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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on October 23, 2016 under 2016 |

Message preached Sunday, October 23, 2016 from Mark Hebrews 6:11-12

Theme: It’s only by submitting to the will of the Father that we truly embrace the authority of His Son.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

I ask this morning that you turn with me to the sixth chapter of the New Testament book of Hebrews. It’s there—in just two verses—that we find a great and very practical message of encouragement for our church family.

Let me begin by telling you a little about the context of these two verses. The writer of Hebrews—who that writer might have been, we don’t know for sure; but it’s probably safe to assume that he was among the apostles and wrote with apostolic authority—was seeking to encourage his fellow Jewish Christians. They were being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ; and he wanted to encourage them to stay the course and not give up.

The writer loved these fellow Jewish Christians. He spoke very highly of them. There were others who had heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and who had made the outward profession of believing. And yet, when the pressures came, those others had renounced their faith in Jesus; which was—as he put it—to “crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame” (Hebrews 6:6). These are harsh words; but they were not applicable to the believers to whom he wrote. Of them, he said in verses 9-10;

But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister (Hebrews 6:9-10).

This was an impressive group with an impressive history with the Lord. They were truly devoted Christians—Christians who, in the face of trouble and persecution, manifested their devotion by works of genuine labor and of love.

But they were under the danger of sliding backward—of growing complacent—of losing their zeal over time and along the way. He didn’t want that to happen. He wanted them to keep on making progress all the way to the day of eternal glory. And so, in verses 11-12, he wrote and told them;

And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (vv. 11-12).

It’s these two verses—and the message of encouragement they contain—that I have felt the Lord’s leading to share with you from this morning.

* * * * * * * * * *

You know; one of the most dangerous mistakes people can make about the Christian life is to forget that it is described to us in the Bible as a race—and athletic competition. In any genuine athletic race, you have a starting point and a finish line. And for as long as you are on the track, you must run the race with diligence and endurance. The beginning point, of course, is important; and how one ends is important also. But the truly determinative thing is that which happens in between.

Sadly, many Christians forget this. And I would even suggest to you that it is the Christians who have walked with the Lord the longest who are most in danger of forgetting it. We often look back fondly to the day when we first prayed the prayer to receive Jesus Christ as our Savior. But we sometimes think that that’s the most important part of our Christian race—the starting gun. In reality, as important as that is, it’s only the start. We far to easily forget that the truly important part of our Christian race is what happens—and continues to happen—after the starting gun has been fired. We must diligently endure in the Christian race all the way to the finish.

Think of some of the ways that the apostle Paul told us this. He was a great runner in the race of faith—a great example for us. He once wrote about how we must be constantly disciplined. He said;

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Or think of what he also wrote in Philippians 3 about pressing on to maturity;

Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14).

When he reached the end of his life—just before he was executed for the faith—he wrote;

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

Run! Fight! Discipline the body! Reach forward! Press on! These don’t sound like the kind of things you typically hear from people with regard to the faith. Most people think of the Christian faith as a passive experience—a comfortable ride on the Christian trolly. But they are the very words that characterized the faith Paul—a man who I would argue was the greatest Christian that ever lived. He made it very clear that the Christian faith requires a life-long diligence of effort and commitment to walk faithfully and fruitfully for Jesus Christ—all the way to the end.

And I ask you, dear brothers and sisters; what kind of a difference would it make in our Christian lives—what kind of witness would we bear to this world for Jesus Christ—if we lived with the kind of diligence and practical earnestness that the Bible tells us we should live it? I have even wondered if—from the standpoint of eternity—it will be shown that professing Christians will have suffered more loss of eternal reward as a result of a gradual decline of zeal and earnestness in the race than from the open apostasy of departing from the racetrack altogether.

