Do you have a hero? A sports hero, maybe, or a historical figure you admire? When we think of the book of Hebrews, we often think of heroes. Chapter 11 of this book is one of the most well-known passages in the Bible. It’s sometimes called the “Hall of Faith,” since a number of biblical heroes are celebrated for their faith in God. Though Hebrews isn’t just about heroes, it’s not a bad place to begin understanding the book.
Over the years, people have tried to determine who wrote Hebrews, but the author is never named. We know more about the people receiving the letter. Since this letter is not addressed to one church or city, the hearers were probably scattered across many places. The hearers must also have read the Old Testament and participated in Jewish worship since the author assumes they knew all about it.
The letter tells us directly that the readers had already believed in Jesus (Hebrews 3:12-13). They had bravely served the church even through persecution (Hebrews 10:32-34), but they were in danger of giving up their faith. These were people who had stalled in their spiritual growth (Hebrews 5:11-14) and were “shrinking back” from following Jesus (Hebrews 10:39).
Imagine you’re training to run an ultra-marathon. It’s helpful to have a friend jog with you for a stretch or bring you water along the route. However, you also need a coach with a whistle and a loud voice warning you not to give up, telling you to pick up the pace. The writer of Hebrews is this coach.
Hebrews motivates discouraged Christians by reminding them who Jesus is.
Hebrews motivates discouraged Christians by reminding them who Jesus is. Only Jesus is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” who “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is better than the angels (Hebrews 1-2), greater than Moses (Hebrews 3), higher than the high priest (Hebrews 5), and the only lasting sacrifice (Hebrews 10). Jesus has established a kingdom that cannot be shaken (Hebrews 12:28), and living with Jesus forever in his kingdom is our ultimate goal (Hebrews 13:14).
The writer of Hebrews also spurs on the flagging Christians by reminding them of their heroes of the faith who lived and died, trusting they would see a better, heavenly country (Hebrews 11:16). These heroes are a “great cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1), whose examples of trust ought to encourage us to remain faithful to Jesus in this life.
Every Christian must run with endurance by fixing his or her eyes on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2). We are cheered on by an audience, but our hearts and minds are set on only one—our greatest hero, Jesus.
Have you found yourself lagging in your spiritual marathon or shrinking back from faith? Turn to the book of Hebrews.
Remember the stories in the Bible that inspired you, or maybe visit some of them to encourage you, but most of all, look to Jesus who stands at the finish line. In these pages, God—our faithful coach—equips us to press on in the race that is set before us.