We Christians often think things should work out for our world, our society, the church in our society, our congregation, and us individually just exactly as we expect. Things rarely do. The result: when there is a significant clash between the "way things are" and our expectations, we, as Christians, commonly face a faith crisis.
It is amazing that often our Christian expectations are based on what we feel should occur in our society--not our world, but our society. Gasoline should be plentiful and inexpensive. Food should be plentiful and inexpensive. Housing should be plentiful and affordable. Good clothing should be in everyone's grasp. Most of what we earn should be discretionary income available to spend on what we like. The central question is rarely what is happening to the rest of the world (many assume "my" situation is characteristic of the rest of the world). The central question is what is happening to me and my family right now.
It is shocking to learn that many in our world never own a vehicle, that gasoline is more than double the price we pay, that their entire daily income would not feed the family one meal a day, that they live on dirt floors and never does the entire family sleep on a bed, that their clothing is rags, that they are fortunate to have one job opportunity in a lifetime, and there is nothing they can do about any of those things because opportunity does not exist.
A Christian living in those realities does NOT have the same expectations most of us have. The point is not the blessings of poverty or the desirability of physical need. The point is this: commonly our expectations are based on the reachable dreams of our circumstances. Often it is the unexpected that throws us for a loop and brings us to the edge of despair.
Following is a view of Hebrews and some applications from Hebrews based on (a) what Hebrews says and (b) this view of Hebrews. The view is based on the conviction that the material of the book was written to some discouraged Jewish Christians. These people were converted to Jesus Christ some time ago. In their earlier commitment to Jesus Christ they willingly sacrificed much to the Lord Jesus Christ. They were not ashamed to recognize and assist Jesus Christ's suffering followers.
However, the situation did not change. It got worse, not better. Whereas their suffering seemed to have a reason earlier, now it seemed pointless. When they began as Christians, the opposition to Christianity was not organized. Now it was organized, angry, and vicious. The consequences of following Jesus Christ were becoming greater and seemed increasingly useless.
Solution: return to Judaism. Judaism (the religion of the Jewish people) was not popular, but it was legal (which Christianity was not). At least the monotheistic Jews would accept them back into the Jewish community. Much of the harassment they experienced as Christians would cease. The society of the Jewish people would provide them a safety net. After all, they would not be changing Gods: the God of the Christians and the God of the Jews was the same God. They would just be rejecting Jesus as the Christ (Messiah). By leaving Jesus, they would leave most of their opposition.
The problem: The writer said if they left Jesus Christ they deserted God. Jesus was superior to Jewish roles and functions. In fact, Jesus was the fulfillment to those roles and functions. Jesus was God's intent, God's objective, and the fulfillment of God's promises. Thus, deserting Jesus Christ meant deserting the living God. Their solution immediately became their problem.
Focus on the text. Note in verses 32-34 the prices they ALREADY had paid in being Christians. They publicly were humiliated and disgraced. They suffered. They endured harsh treatment because they refused to be ashamed of other Christians. They assisted Christians who were arrested. They had their property confiscated. (How much was expected of people who dared place their faith in Jesus Christ?)
The encouragement: Do not "throw away" your confidence. All you need is to endure. You have done God's will; you know how to do it, stay with that will and do not forfeit the promises. You have never been quitters. Do not start being quitters now!
Something in this leaps out: the writer encouraged them rather than berating them. Basically the writer said, "God has not given up on you; do not give up on God's purposes." God in Jesus Christ formed their identity. "Do not be ashamed of who you are!"
The writer did not say, "How dare you! God is ashamed of you! I cannot believe what you are considering doing! Do you have any idea of how much harm you are doing? Do you not realize how much more harm you would do? You are a disgrace to Christianity! We do not want you as a part of the Christian community!"
Instead, the writer said, "You have not lost your reward, and there is no need for you to lose it. You have done too much, endured too much, and suffered too much to forfeit your confidence in Jesus Christ now. All you need to do is endure to receive God's promises. What you are considering doing does not represent who you really are."
Please realize that you make all of God's investment in you meaningless if you forsake all God did for you in Jesus Christ. God wants to save, not destroy. Your destruction does not bring Him joy. Your salvation brings Him joy.
Never give God credit or responsibility for the agony Satan causes.
For Thought and Discussion
Link to Teacher's Guide
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