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Mary kissing baby Jesus December 24 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today's Bible reading: Hebrews 10:32- 13:25

Persevering Faith

Mary persevered in her faith that God would miraculously bless her with a son, who would become the savior of the world, even though she was just a young virgin (Bible scholars think she may only have been 12-14 years old). She persevered when people accused her of being immoral because they would not believe her story. She persevered on her trip to Bethlehem, though she was soon to give birth. She persevered in her faith when she saw her son grow up to be the Messiah and then die on the cross. Then she must have rejoiced to see him risen from the dead to offer salvation for everyone who trusts in him.

Mary was not alone in exercising persevering faith. Throughout history many Christians have persevered in their faith, even despite persecution. That is true even today. Many stories of persecution around the world can be found at opendoorsusa.org. In America persecution usually takes on milder forms, but it is disturbing that at Christmas time manger scenes are not allowed in public parks or city squares, and children's Christmas programs in public schools may only be secular. Christians are mocked for their beliefs that

  • God created the whole universe and everything on earth out of nothing in just six literal days, merely by speaking.
  • Once there was a world-wide flood, but Noah and his family were saved in a large boat that carried every kind of land animal and bird.
  • People once lived to great ages of up to 900 years. Methusaleh was 969 when he died.
  • Abraham's wife, Sarah, had a child at the age of 90.
  • Jesus came from God, was born of a virgin maiden, was totally sinless, died for the sins of all mankind, three days later he arose from the tomb, was seen alive by over 500 people at one time, went up to heaven in clouds, and once again will come back to rule and reign on the earth.
  • Jesus is the only way to God.
  • The Bible is God's Word and is infallible

What do we do when we are mocked and otherwise persecuted for our beliefs? Do we cave into pressure and just live a secular life? No, God wants us to persevere in our faith. How do we do that?

First, the writer of the book of Hebrews instructs his readers to remember what they were taught and when they had strong faith. He told them,

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light [of salvation], when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For in just a very little while, “He who is coming will come and will not delay,” (Hebrews 10:32-36, NIV).

The Jewish believers who suffered persecution early on in their Christian experience had now lost their confidence in God. They were encouraged to remember when their faith and courage was strong, to persevere, and to remember that Jesus will soon come back and richly reward them.

Second, to help them persevere they were to remember others who had gone on before them, and the struggles they overcame by faith. The Jewish believers were given testimonies of heroes of the faith and how they overcame the severest of trials (Hebrews 11). Perhaps we can identify people in our lives who endured through tougher circumstances than us, and that by faith. We need to draw courage from their example to help us persevere.

Third, how could they (we) persevere in severe trials? Hebrews 12:1-2 gives us several helpful instructions:

  • We must throw off things that hinder us and sin that so easily entangles us. Runners in a race carry no baggage. They wear very little clothing to reduce drag, and even their shoes are lightweight so that they may run well. We cannot live well as a Christian if we are carrying sins or bad habits, or hanging onto our material possessions or unhealthy human relationships.
  • We must run with perseverance the race marked out for us. The racecourse of our life may be long and have many obstacles, but this is the race that is marked out for us. God knows the way that we take and he will be with us in the struggle.
  • We must fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith.

    who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:2-4, NIV)

    God will bring us through circumstances if we learn to rely upon him. If we fix our eyes only on our circumstances, we may be easily discouraged and seek a way out or just quit. How will our faith be perfected if we quit?
  • We must endure hardship as discipline (training). The discipline of training is not easy. When we do things wrong, they have to be corrected. Training involves a lot of sweat, hard work and straining of muscles, but spiritually speaking we will become stronger as God works out his will in us, if we endure the discipline.
    No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees, (Hebrews 12:11-12, NIV).
    Have courage and strength to endure the hardship of suffering.

Fourth, to endure hardship from the exercise of our faith, we should remember that we are citizens of heaven, a kingdom not of this world. We operate by a different system of values after we have spiritual life.

You have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn [of God, referring to Jesus], whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men, to the spirits of righteous men made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, .... Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe,” (Hebrews 12:22-24, 28, NIV).

Some are not yet citizens of heaven. Some people sit on the fence in deciding whether to accept Christ as Savior and face possible persecution. The writer of the book of Hebrews warns them. In effect he says, Do not, as an unbeliever who has received the light of the gospel, resist God, refuse to listen to him, and turn away. God offers you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...). God will be angry if you spurn his grace, and you will not escape his judgment (Hebrews 12:25). Those who are citizens of heaven should be thankful to escape eternal judgment because “our God is a consuming fire,” (12:29, NIV).

Fifth, those who are persecuted for their Christian faith should keep on living a Christian life of purity, love and submission, and pray for God to intercede. The best way to keep the spirit of Christ in Christmas is not by belligerence but by our testimony. We need to be praising God for his grace and goodness, show kindness and love, and do good works. Hebrews 13:15-16 says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-- the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.” (NIV)

Lessons to live by: If we are to have persevering faith we must

  • God offers you forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life (more...). God will be angry if you spurn his grace, and you will not escape his judgment (Hebrews 12:25).
  • Remember when we did have strong faith and draw encouragement from the example of others in their faith.
  • Learn to run our racecourse unencumbered, with patience and endurance, focusing on Jesus.
  • Remember our citizenship and inheritance is in heaven, not on earth.
  • Keep on living for God, giving testimony of him, and loving one another.

Today’s Bible memory verses: Hebrews 10:35-36 “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.” (NIV)

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