I was scanning through my Facebook feed this morning, and as I often do, I checked out my memories function. I found that on this day, on year ago, I posted this scripture, ” Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Hebrews 10:23-25
My attention was captured by the words, unswervingly and spur. Not sure why, but these words aren’t common in my daily vocabulary, and they caught my attention. So, I spent some time this morning looking up what the meaning of them are in Greek. What I discovered created a sense of urgency from this passage that I had not grasped before.
Unswervingly, in generic English translation it means to follow a direct path, to never turn aside and to be steadfast and loyal. In Greek, the word is anthistemi, which means to set against or withstand without giving up or letting go. We are to withstand without giving up on the hope we profess. We cannot turn or be turned aside from that hope. We must hold to it with a single-minded belief that this hope we have in Jesus, that which we profess is based on God’s promises which are unfailing.
How often do we get derailed by the frustrations of life? If any of you are like, me right now you feel like you’re in a batting cage with a rogue pitching machine, no bat, no glove and the door is locked. The fast balls of life are firing you at you, and they keep getting faster and faster and you are getting tired of dodging and swerving and trying to get out of the way, desperately trying to not get hit in the head and knocked out. We are called as Christians to hold fast to the hope of God’s promises without being turned aside, to set against all that life throws at us without giving up or letting go. Easier said than done sometimes…
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
We will face all kinds of trials during our lives in this world, but God has overcome the world. We must stand fast, without giving up or turning aside from the hope we have in Jesus. We have the Full Armor of God, and it can withstand any fastball!
The second word that grabbed me here was, spur. Being from the Old West this word has an entirely different meaning, or so I thought. When I hear or see the word spur I think of an attachment to my boot which is meant to get my horse moving with a bit more urgency… Spur also means to provoke or stir up, to goad in to action or to incite. It also means to urge or encourage to action, to move in vigorous pursuit of an object, to stimulate, to impel, to drive. We are to spur each other on toward love and good deeds and not to neglect meeting together. Spur does not mean suggest, imply, or consider. It does not mean that we should think about it or wait for the right time or even to hold off till it’s convenient.
The sense of urgency here is clear. We are to stand firm without turning aside, setting ourselves against all that comes at us in the hope of God’s promises. Additionally, we are to drive and incite each other toward love and good deeds. This is action! As I read this scripture with new eyes, I don’t see it as the warm fuzzy that I once did, encouraging me to remember God’s promises and to make sure I continue to meet together with the Body.
This is a call to action. A call for us to stand firm in our beliefs and to encourage one another to act as Christ has taught us. “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:29-32
When we are sharing the negativity we hear on the television, radio, internet; are we spuring one another on to love and good works? When we put our wants before the needs of others under the guise of ‘preparing for the future’ are we unswervingly holding to the hope of God’s promises?
What is our witness to the world when we are acting like everyone else? Hoarding material comforts, spreading slander, taking political sides, and ignoring the pain and suffering of our brothers and sisters around the world? This is not who Christ called us to be.
Let no unwholesome talk come out of our mouths, build others up according to their needs (not our circumstances), get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, slander, and every kind of malice. Be kind and compassionate, forgiving as Christ forgave us. This is who we are, this is what we are called to be, this is what the world needs right now.
Together, let’s be unswerving in our hope, and spur each other on toward love and good works.
Please help me share the good news of Jesus and how He can change our world!
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“On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher”, he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind”, and, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”” Luke 10:29
Over the past three months or so this question has popped into my head with both frequency and urgency; who is my neighbor? Does the person screaming profanity in a ‘peaceful’ protest count as my neighbor? Does the individual who posts racist ideas on social media, then incites further controversy with their responses count as my neighbor? Does the politician who touts their integrity to the whole world, then gets indicted for embezzlement and gross negligence count as my neighbor? The short answer is, yes.
Even in this time of highly polarized conversation and opinions, everyone is your neighbor. Scripture is very specific on how we are to treat others; we are to treat them how we would want to be treated. I don’t believe I know anyone who would want to be yelled at, called stupid, demeaned, lied too or beaten. All of us want to be respected, valued, and loved, all of us want to be treated like we matter and are important.
“Do to others as you would have them do to you.” Luke 6:31
In the parable of the Good Samaritan, we are given so much with regards to how we are to interact with one another. We are reminded of the greatest commandment, “He answered, “Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and, love your neighbor as yourself.” Luke 10:27
Love God, and love others as you love yourself.