That’s why I believe the words of this morning’s passage—in these two simple verses—is so important. In them, the writer of Hebrews—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—teaches us that to obtain the full eternal inheritance our Lord wants us to receive, we absolutely must remain diligent toward faith all the way until the end.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; let’s look at these two verses a little more closely. Notice how he begins. He writes, “And we desire …”

When he writes, “we desire”, I believe that the “we” he refers to is himself and others of the apostles And I love how he says that this is something that we “desire” or “earnestly and passionately long for”. All of those apostles were willing to lay down their lives to preach the message of Christ and to urge those who heard and believed to rise up and follow. They were very “earnest”! And by the way; that would—or at least should—be true of every good preacher to God’s people. He too would earnestly long for the people who hear God’s word to be shaken by it from out of their lethargy and to become earnest and diligent in their walk in a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You sure can tell it in a preacher if he doesn’t have that longing! I hope, by God’s grace, that I have that longing. And if that same longing is in you, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the people of this world will be able to tell it in your witness also! May God increasingly give us this earnest desire!

And so then, in verse 11 that he tells us that he and his fellow apostles ‘desire’ this earnestly—that the people of God be diligent in their faith. I believe that he then goes on to tell us what we need to do to keep our zeal strong for the finish of the race. He first urges us to …


He writes; “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end …” (v. 11).

What “diligence” is he referring to when he says, “the same diligence”? The same as what? It’s the same as the diligence that these saints had demonstrated before. Look back again at verse 10; at how he wrote,

God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister (v. 10).

Take inventory from their past record. They had lived out their Christian faith with “work”. It wasn’t just talk. And more than that, it was “labor”—and in the original language, that means strenuous, ‘agonizing’ labor. And it was done out of love. It was done out of a love for Jesus’ name; and it was done as a ministry to His saints. In fact, the writer affirms that they minister still! Their Christian faith was one that had been made evident by faithful action.

When I read of these Jewish Christians, I think of what the apostle Paul once said about the Thessalonian believers;

For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.

And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:6-10).

Now; why was it that this Thessalonian community of Christians live so consistently and so diligently as they did? What was it that made them not only start well, but run well? It was because they looked ahead to the return of Jesus and the glory that would be theirs at the day of His return. And that’s what the writer of Hebrews then encouraged his Jewish Christian brethren to do—to keep their focus on, and be assured of, the glorious hope of Jesus’ return. He said, “And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence”—that is, the same sort of diligence as you all had shown before—“to the full assurance of hope until the end”.

It was the hope of future glory at the great resurrection day at Jesus’ return—when they will receive the reward of a full share in His glorious inheritance in the Father’s house. It was a hope that each one of them—individually—needed to have. They needed to lay hold of this hope and live it out with great diligence. And they needed to keep that hope all the way to the end with full, confident assurance that their hope would be fulfilled.

Let me ask you, dear brothers and sisters; how often do you think about heaven? Do you spend time just daydreaming about the eternal home you will share with the Savior? Or do you sometimes just go through life without giving it much thought?

The great evangelist D.L. Moody told a story once—and I hope you will pardon me for it, because it was a story of something that occurred in the dark days of slavery. But Mr. Moody told about a slave whose master had just died. Someone told the slave, “I suppose it’s a great encouragement to you to know that your master is in heaven.”

“Oh,” said the slave, “I don’t think my master went to heaven.” Those who heard this were shocked that he would say such a thing. But he explained, “You see; whenever my master planned on making a trip somewhere, he studied-up about it. He’d look at the maps, and read about the sights that he would see. But I don’t remember him ever talking about heaven at all. I just assumed it was because he wasn’t planning to go there.”

If you are planning to be raised from the grave in righteousness at the return of Jesus because you trust in Him; if you are planning to dwell forever with Him in His Father’s house, and share with Him forever in His eternal inheritance, then you’ll be thinking about it a lot! It’ll be much on your mind. In fact, it’ll be the driving force behind the earnestness of your faith—to hear Jesus say to you one day, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

I would urge sincerely: Let’s each one learn to demonstrate the kind of diligence that comes from a full assurance our hope in Christ—all the way to the end—by keeping our eyes on heavenly glory. If we do so, we will run the race with diligence.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Another thing that the writer tells us to do is to …


In verse 12—just as the writer was earnest in his desire that these Christians keep an assurance of the hope of eternal glory before them—he also writes, “that you do not become sluggish …” (v. 12). You can translate that to mean, “that you do not become dull”.

