Hebrews 3:12 See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. 14 We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end. 15 As has just been said: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.a” [NIV]
“That day, next day, one day and someday” is a tongue-in-cheek description I recently read to describe the confusion of keeping track of time and days when the routines of life are altered during long-lasting life circumstances like this pandemic. I’ve experienced that confusion about time and days myself. It’s a real thing that caused me read this Scripture as if it was speaking about the confusion of time and days, then, as a danger in the spiritual life of believers in Jesus Christ now…and the much needed protection offered for “today.”
We have been so blessed for so long as a nation, as a democracy and as individuals that we’ve become confused about how real, and subtle, the danger of a “sinful, unbelieving heart” is. “Today” is the one word in this Scripture that made me realize “that day, next day, one day and someday” is really about missing the warning and protection available “now.” “Now” is our God-given opportunity to to “share in Christ” and “encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of [us] may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness…Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts…a”
a Psalm 95
TLB 3:1 Finally, dear brothers, as I come to the end of this letter, I ask you to pray for us. Pray first that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and triumph wherever it goes, winning converts everywhere as it did when it came to you. 2 Pray, too, that we will be saved out of the clutches of evil men, for not everyone loves the Lord. 3 But the Lord is faithful; he will make you strong and guard you from satanic attacks of every kind. 4 And we trust the Lord that you are putting into practice the things we taught you, and that you always will. 5 May the Lord bring you into an ever deeper understanding of the love of God and of the patience that comes from Christ.
Believers are the focus group of Pauls appeal for prayer. “Pray for us. Pray first that the Lord’s message will spread rapidly and triumph wherever it goes, winning converts everywhere as it did when it came to you. Pray, too, that we will be saved out of the clutches of evil men, for not everyone loves the Lord.”
We have become a society of people who have made productivity a “little g” god. A good portion of what follows Paul’s appeal for those prayers is his admonition to people of faith not to live in laziness, loafing, refusing to work and wasting time. That seems like an odd combination for us to find an application for life today.
What if our laziness, loafing, refusing to work and wasting time is really all about our choice to overlook prayer in favor of productivity? Prayer is the quiet part of faith, often without recordable results. It’s also meant to be protection that keeps “us out of the clutches of evil men.” We can clock our time in devotional study…√. We can clock our time of service in the Lord’s name…√. We can clock our time of church participation…√. Only the Lord can honestly clock the time we spend in prayer, “but the Lord is faithful.”
Maybe that is why Paul has chosen to remind me “not to live in laziness, loafing, refusing to work and wasting time” and make sure prayer IS consciously a bigger and better part of my productivity. Mea Culpa!
Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
I’m sure you’ve seen pictures of notable political figures being carefully guided through a pressing crowd surrounded by a cadre of secret service agents for their protection. That image came to mind when I read “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…” Have you ever considered who your personal cloud of witnesses are; the Biblical secret service agents that have impacted your life…and why? Maybe it’s time for you to make your own list. Here’s mine..
Jesus: because he showed me his love, and that I was worth it.
Solomon: because he connected the passion of human love to the love of God for his people.
David: because he was brave enough to repent even though there were desperate consequences to his sin.
Peter: because there’d never been any doubt in his mind that he would faithfully serve Jesus…until that moment when he heard his own words of denial. Then repentance changed his heart’s focus from service to a deep love.
Paul: because he believed in a power that had nothing to do with his own abilities and ideas. He was faithful, willing and yes…an opinionated messenger that Jesus was the Savior of the most unlikely people…even him.
These Biblical heroes are my secret service detail. They’re the “great cloud of witnesses” that are my examples of a better way to get through the hazards of being human so I “will not grow weary and lose heart” in the name of Jesus.