This essentially was the repeated exhortation in the Book of Hebrews. Life was difficult and challenging for believers in the first century. As some Christians began to buckle under the pressures exerted on them by the culture, and the Evil One behind the culture, they needed a reminder of what is true. The author of that book told them that they needed to refocus on the Lord Jesus and on those truths that came from the God who does not lie. They were to persevere as believers.
Our situation today is not identical to the experience of those first century believers, but we are rapidly getting there. Our country has willfully chosen to remove God’s righteous standards from national life and we are certainly beginning to see the terrible consequences of it (see the February “Mid-Month Musings”). More and more, there is the openly aggressive, “in-your-face” mocking of that which is sacred (for example, see Vogue magazine with Madonna’s blasphemous image on the cover…or on second thought, don’t look at it). More and more, there is the elevating of Satan and demons into public life (for example, the recent Oscars with demonic themes, or the number of entertainers who are now openly confessing to having sold their souls to Satan). More and more, there is an increase in the abuse and targeting of those who call themselves Christians (note the present congressional investigation into the FBI’s targeting of churches). And perhaps worst of all, there is the breathtaking compromise with the culture by the church. “Thus says the Lord” is being rapidly changed to “the Bible really doesn’t mean that,” or “not everything in Scripture is culturally relevant.” Too many pastors are feeding their sheep with straw that is sugar coated and declaring the church’s need to be more inclusive (that is; overlooking what God declares to be sinful). And “biblical scholars” are distorting basic doctrines of our faith (for example, N.T. Wright who casts doubt on the concept of substitutionary atonement and even justification by faith, or Andy Stanley’s convoluted logic in the diminishing of the doctrine of the Bible).
So, what can ordinary believers who have no public platform do considering this negative tsunami inundating our lives? Hebrews says “hang in there, brothers and sisters.” Okay, but how do we do that? To start with, the Apostle Peter informs believers that everything we need for life and godliness is found in the Scriptures (2 Pet. 1:3). Everything does mean everything. And so, there are certain valuable truths that we need to come back to in such a time as this. Some examples.
- We must shift our focus off of the cultural crises and back on the Lord Jesus. It is not that we are to be ignorant of life around us, but it is a matter of our focus. In that hostile culture of the first century, believers were told to focus on Jesus. There were to “fix their attention on Jesus” who is our Apostle and High Priest (Heb. 3:1). This verse is the only place where Jesus is called “apostle” (one sent with authority). And that He was. Jesus, who was sent from the Father, has all power and authority (Matt. 28:18). This is a needed reminder that all those powerful politicians, entertainers, wealthy elites, and “influencers” are as nothing before the Lord Jesus. They are weak but He is strong. And He is also our High Priest to whom we can go for needed mercy and needed grace as we live this life in this culture (Heb. 4:14-16). And we need lots of both. Our High Priest said, “let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). Focus, focus, focus…on Jesus. This is primarily done with a meditative study of His Word.
- We must remain in a real fellowship with the Lord Jesus. Sometimes it is hard to imagine that we can have meaningful, fruitful lives in such a negative environment that exists today. But we can. Jesus stated that we are “branches” that can bear much fruit (full, meaningful lives), and He is the vine. He issued a command to us that we are to “abide” in Him (that is, to remain in fellowship with Him). Jesus pointed out that abiding in Him is the secret of having a meaningful life (bearing fruit), and that obedience is the secret to abiding. Simply put, when we obey those known commandments given in God’s Word, we will certainly bear fruit (have productive lives). While life can be challenging with inflation, financial concerns, the elevating of evil, etc., we nevertheless can and will have productive lives when we abide in the Lord Jesus. He guarantees this. Note, it is not that we will become famous or single-handedly change culture, but we will be fruitful. Remaining in close fellowship with the Lord is how that is done. The basics of time in the Word of God and in prayer are absolute essentials in maintaining that critical fellowship.
- We must diligently maintain solid relationships with other believers. The Lord designed the church to be one of our key resources for living meaning full lives. The concept of the “body of Christ” (1 Cor. 12:11-27) emphasizes our need to be interdependent. We need each other. The fellowship, encouragement and even rebuke of other believers is so very critical to our spiritual health. As the author of Hebrews tells us to “hang in there, brothers and sisters,” he clearly teaches that believers’ spiritual health is impacted by other believers (note Hebrews 3:12-14; 10:19-25; 12:12; 13:1-6). We do not do well when we are spiritually independent.
- We must draw upon the indwelling Holy Spirit. Guidance, empowerment, and discernment are available to us. Jesus pointed out to His Apostles that it was better for them that He (Jesus) go away so that the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) would come and supply them with all that they would need (John 14:16-18; 16:7-11). The Spirit supplies us with what we need to stand firmly against the world (culture), the flesh and the devil himself. Even when our culture proclaims good to be evil and evil to be good, the Spirit can give us the fearlessness and strength that we need to insist on the good, and to be lights in a darkening world.
- We should remember that our best days are ahead of us and they are eternal. The future was even an important factor in the life of our Lord Jesus, as Hebrews 12:2 states: “who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” He looked beyond the cross to the future when many would be reconciled and the purposes of creation would be restored. The return of our Lord Jesus is our blessed hope (Titus 2:13). The Evil One and his minions will have their 15 minutes of fame and dominance. But the promises of God are clear that Jesus will return in power and great glory and make all things right, and that will be forever. He will defeat His enemies, set up His kingdom and reward believers who have been faithful. This must be a part of our focus.
As the author of Hebrews concluded the message to his friends, who were starting to retreat before the onslaught of their culture, he said this:
“…LET US ALSO LAY ASIDE EVERY ENCUMBERANCE AND THE SIN WHICH SO EASILY ENTANGLES US, AND LET US RUN WITH ENDURANCE THE RACE THAT IS SET BEFORE US, FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS, THE AUTHOR AND PERFECTOR OF FAITH….THAT YOU MAY NOT GROW WEARY AND LOSE HEART.” (Hebrews 12:1-3)
So, brothers and sisters, hang in there.