When you survey your life, what was your most difficult day? Maybe it occurred last week. Maybe it happened sometime last year. Maybe it happened years ago.

"David, what are you talking about? What do you mean by 'difficult day?'" Good question! I am talking about a day in your life when you had "had it." You were frustrated, disgusted, and exhausted. You were sick of the stress. You were sick of the criticisms. You were sick of the abuse. You were sick of being pulled in a thousand different directions. You could not take it any more. You reached the point that you wanted to give up. That was the only answer. You were convinced that the only way you could have any peace was to give up and stop caring.

Did you ever have one of those days? I would be amazed if you said, "No." In my experience, there are only three kinds of people who have never had a day like that. Those three are: (1) people who can live and never think; (2) people who live in denial; and (3) people who deceive themselves. I surely have had such days--several times.

When you endured such a day, did you feel close to God? Did you say to yourself, "Because I feel close to God, I must talk to him about this!" Did you think of God as someone who was eager to help you? Did you think God would help you? How did you feel God would react to you? In disgust? In contempt? In concern? In compassion?

  1. The writing in the New Testament called Hebrews was written to Christians having a very difficult time.
    1. Their situation:
      1. The Christians who first received this writing were Jewish Christians.
        1. When Christianity began in the Jewish city of Jerusalem, it was acceptable to be Jewish and to be a Christian.
        2. At first, the only people who became Christians were Jews and converts to Judaism.
        3. The Jewish leaders were hostile toward Christianity from the beginning, but the Jewish people accepted Christianity.
      2. Then things changed.
        1. The major change came when people who worshipped idols [people who were not Jewish] became Christians.
        2. People who were not Jews became Christians in large numbers in the middle of the first century.
        3. From that point on, the church contained more people who were not Jews than people who were Jews.
        4. That produced enormous tensions in the Jewish community.
      3. When the number of Christians who were not Jews greatly outnumbered the Christians who were Jews, Jewish Christians faced a real crisis.
        1. The crisis involved personal identity.
        2. The crisis involved heritage.
        3. The crisis involved a centuries old special relationship with God.
        4. The crisis involved physical security.
        5. In the first century, being a member of the nation of Israel was more significant than American citizenship is to us.
      4. That is when pressure was applied to these Jewish Christians.
        1. "You can be a member of that church which is not Jewish."
        2. "Or you can be a citizen of the nation of Israel."
        3. "But you cannot be both--so make up your mind."
        4. "Either leave the nation of Israel or leave Christianity."
    2. What pressure!
      1. Suppose someone who had the power to enforce what he said came to you this week and said, "You can be an American, or you can be a Christian, but you cannot be both!"
      2. "Give up your citizenship or give up Christianity!"
      3. "Which will it be?"
    3. These Jewish Christians seem to use this reasoning.
      1. "We worshipped the same God in Judaism that we worship as Christians."
      2. "We can renounce Jesus Christ, return to Judaism, and follow the same God."
      3. This thinking had gone far enough that they were not meeting with Christians (Hebrews 10:25).
    4. The writer told them they could not renounce Christ and follow God.
      1. This writing called Hebrews explained why they could not do this.
      2. This was the basic point: "If you renounce Jesus Christ, you renounce God."
      3. "God accomplished all of His purposes and kept all of His promises through Jesus Christ."

  2. What kind of Christians were these Jews who seriously considered renouncing Jesus Christ?
    1. They had been exceptional Christians. Consider what Hebrews 10:32-39 said about them.
      1. The writer asked them to remember what they did as Christians in the past.
      2. As Christians, they suffered a lot of pain just because they believed in Jesus Christ.
        1. Some of that pain was caused by public ridicule. Have you ever experienced the pain of public humiliation?
        2. Some of that pain was caused by public, physical abuse. Have you ever been physically abused in public while people watched and laughed?
        3. Some of that pain was caused because they supported Christian friends who received the same treatment. Have you ever suffered because you stood up for someone else?
      3. When fellow Christians were thrown in jail because of their faith, they were not ashamed of them.
      4. When their property was confiscated, they actually rejoiced because they knew their heavenly rewards were superior to any physical possession.
    2. Does that give you insight into how difficult their situation was?
      1. In the past, they suffered public ridicule, but what they were experiencing was worse than public ridicule.
      2. In the past, they suffered pain publicly, but what they were experiencing was worse than that pain.
      3. In the past, they suffered because they supported Christians who were thrown in jail, but what they were experiencing was worse than that.
      4. In the past, they had their property confiscated, but what they were suffering was worse than that.
    3. The writer urged:
      1. Do not throw your confidence away because it has great reward.
      2. All you need to do to receive God's promises is to endure.
      3. You are not like those people who give up and suffer destruction.
      4. You are like those people who have the faith that never gives up.

