Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. … Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. … See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled; that no one is sexually immoral or unholy like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal. For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears. (Hebrews 12:3-17)
“…you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
I don’t get boxing. It seems utterly pointless and useless to me. What sense does it make to put two guys in a ring and make them hit each other? What sense does it make to be one of the two guys getting hit? I could maybe understand it if they were trying to settle some sort of dispute or were rivals for some lady’s affection or something chivalrous like that…otherwise it just seems dumb.
I am told, though, in guy logic it makes sense.
I guess I will just have to take their word for it.
I think the bigger issue here is that I just don’t really get fighting... perhaps because I’ve never been made to fight for anything. I've never been exposed to war or had any serious hardships; school was always pretty easy for me; jobs have come and gone at my chosing and with ease. Even my history with interpersonal conflict has been either talk it out or walk away (usually bitter or guilt-ridden). So the idea the Hebrew writer raises above about fighting “to the shedding of your own blood” isn’t something that I can say has been my experience.
And I think that is exactly the point he is trying to get across.
In the boxing ring and on the football, soccer, or rugby field there's no talking or walking away...they fight...they give it their all...they even shed their blood until someone prevails. I can look at that and wonder "what are they fighting for? and is it worth it?" My temptation would be to shrug my shoulders and walk away babbling on about how dumb and pointless it is. But it isn't pointless and dumb to those with the swollen eyes and bandaged heads, if it were I'd have to add "insane" to my list of criticisms. They are fighting for something...the question isn't so much what as "is it worth it." Admittedly, that question is more of a value judgement than something that can be definatively measured...but asking it does something more important than the actual answer...it throws the question back at me.
What am I fighting for and is it worth it?
Am I fighting for anything?
Looking back over the past year, I haven't really needed to fight. In His mercy, the Lord has seen fit to bring me through this season without any serious temptation or struggle.
That has begun to change.
Lately, I have been tempted…I have had to either fight for holiness or feel the effects of wavering. Again, by his grace I have not turned and walked the other way…I haven’t jumped head first into sin with abandon…I haven’t even “wavered” in anything big or in a big way or consistently. It's been seemingly little things…a snack when I wasn’t hungry…a train of thought that led to vain and sinful imagination…justifying not doing things the way I know I should.
In those moments I was given an opportunity to value holiness enough to fight “even to the shedding of my own blood” and I can’t say I did. Sure there were times I was obedient but looking back over it all I can say that the temptation wasn’t as strong in those moments. The fact that I had the unnecessary snack or spent time daydreaming or did that thing I really shouldn’t have done shows that there were moments of greater temptation and that at some point in each of them, I gave up the fight before I should have. I also believe that I am called to resist and resist and resist until it is done…even to the shedding of my own blood.
I need to see it as a matter of life and death…to see holiness as something worth fighting for…not just in generality but each and every time temptation comes.
Let me clarify...I do not think the Lord’s intention is that I duke it out to that level with the enemy on a daily basis. I don't believe it should even get to that point with regularity. I believe that he set us free so that we would be free...so that we could see the shadow coming and shut the door...so that we would respond to the whiff of temptation appropriately...and help the lost, the weak...rescue the perishing.
All of that said...I also know that this temptation and fighting (and sometimes not fighting) is not for nothing. It better prepares us to serve and it does something else...
"More precious than perishable gold is faith which has stood the test. These trials come so that your faith may prove itself worthy" (1 Pt 1:7 NEB).
It is intended to test the faith I proclaim and make my faith stronger.
I believe it is also intended to be a testimony to His greatness and power. Our failures are meant to show that He alone has power over sin. Try as we might…try as I might, I am incapable of doing one thing on my own. I cannot obey on my own. I cannot even feel badly about my sin on my own. There have been times when I have convinced myself I was in the right…times when I have so wanted something that I shut out the tiniest twinge of conviction…times when I had sinned so much and so often that I had sufficiently hardened my heart to that area of sin. The only reason conviction gets through anyway…the only reason I respond to it…the only reason I obey the correction and direction that follows is all of Grace and all of God.
And the only way I will be able to resist temptation with the exertion and force that I am commanded to is if He does it.
He has done this much…He saved me when I was against Him…He began this work…He revealed this truth to me…and I know He will finish it!