Todd and I went to see the new Top Gun: Maverick movie last night. I’m always a bit nervous to see a movie in the theater, as you can’t fast forward parts you’d rather not see. But so many people we knew had seen it and raved about it, so we went. I had also read the PluggedIn Online review, so I knew what to expect. It’s totally a Tom Cruise movie – fast planes, dogfights, and doing impossible things.
Spoiler warning: if you haven’t seen it but plan to, you might want to stop reading now.
The best moment in the movie is when Maverick (Tom Cruise) has been dismissed from his responsibilities with the team but decides he can’t quite walk away yet. They are still unprepared to fly the mission and they need confidence that it can be done. So, in pure Cruise fashion, he borrows an F-18 and successfully flies the practice mission while everyone is watching. He does what they all believe can’t be done. He demolishes any excuses and gives them the confidence to do what he just did.
This is exactly what the writer of Hebrews has done for us in Hebrews 11, by listing all the Old and New Testament heroes who successfully completed their mission and remained faithful to God in the face of insurmountable, seemingly-impossible obstacles – even facing death with courage and perseverance in their beliefs. As chapter 12 opens, he tells us what the impact on us should be.
Hebrews 12:1-3 – 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 perfector 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. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
I used to think that cloud of witnesses were the Old and New Testament saints “witnessing” our life’s run, cheering us on as we approach the finish line, but I don’t think that’s quite what the author meant. Instead, their lives are witnesses to the power of God in them – the ability to endure faithfully whatever comes against us because of our faith. Their example proclaims loud and clear that it is possible to live a faithful life.
Not only that, but we have the ultimate witness, Jesus, who accomplished the mission given to Him by His Father. He endured the cross, despising the shame; He endured the hostility of sinners – people who wanted to kill Him. He demolished all excuses and gives us confidence to walk in obedience because He overcame the ultimate obstacle of death by His own resurrection power. We simply need to fix our eyes on Him and run the race.
I’ll be honest; in light of what some of God’s people have endured, the majority of us have had a pretty easy life. Someone disagrees with us, thinks we’re crazy, or even calls us names. So, what? At least in America – at least for now – we are free to walk faithfully with Jesus, believe that the Bible is true, and live according to its principles. We are still free to share the gospel and talk about our Savior. We really have no excuses at all not to be faithful, obedient servants of Christ, especially when we think about what Jesus endured for us.
I love that little phrase – for the joy set before Him (12:2). Jesus was able to look beyond the immediate hard to the eternally joyful. He saw the reward on the other side. That’s why keeping an eternal perspective is so important for us today. We cannot get caught up in or distracted by the difficulties, challenges, and even the spiritual warfare that comes against us. If we do, we will grow weary and lose heart.
As the writer of Hebrews closes out this letter, he reminds us of a few basics of the Christian life. We are to endure the discipline of the Lord, trusting His work in us as that of a loving Father (12:4-11). We are to pursue peace with others and allow God to sanctify us (12:14). We are to keep bitterness out of our lives (12:15-17). We are to love one another, care for those in need, and avoid immorality and greed (13:1-5). We are to imitate those who lead us in faith, stay true to biblical doctrine, and be willing to suffer reproach for the name of Jesus because our eyes are on eternity (13:7-14). Finally, we are to offer up the sacrifice of praise that pleases God. Praise that comes out of the most difficult circumstances reveals a heart that is willing to give up everything for the cause of Christ (13:15-16).
Nestled among these admonitions, the writer shares two amazing promises from the Old Testament that should undergird our confidence as we keep our eyes on Jesus.
Hebrews 13:5b-6 – For He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” so that we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?”
There’s not much more we could say, is there? Are you discouraged? Tempted to give up? Tired? Losing your confidence in biblical truth? Fearful of those who might come against you if you really live for Jesus? Don’t lose heart. Jesus will never forsake you; what could a man do to you?
Nothing you face is any worse than what others have endured before. By the power of the Holy Spirit in you, you can remain faithful to Jesus and finish your race with endurance and perseverance to the glory of God. Stay the course. Trust God to do what needs to be done in and through you. Even if it takes a few miracles along the way, your mission will be a success if you keep your eyes on Jesus.