“You should have a good game today, Noah,” said Brad, who had recently gotten his driver’s license and was taking his younger brother to the baseball park. “And you’re going to be the pitcher, right?” Brad asked.
“I sure am, and I’m gonna strike out all those guys,” Noah boasted.
Brad smiled. “I hope you’re right, but don’t be too sure,” he cautioned. “That team creamed you guys last year, you know.”
“Yeah, but our coach worked us hard all summer,” replied Noah. “He taught us a lot and he says we’re a much better team now. We’ll win this time.”
Noah kept up a constant chatter about the upcoming game, and Brad smiled and nodded his head now and then. “I hope I get good enough to play in the major leagues some day! Wouldn’t that be great?” asked Noah, eagerly turning to look at his big brother. Noah frowned. “Hey, Brad, you’re not paying attention to me,” he complained. “You never even look at me when I’m talking to you.”
“No, but I hear you,” Brad assured him. “But Dad gave me strict instructions before letting me take the car.”
“What kind of instructions?” Noah asked.
“Mostly stuff I already know–like to keep my eyes on the road and not be distracted,” said Brad.
“Oh. I thought he probably told you something the Bible says about driving,” said Noah with a grin. “Dad seems to find Bible verses for everything.”
Brad laughed as he carefully pulled into a parking space at the ball field. “Actually, Dad did say that driving is sort of like living for Jesus because it requires focus,” Brad said. “Dad says some people have wrecked their cars by being distracted and letting their eyes stray from the highway, and others have wrecked their lives by letting their eyes stray from Jesus.”
“What does that mean?” asked Noah.
“I asked that, too,” replied Brad, “and Dad said it means we can’t let anything distract us from what Jesus wants us to do. Keeping your eyes on Him means to focus on what He wants you to do in every situation.”
Noah grabbed his mitt from the floor and opened the car door. “Well, in baseball, you have to keep your eyes on the ball,” he said. He grinned at Brad. “But I’ll keep my eyes on Jesus, too, and act the way He wants me to while I play.”
All the heroes mentioned in Hebrews 11:32-12:2 were the foundation stone on which others would be laid. They would be completed in those who would come later. We are those stones. We give the saints of old the joy and satisfaction realized by those who are able to look back and see.
The heroes mentioned in this passage fall into two categories: those who knew victory before their deaths and those whose victory came after their deaths. Some, like David, subdued kingdoms. Some, like Abraham and Sarah, obtained promises through lively. unshakeable faith. Faith in God should be proportionate to the object of faith. Faith and God can’t be diminished.
Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah are from the age where the judges ruled Israel and everyone did that which was right in their own eyes. These four men served when Israel had no king to demonstrate the courage needed to stand up for what is right.
In the Hall of Faith, David alone represents the age of kings in Israel because he lived a life of complete devotion to God, and perhaps he faithfully trusted in God’s promise to make him king despite all the hardships he endured. The prophet Samuel so trusted God that he was willing to stand against the people, rebuke king Saul and wait for God’s anointed-king David.
The faith that equips people to be strong in victory also equips them to be hopeful in suffering. Even with the record of victories presented in verses 35-38, the writer shows that suffering is part of God’s purposes. When faced with the alternative between death and renouncing their faith, these champions, like the Old Testament prophets, refused to be broken. They accepted the world’s worst to gain God’s best. They would not sacrifice their future on the altar of the immediate.
Some heroes, like many Christians in Third World countries, were persecuted for their faith. The apostle Paul comes to mind. These Christians died without the promise, but they persevered in faith in anticipation of the future award that awaited them in heaven. Christians today in countries such as North Korea and Iran often suffer similar fates, but they also have the promise of a reward in heaven. Martyrs share a common belief-they are going to be with Jesus after their earthly deaths. They could see beyond their earthly lives to their eternal life in heaven. They were futurists-just like the heroes mentioned in this passage from the Letter to the Hebrews.
