SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- This chapter starts with a reference to the last chapter. In chapter 11 we read about people who had lived lives of faith for God. In chapter 12 we learn that we are "surrounded" by this "great cloud" of witnesses, and that should help inspire us to put sin (and anything that distracts us or holds us back) behind us, to focus on Jesus, and to persistently live for God.
- The second section teaches us that God is a loving and perfect Father who disciplines His children because he wants what's best for them. So when we go through "hardship" we should it as something that can help us grow.
- Verses 14-17 challenge us to make every effort to live at peace with others, and with holiness (purity) in our own lives. Special mention is made of avoiding bitterness (verse 15) and of having purity sexually (verse 16).
- In verses 18-29, the way people were able to approach God in the time of Moses is contrasted with the way we can approach God now. It's pointed out how much better we have it now because of Jesus, who became the "mediator of a new covenant." Through his "sprinkled blood" he ushered in a whole new way to approach and have relationship with God.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- There is a sense in which our life is like a race, and as we run it there are things that can distract us off the course, or can weigh us down and hold us back. No runner would allow that, and we shouldn't allow it in the race of life.
- Verse 15 says, “See to it that no one misses the grace of God.” We are not only responsible for ourselves, but also for others. God has offered his grace (the opportunity to receive his love, relationship, and ultimately Heaven, despite the fact that we don't deserve it) to everyone, and we need to try and make sure no one misses it. This might mean helping a Christian "brother" or "sister" who is struggling in their faith to get his or her life pointed back at Jesus, and it definitely means telling people who don't know about Jesus and God's grace.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- What are the main things that are currently distracting you or holding you back from running (with focus and perseverance) the race of faith set before you? Is it bitterness or sexual immorality? Some other temptation or sin? Is it desiring something (money? success?) too much? Life is too important to remain distracted or held back. It's time to "throw off everything that hinders." What does that need to be? Who could you get to help you? How will you enlist God's help?
- Who in your life is in jeopardy of missing out on the grace of God? (Either a person who is turning away from their faith in Jesus, or someone who has never accepted Jesus.) What could you do to help them not miss the grace of God? Do it!