Fighter Verse: What Do You See? (Hebrews 12:2)
. . . looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. — Hebrews 12:2
Disney’s Cool Runnings is a fictional story based on the 1988 Jamaican bobsled team. In the movie, four Jamaican bobsledders, two track stars, a pushcart champion, and a guy who just wants more out of life than he has, dream of competing in the Winter Olympics, despite never having seen snow. They convince a washed out, washed up, disgraced former Olympic bobsledder from America, now living on the island, to redeem himself and coach them, and they set out to become worthy of Olympic selection, and go all out for glory.
The strategy the movie coach uses to train his novice team provides some insight to these words in Hebrews 12 verse 2. He takes these guys who have never even seen snow and teaches them three important foci: study the sport, study the course, study the champions. In our case, discipleship is the sport, commitment to personal holiness is the course, and Jesus is the champion. So what do we see when we study the champion, when we focus on “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith”?
We see, first and foremost, the perfect example of what it means to live a faith-filled and faithful life in the power of the Holy Spirit. We sometimes carry with us the mistaken idea that Jesus did what he did, lived as he lived, spoke as he spoke in complete harmony with the will and purpose of God because he was God, living out of his divine nature. It is true, Jesus is fully God, but his spiritual success as one also fully human derives from unbroken reliance on the Holy Spirit to guide and empower his life of unshakeable faith.
Jesus came to reveal the Father to us and he does so living a life of full dependence on the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is never absent from his life. The Spirit causes his conception. The Spirit is evident in his early contact with the teachers and elders in the temple. The Spirit descends and settles on him at the outset of his public ministry. The Spirit is the living connection Jesus enjoys with the Father and is the power within every act of faithfulness as Jesus lives and moves in the heart and will of God.
And God gives the Holy Spirit to the church and to the Christian for the same reasons, that God may be fully present in our lives enabling our faith and empowering our faithfulness. Our Champion shows us what it means to live in the Spirit and not according to the flesh (which is why the author of Hebrews, inspired by the same Spirit, urges us to set aside our habitual sins and look to Jesus!) When we look to Jesus we see a clear example of what it means for one to live by faith filled with the Spirit.
But that is not all we see. We see in him inspiration to run the race empowered by the Spirit and we see the motivation to endure, even through pain and sorrow and death, for the sheer joy of fulfilling God’s mission to fill the earth with the knowledge of His glory. All of creation exists that every aspect of it may experience and expound, each in its own way, the glory of God and the joy God has in being God. The joy to have the Father accurately and fully known and loved according to God’s eternal plan moved Christ to endure even death on the cross.
Jesus said, “I have come that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” That joy in seeing God’s will realized is embedded in the redeemed heart by the Holy Spirit and motivates the Christian’s endurance in the face of worldly opposition and divine discipline.
And there is a third inspiring facet of discipleship we see as we gaze with intent on Jesus: we see determination to achieve. Jesus rejects the shame, despises the shame, and “is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Shame is the response of the conscience to genuine guilt. Shame is the result of our heart feeling the wrongness of our own sin. The temptation Jesus faced was accepting the world’s evaluation of his life and ministry as condemned by God, but he would not let a corrupt and broken world pass judgment on a holy and faithful life. He would not surrender to false accusations and undeserved shame. He would not let lies keep him from faithfulness, even when faithfulness took him to the cross!
The lies still fly at Christians today attempting to shame us into silence and faithless disobedience. A steady spiritual gaze of genuine and deep interest on Christ deflects the shame the world would heap on those who choose to follow Jesus rather than the ways of the world.
The race is on. The goal is the joy of the eternal glory of the Almighty God. “Let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely [bringing guilt and deserving shame], and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”
We have our “sport.” We have our course. We have our Champion. Now let us run.
*This blog post first appeared on the Children Desiring God Fighter Verse blog. It appears here with their permission, blessing, and prayer for your encouragement and instruction in the faith.
Children Desiring God (CDG) publishes Fighter Verses and offers products to support you in your Bible memorization efforts. CDG also publishes God-centered Sunday School curriculum for children and youth, parenting booklets to equip parents to spiritually shepherd their children, the My Church Notebook to help children participate in the worship service, and the Making Him Known series of books for family devotions.