In verses 39-40, the writer summarizes that these people believed God, even though they never saw the final fulfillment of God’s promises. These worthy souls did all they did before the coming of the Messiah, trusting in the “something bigger” of God’s future promise of resurrection and redemption. The Old Testament saints had only the shadows and the promise; New Testament Christians have the substance and fulfillment-Christ. The faith of the heroes of old has been remembered in the songs, histories, pageants, and hearts of subsequent generations. They are tied to later generations by the living community of faith in God.
Of the great men and women of faith listed in Hebrews 11, one stands far above them all-Jesus. The heroes of chapter 11 help believers to see that in their own strength they cannot live a life of faith, but Jesus makes it possible. Because He has already finished this race, His people can trust that the obstacles have been cleared for them to finish their race.
African bushmen had a clever way to trap monkeys for food. They would use a box or some other container and put a hole in it just big enough for the monkey to stick in his hand. In the box was a banana that was used as bait for the unsuspecting monkey. The monkey would put his hand in the box to grab the banana only to find out that the hole wasn’t big enough to pull the banana out. Instead of letting go, the monkey would pull and pull and pull, hopelessly stuck, until the hunter would come and kill the monkey.
When it comes to sin, many of us behave in the same way. We hold on relentlessly to the bait of the enemy-the sin that entangles us-until it ultimately destroys us. The heroes of faith in this passage are cheering us on as we run the race of faith. They are encouraging us to get rid of anything that will hinder us during the race. It could be anything such as overconfidence, arrogance, sin, or our worldly lives. We can run the race successfully when we look to Jesus. He designed several aspects of the race He has called us to run:
- He set the pattern of identifying with those in need.
- He claimed that His own life was the essential base for life itself.
- He accepted social outcasts and ministered to them without being repulsed by their outward appearance or behaviour.
- He set a difficult portion of the race, that of loving our enemies.
- He set His lordship under those He served in order to hold them up to their highest potential.
Why did Jesus run this race of servanthood and suffering? He could see beyond the suffering to a future of redemptive blessing for all humanity. He was willing to suffer short term pain for our long-term gain.
The word “therefore” offers a crucial transition, drawing attention to the conclusion of this section. These witnesses are not a crowd of spectators who are watching believers on earth; they are experts whose experience testify to God’s faithfulness. Christians who succeed them should look to them and be encouraged that they too” …can run the race of faith with endurance” until they reach the finish line of heaven.
The word “looking” means “to look away from something and fix your gaze on the right thing.” Christian men and women should look with spiritual eyes beyond their immediate trials to Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith. He exemplified completing the Father’s will for the heavenly joy that awaits. Becoming a Christians and following Christ does not mean forfeiting joy; it only means that it may not be fully realized in this life.
When we fix our eyes on Jesus, we end up focusing on the big picture-spending eternity in heaven. Anything that discourages us seems so insignificant-like life’s challenges and disappointments. God is calling us to prepare ourselves and walk with Him more closely than ever before. He is calling us to be mighty, fearless warriors of faith. Satan can’t defeat us. He can only make us quit, but God will help us endure. Taking our eyes off of God will lead to failure, just like keeping our eyes on Him will lead us to victory. We must “keep our eyes on the prize.”
Do you keep your eyes on Jesus? When you have a bad day, do you go to Him for comfort? When you have a need, do you trust Jesus to meet that need? When you don’t know what to do, do you ask Him to show you? Fill your mind and life with things that please Jesus. Don’t let problems–or fun things–distract you from what He wants you to do.
- Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, pp. 1761-1762)
- Evans, L.H. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 33: Hebrews (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985; pp. 198-219
- MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
- Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 1703-1708)
- Doug Fields, “Changing Your Focus Overcomes Discouragement.” Retrieved from www.homeword.com
- Vikki Burke, “Wrestling With Weakness.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- “How to Steer Clear of the Enemy’s Trap.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- “No Distractions.” Retrieved from email@example.com