Our world has always had the “haves” and the “have-nots”
What do the “haves” have? Money, possessions, opportunities, children, grandchildren, jobs, cars, boats, houses, lands, political authority, sanity, education.
What do the “have nots” not have? Perhaps all of the above and more.
How have the “have nots” reacted? They’ve worked harder, led in revolts, staged coops, committed theft and other types of crime, and some have gotten an education.
Likewise, Christians have some things that non-Christians don’t have.
We Have the Benefits of Fellowship
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” Hebrews 10:25 NLT.
Being born the son of a preacher has its advantages and disadvantages. One of the advantages was having the importance of attending church ingrained in me. We belonged to a denomination that held worship services three times each week, and since Dad was the pastor, we attended every service. I had no choice; it was an expectation. Later, after I left home, I faced an important decision: would I continue to attend church as I had been doing, or was this an opportunity for a little freedom from the “You have to go” chains. As much as I sometimes despised being made to go every time the doors were open while I was growing up, I now found myself wanting to go. Taking a job that prevented me from doing so was disturbing. Ironically, what I once pulled away from I now pulled toward.
Early Christians needed togetherness and encouragement. Persecution was rife. Only by meeting together and garnering strength from each other would they be able to survive. Without this togetherness, they would be tempted to renege on their commitment to Jesus. Going it alone wouldn’t work either. In solitude would also be the temptation to turn away from what the church offered.
Meeting with other believers holds me accountable. Left to myself, I’m tempted to wander onto paths I shouldn’t walk. If no one is looking or walking with me, I may very well take the road traveled by many others. Letting others tag along increases the chances I’ll stay on the straight and narrow.
Assembling with other Christians provides the encouragement and help we need to move from one day to the next…from one mountain to the next…from one disaster to the next. Alone, we’ll sink, but with many helping hands we’ll face the next valley with a different attitude.
Rather than letting life’s difficulties drive you further from the church, let them pummel you toward it. Find your source of strength through togetherness with other Christians.
We Have an Internal Directional Signal
“If we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins” Hebrews 10:26 NLT.
Kids can be cruel. Mattie knew. She was new to the school. She and her mom had recently moved to the area. They searched for a school where hopefully Mattie would be accepted and not face the bullying and rejection she had encountered at her previous school. Mattie looked the same as any other student her age, but her speech gave away the fact she wasn’t.
A minor lisp caused Mattie to talk a little differently—a difference that was immediately noticed. While a few of the students accepted her in spite of this, most in her class shunned her. She walked alone in the hallways and sat solo in the lunchroom—a book often her only friend. Few took the time to know her. They were too worried about what their friends would say if they hung around with the new girl . …the different girl. Unfortunately, Mattie faced the same intentional rejection she had felt at her previous school.
First century Christians were warned against intentionally rejecting the Gospel message of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Early missionaries spread the word across the known world. Turning to Christ was the only available opportunity to be rescued from sin’s fatal consequences.
As the product of a Christian home, I heard the same truth long before I ever understood it. But the time arrived when it began to sink in. Since I understood and had heard, I had a choice: accept it or turn my back on it. Had I chosen to turn away, there would have been no other choice. Like Mattie’s classmates, I would have intentionally rejected another person. By not choosing God’s path, I would automatically choose the broad way leading to destruction.
God only provides one path to him—Jesus. Hearing this but shunning it leaves us with no other options. No further sacrifice is on the horizon; Jesus was it. Rejecting what God has done leaves us in a very precarious situation. God’s Spirit draws the unbeliever and keeps the believer on the right path. Learn to listen to your internal direction.
We Have Confidence
“So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you” Hebrews 10:35 NLT.
My confidence in people and things hangs in a precarious balance. Sometimes it is well-placed, but at other times it isn’t. I have a good friend in whom I can place complete confidence. I’ve shared many private matters with him, and he has held them in strict confidence. When I asked his wife, “Did ______ tell you about _____?” the answer was always, “No.”
But then there were those times when my confidence was crushed. Vehicles that had cranked each time I turned the switch suddenly didn’t. The battery died or the starter wore out. Chairs I’ve sat in for months on end suddenly cracked and crashed. Children I thought would never hurt me did. The job I thought would never end did. The parent I thought would live forever died. And so did my beloved animal. Retirement savings that seemed secure weren’t. Stocks that appeared stable became unstable. I’ve learned to be careful about what I place my confidence in and how tightly I cling to it.
Many early Christians came from a Jewish background. Thousands of years of observing ceremonies, making sacrifices, and obeying cumbersome customary laws. The temptation was to place their confidence in those things to gain God’s acceptance rather than believe in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. Banking on anything else only led them to disappointment.
Thankfully, there are some things we can cling to with confidence. One is forgiveness. When we confess our sins to Christ and ask for his forgiveness, forgiveness happens: instantly and permanently. Never again will those sins be charged to our account. Condemnation flies out the window and peace takes over.
Another is Christ’s coming. Whether at death or in the skies, he will arrive and usher his people into a glorious eternal existence called heaven. Still another is strength for life’s journey. Whatever we need to live and accomplish God’s will, he will provide in abundance. Our confidence in God’s promises will never be misplaced.
We have Faith in the Future
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” Hebrews 11:1 NLT.
Fred wasn’t a business major in college, but something one of his professors said made perfect business sense: “If your outgo is greater than your income, your upkeep will be your downfall.” Fred and Jenny’s journey through four years of college with children in tow wasn’t easy. Though he was receiving federal grants that covered most of his tuition, daily living expenses were expensive. He worked part-time on campus, and Jenny worked full-time at a local day care center.
Fred quickly discovered he and Jenny would have to live by faith. And they did. They did their part and depended on God to do his. As they lived by faith and followed God’s plan, God saw that the bills were paid, the groceries bought, and their other daily needs met. The outgo was greater than the income, but faith supplied the difference.
As he struggled with readers who were considering trying to work for their salvation, the writer reminds them God’s acceptance is based solely on faith—and not simply an “I hope…” but an “I know….” confident assurance.
Like Fred and Jenny, a number of my years have been lived with greater outgo than income. Not necessarily because of unwise decisions—although there’s been a few of those—but because of economic conditions and other’s decisions that have affected me. By faith, I’ve trusted God to keep his promise he’ll take care of me…and he hasn’t disappointed me.
Our greatest expression of faith, however, concerns the future not the present. It involves the hope that what he’s promised will come true. He has promised forgiveness of our sins, and I believe him. No condemnation awaits us. He’s promised an eternal home free of sin and its incorrigible effects, and I believe that too. He’s assured us of a new heaven and earth, restored to the condition of the original one. I’m anticipating that as well. Do you have faith in your future?