The writer of Hebrews motivated his discouraged audience to faithfulness in the midst of life difficulties (sin, persecution, weak theology ) by comparing following Jesus to running a race (Hebrews 12:1). He reminded them of the importance of focusing on Christ’s winning example(Heb 12:2-3). Then he made his appeal personal. He wrote:
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood.” (Hebrews 12:4)
Yep, true. He connected this pointed reminder to the loving discipline of the Father who wanted the “good” of his children.(Heb. 12:5-11) There is a smorgasbord of truth in this chapter but as I was rereading it recently I could not get the phrase in your struggle against sin out of my heart. The phrase probably hit home since I am quickly approaching the half-a-hundred mark, and I still struggle with sin.
There was a time when I was a new believer that I was hopeful when I was older (at least 35, ha!) I would no longer wrestle with sin. However, the more the phrase rolled around in my head, the more encouraged I became by being reminded that struggling with sin is a normative part of following Jesus.
At this point you are probably thinking, “Wow, Neal, you are a theological genius – though pretty slow” (sarcastic tone). And while I agree with the conclusion that struggling with sin is a normative part of the Christian life may not be an epiphany, the implications are huge. A few off the top of my head would be:
- No use pretending everything is “good” – meaning, we are not struggling with sin.
- Sin is both external & internal. (Read Hebrews)
- Struggle = good; no struggle = sin has you in a choke hold, and you don’t even know it.
- We need to become master strugglers (Read The Struggler).
- Conversation about “sin struggles” should be a normative part of following Jesus also.
- I need to help younger believers think biblically about sin.
- I need to help younger believers learn the language needed to communicate effectively about sin.
- I need to help younger believers by creating an environment where sin is neither ignored nor over-focused.
We should not be discouraged by our sin struggles nor should we settle for less than holiness. We should be more and more grateful for Jesus and the discipline of the Father and embrace the struggle!