  3. The writer gave these Christians many forms of encouragement to stay with Christ.
    1. This morning I want you to note the encouragement that he gave them in Hebrews 4:14-16.
      1. First, let us read the encouragement.
        Hebrews 4:14-16 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
      2. To understand this statement, we need some background insights.
      3. A Jewish high priest represented imperfect people before a perfect God.
        1. A high priest belonged exclusively to God, but he represented people.
        2. God appointed the high priest, God told the high priest how he was to act and what he was to do, and the high priest did exclusively what God told him to do.
        3. A high priest was absolutely necessary; if a sinful person attempted to approach the holy God on his own, he would die.
      4. Jesus is our high priest.
        1. Right now Jesus works to represent us unholy people before the holy God.
        2. Jesus is our high priest because God made him our high priest.
        3. When we pray, God hears our prayers because of Jesus.
        4. When we struggle and want God's help, God helps us because of Jesus.
        5. If Jesus did not represent us before God, none of us could approach God.
      5. Jesus can represent every one of us perfectly before God because Jesus perfectly understands us.
        1. He has been there, he has struggled with temptation, and he won.
        2. He faced every form of human weakness that exists.
        3. He suffered every type of pain people can suffer.
        4. There is no weakness we can experience, no situation we can be in, no struggle that we can have that he cannot understand.
        5. He was human, so he understands human struggles.
        6. We may not perfectly understand him, but he perfectly understands us.
    2. Remember who these people were.
      1. They were seriously considering renouncing Jesus Christ.
      2. That means they almost were ready to declare:
        1. Jesus is not God's son.
        2. Jesus is not the Messiah, the Christ.
        3. God did not resurrect Jesus to be the Savior.
        4. People do not need Jesus to belong to God.
      3. What encouragement did the writer give these distressed, discouraged people?
        1. Confidently go to God's throne of grace.
          1. We are hesitant to approach a person of national or state status with confidence.
          2. Approach God's throne with confidence?
        2. Expect to receive mercy.
          1. Know that you do not approach God's throne expecting justice.
          2. His throne is a throne of grace, and God gives mercy.
        3. Go when you need help; go in the time of need.
          1. If you go, you will find grace.
          2. If you go, God will respond with mercy.
      4. Why should these people go in confidence? Because Jesus is there serving as our high priest.

Clearly understand the situation. These Christians who were discouraged to the point of giving up were urged to go to God in the confidence that they would receive grace and mercy. They were assured they would receive God's grace and mercy if they confidently approached His throne. In their struggle, they needed grace and mercy.

Do not urge a struggling Christian to search for grace and mercy in the church. God is the source of grace and mercy; the church never has been. Urge struggling Christians to go to the source of grace and mercy--God! Help Christians understand God wants to help, will help. Why? Because Jesus Christ is there representing us.

Has anyone convinced you that it would do no good to go to God for grace and mercy because your problems are too big or your mistakes are too awful? He or she is mistaken. God is ready to give us grace and mercy. We are to approach God confidently expecting grace and mercy. God will certainly understand. In His understanding, God will give us grace and mercy. Jesus Christ makes it possible.

Just like those Christians, you need to approach God humbly, respectfully, but confidently. Never let your struggles convince you that God does not care. God gives grace and mercy to the struggling when they come to His throne.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 4 March 2001

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