The author of Hebrews gives us a wonderful account of Old Covenant saints who followed God by faith, concluding that “the world was not worthy of them.” (Hebrews 11:38, NIV) Then rather abruptly, the author writes of our obligation — in light of “such a great cloud of witnesses” to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” (Hebrews 12:1) After all, this is what the Old Covenant saints did. They disentangled themselves from their sins, and “ran with perseverance the race marked out for [them].” (Hebrews 12:1) Their very “weaknesses were turned into strengths.” (Hebrews 11:34)
The author reminds us,
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when He rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as a son.'” (Hebrews 12:4-6)
The author of Hebrews encourages us to endure hardship as proof of God’s acceptance of us, pointing to the Old Covenant saints who endured the mouths of lions, the fury of flames, the edge of the sword, torture, chains, prison, jeers, floggings, stonings, poverty and wanderings.
A favorite New Covenant saint of mine is Agapius:
“Saint Agapius was a Christian martyr killed at Caesarea in AD 306. His martyrdom is recorded by Eusebius of Caesarea in his work The Martyrs of Palestine. Agapius was arrested in AD 304. He remained in prison for two years and was tortured on multiple occasions. He was brought out to the arena many times and presented to the judges. There he was threatened and reserved for later matches. The judges, Eusebius notes, must have been motivated either out of compassion or the hope that he might change his mind and renounce Christianity. Finally he was brought to the arena and presented to the emperor Maximinus. He was offered a pardon on the condition that he disavow his faith. According to Eusebius, he not only refused the offer, but he is said to have cheerfully rushed headlong into the bear. The animal inflicted severe injuries, but Agapius survived. Stones were affixed to his feet and he was drowned in the Mediterranean on the following day. His feast days are observed on November 20 and August 19.” (Wikipedia)
Obviously, Christians do resist sin to the point of shedding their blood.
Father God, thank You for the many examples of persons unwilling to deny their faith in You, even at the cost of their comfort or even their lives. Help us to resist temptation and to run our race with perseverance. In Jesus’ Name, amen.