I suspect that one of the great dangers—and again, I think this is particularly true for those of us who have been walking with the Lord for a long time; and maybe even for those of us who have a past record of great devotion—is that we can grow dull and sluggish and lazy in the faith over time, while not even realize that it’s happening.

The Lord Jesus Himself once wrote about this—in one of His letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation. In Revelation 3:1-3, He sent these words to the church in the ancient city of Sardis;

These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you” (Revelation 3:1-3).

The saints at Sardis had a good record in the past. But they grew lazy along the way. In fact, they had gotten so lazy and dull in their faith that, as far as Jesus was concerned, they were “dead”—and their works toward Him were “ready to die”.

Let me ask you. In your Christian life, do you ever have an attitude of “I’ve done good enough”? Do you ever say to yourself, “I have served faithfully for years. I have given much of my time, my talents, and my treasure. It’s time for others to rise up to the work. It’s time for me to relax my labors for a while.” I doubt anyone would ever say that kind of thing out-loud; but if we say it in our hearts, it’s a sign that we have grown dull and lazy—and that we need to have our diligence renewed.

I don’t believe, however, that the way to renew that zeal is to simply work it up with our own ‘self-motivation talk’ or through some seminar. We must not try to ‘renew our zeal’ through the power of the flesh. The correct way to renew that zeal—as the Lord told the people of Sardis—is to go back and ‘remember therefore how you have received and heard’. And let me remind you; the way you received and heard is through Jesus Christ and His gospel. Go back again with gratitude, and remember the deliverance from your sins that Jesus purchased for you. Fall in love with Him again. Renew your connection to Him. Abide in Him. And that’s how you’ll renew your zeal. The closer you are to Him, the further you’ll be from laziness in your faith. Fight that tendency toward laziness in your devotion to Christ by renewing your relationship with Christ Himself. As it says in Isaiah 40:30-31;

Even the youths shall faint and be weary,

And the young men shall utterly fall,

But those who wait on the Lord

Shall renew their strength;

They shall mount up with wings like eagles,

They shall run and not be weary,

They shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:30-31).

* * * * * * * * * * *

So; when it comes to becoming earnest and diligent once again in our faith, we must first keep fully assured of the hope that God has laid before us in heavenly glory; and second, we must fight the tendency to be dull and lazy in our devotion by drawing closer to and more dependent upon Jesus. And the writer of Hebrews closes with a third point …


He writes at the end of verse 12, “ but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.”

I have shared with you before that I love to read biographies. But I’ve also shared with you that I try to be careful which biographies I read; because I can’t help but imitate—to some degree—the qualities and character of the persons whose biographies I read. They become a part of me. I suspect that that’s true, to some degree, for all of us.

Well; that being the case, I think the writer of Hebrews would encourage us to read the sacred biographies of the saints who we’re told about in Scripture—women and men of faith who—through faith and patience—ran the race all the way to the end and inherited the promises.

Did you know that the writer of Hebrews even wrote a whole chapter in the Book of Hebrews about that? Hebrews 11 has sometimes been called the Bible’s “Hall of Faith”; because it tells us great stories of those who endured to the end—not by their own power, or by their own know-how; but through the two most powerful habits we can have: “faith” (or “faithfulness”) toward God’s commands and promises, and “patience” in the expectation that He will keep His every word.

In Hebrews 11, he writes of those great heroes and heroines of the Old Testament;

who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us (Hebrews 11:33-40).

And by the way; look at what he then goes on to say in Hebrews 12:1-2;

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (12:1-2).

* * * * * * * * * *

Dear brothers and sisters; the quality of our eternal bliss is—to some measure—being determined right now by what we do with the time God has given us on earth. All of eternity will be affected by this tiny sliver of time—in which we are currently being called to run the race.

By God’s grace, may we run it faithfully and diligently—with full assurance of hope to the end, while fighting the tendency to be lazy in our devotion, and through looking to and imitating the examples of those who have also striven to victory. Because to obtain the full eternal inheritance our Lord truly wants us to have, we absolutely must be diligent toward the faith all the way to the end.

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