going to keep you from Him. See Him put everything on the line so that you might say yes to Him and be with Him forever.
Consider Him. This is what love looks like. This is what your God looks like. He is real. He is personal. He cares. He is moved by you. He feels the pain of your suffering, and even of your sin. No price is too high to win your heart. God is giving you everything — God is giving God to you.
Consider Him. I’m serious. Close your eyes if you need to, and really see Him. Think about Him. Let your heart go there. This is how much He loves you.
Now how do you feel about that race that’s been set before you?
I know how I feel about it. How can I say no to that kind of love? How could my heart remain unmoved? I can’t help but sign up for everything all over again. I can’t resist that kind of love and kindness. I’m ready to pay whatever cost, not because my spiritual contract demands it, but because He has won my heart. The cross is the craziest, deepest, most profound act of love this earth has ever seen — and by it, He is extending the most gracious invitation to me for fellowship with Him. I must respond to it, because I want to. More than anything else, I want to.
Life is an ever-changing thing. Seasons are in a constant state of flux. Sometimes catching glimpses of what lies ahead is enough to send my little heart into a tailspin of panic. What should I do? How do I handle it? Can I handle it? What if I get it wrong? Etc., etc., etc. It’s unsettling. It’s discouraging. It’s enough to make me want to throw in the towel and retreat to somewhere “safe” (good luck with that, by the way). But lately — and I absolutely credit the Holy Spirit’s gracious leadership for this — when I feel myself getting drawn into that tumult of anxiety, I think of the Cross. I try to picture it in my mind. I think not just of what it is, but what it means, and who it really is who’s willingly dying there for me. It gets my attention off of my own challenges and weaknesses, once again “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of [my] faith”. I consider Him, and find renewed desire to keep pressing forward in His grace and mercy.
So for the obvious conclusion of the hour — the Bible works. Consider Him who endured. Tomorrow, consider Him again. In an hour, consider Him again. Talk to Him. Thank Him. Set your heart on Him. This is life and power for our weary and discouraged souls.