The following article is an excerpt from "A Book of Bible Study"
by Joseph F. Harwood.
To download the entire book in PDF format, visit our home page at https://www.abookofbiblestudy.net/
In Hebrews 12 we read: “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:1-2).
As believers, the lives that we live can be compared to running a race. This race requires perseverance, and we have our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the life that He lived here on earth as our ultimate example of how this race should be run. And then one day, in God’s time and according to His will, plan and purpose, the race will come to an end for each of us. When that day comes for us, we will be with Him in Heaven, sharing in the glory in His Son Jesus Christ for eternity.
In John 12:24-26, Jesus compared His life, and also the lives of all who would follow Him, to an individual grain of wheat, which must fall to the earth and “die” in order to bear fruit. The “death” of the grain of wheat, as Jesus used the metaphor, means that we will be called upon to “die” to, or relinquish, our own will and what we would choose for ourselves in life, and submit to God’s will and His plan for our lives. This “death” of the grain of wheat involves not only our turning away from sin, but it could also include our being called upon to give up many, or even all, of the things that we hoped to achieve or experience or have for ourselves in this life, if God should require it of us.
As we consider these things, we recall that in Luke 14:27 Jesus said: “Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” Again in Luke 14:33 He said: “…none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions”. In place of all that we have or hope to have for ourselves in this life, we are called upon to accept the life and place of service that our sovereign God has ordained for us, which will be revealed through the circumstances, conditions and limitations that He allows or brings about in our lives.
In John 12:24-26 Jesus revealed that all of us who serve Him must follow Him, experiencing a share in His sufferings as we also submit to our Father’s will and plan for our lives, just as He did. He also revealed that through this share in His sufferings, we will bear fruit, which will bring about for us a share in His eternal glory.
The sufferings that Jesus endured took many forms, as we can see from the Scriptures. He endured all of the sufferings mentioned in Isaiah 53. He was despised and rejected. He was familiar with sorrows and grief. He suffered unjustly at the hands of evil men. He endured false accusations, betrayal, and persecutions. He suffered abandonment by those closest to Him (Matthew 26:56). He had no place to lay His head, no place on this earth to call home (Matthew 8:20). He bore the punishment due for the sins of others. He became poor for the sake of others so that they through His poverty might become rich (2 Corinthians 8:9). He also endured the desolation of feeling that He had been abandoned by His Father God in the depths of His sufferings (Matthew 27:46).
Jesus also endured physical pain and suffering in His body. He suffered great pain as He was scourged and then crucified on Calvary’s cross. Peter wrote of this physical aspect of the sufferings of Christ in 1 Peter 4:1-2. In Isaiah 52:14, we also read that Jesus’ form and appearance was disfigured beyond that of any man, and many were appalled at Him.
Jesus’ sufferings came about through no fault or wrongdoing of His own, and as believers, we share in His sufferings when we endure suffering that God allows to touch our lives apart from wrongdoing of our own. All of the undeserved sufferings that we experience, whatever form they may take, will bring grief and sorrow into our lives as all suffering does. And in this experience of grief and sorrow, we as believers share in the sufferings of the Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3), in order that we may also share in His glory (Romans 8:17).
If however we should find ourselves suffering as a consequence of sin in our lives, then we can take comfort in knowing that God’s discipline in our lives is itself a sign that we are indeed His. Those who are able to continue in their sin without God’s discipline are illegitimate and not true believers (Hebrews 12:5-8).
If we are being disciplined by the Lord, then let us give thanks to God, knowing that we are among those who have received His mercy and forgiveness. Let us forsake our disobedience and leave it in our past, moving forward with the same mindset and attitude that the Apostle Paul had in his own life: “…forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14).
The writer of Hebrews encouraged us again when he wrote: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16).