Scripture also tells us in Ephesians 4:32 to be kind, tenderhearted, forgiving. In John 15:12 Jesus tells us to love one another as He loved us. In Romans 12:10 Paul tells us to love one another with brotherly affection and to outdo one another in showing honor. We are to bear with one another, build each other up, have one mind, be sympathetic, humble, bless, speak well of, and hold them in higher regard than ourselves.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14
Scripture does not tell us to repay, revile, revenge, slander, cheat, lie, anger, take sides, bear false witness, demean, devalue, crush underfoot, show favoritism, destroy, devour, take pride in division, or gloat over our enemies. It does not!
How much pride do we take in a well landed jab, or in our witty, albeit cruel, sarcasm? Since when do we measure intelligence by how quickly someone can cut down or put someone in their place? Our world is overfull of hateful rhetoric, slanderous jabs, and divisive politicking. I wonder if we even see those on the receiving end of our vulgarity as our neighbors.
“Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:17-21
There is no excuse, or reason for Christ followers to speak like we are right now. If our neighbor has a different political opinion, that does not make them stupid. If our neighbor does not share our opinion on child rearing or infant baptism or basic traffic laws, that does not make them ignorant, evil, uninformed, or incapable of reason. It simply means they have a different opinion, one that is derived from their lifetime experiences and upbringing. None of this precludes any of them from being our neighbor. In fact, even them being our enemy does not (per scripture) preclude them.
Our witness to the world has never been more tested than now. Nor has it ever been more important.
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers? The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 1-:36-37
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In our youth group recently we have been getting the teens involved by encouraging them to pick our study topics. Each week one teen is selected and they work with one leader to pose and answer, from scripture, any question they may have. I will admit I was afraid aliens, dinosaurs and other silliness would claim the forefront, but was pleasantly surprised by the depth of the questions asked. Questions about homosexuality, where is God when bad things happen, and most recently, why do so many have to hit rock bottom before turning to God?
Needless to say we’ve had some amazing conversations, and it has been a huge growth opportunity as our teens dig deep to get answers to questions that really matter to them. This most recent question we discusses in the context of the parable of the Prodigal Son. As many of have done, he prioritized the wrong things, went all in and found himself at rock bottom. He was faced with the decision of turning to his father or death. It took him hitting rock bottom to turn to his salvation. It’s a beautiful story and one we can all probably identify with.
I got to thinking this morning, what about those that follow the same path; seeking self promotion at any cost, placing fame and fortune above all else. What happens when the prodigal son spends his last dollar on a lottery ticket…and wins? Because, we see this happen as well. People who put themselves and their interests and their happiness above all else, often to the detriment of many…succeed and get all they want in this world. What does that story tell us? Where is God when good things seem to happen to not so good people?
We read about these people throughout the Psalms, the wicked prospering and mockingly stating that God either doesn’t care, is asleep or doesn’t see their actions. Since the begging of time people have called out to God to bring ‘justice’ on the wicked. However, the wicked still seem to prosper, the wicked still seem to triumph over the oppressed, the wicked still seem to win.
Let me bring your attention to another story in the bible, also found in the book of Luke, just one chapter later. This is a story about a poor, sick, oppressed man who dies in abject poverty and pain, Lazarus, and a rich man who had every good thing in life, neglecting the needs of those around him. Both men die, and as such have very different experiences.
“The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.” Luke 16:22-24
Lazarus, was one of the least of men and so received a mighty reward in heaven. The rich man, on the other hand, who had not used his blessings on earth to bless others, who had used his blessings on earth to glorify himself by satisfying his fleshly desires, went to Hades.
Yes, people in this world, who chose to help themselves first, will be last in the life after this one. “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.” Luke 16:25-26
The story continues with the rich man’s plea for Abraham to send Lazarus to the home of the rich man’s father to warn his brothers to change their lives so they will not suffer the same fate (sounds very Charles Dickens). To which Abraham replies, “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” Luke 16:31
If the prodigal son won mega millions, his outcome would be of his making. Would he use his blessings to bless others, or would he continue down a path of selfishness and waste? We obviously can’t say. What we can say, is if he chose the latter, his rewards, all his rewards would be used up in this short lifetime. There would be nothing for him in the next. Yes, good things happen to bad, or wicked, or selfish people. Or perhaps it’s better stated that good things seem to happen to wicked people. The truth of it is, that they may seem to have all they want for a time, but our lives here on this earth are short compared to our eternity with Jesus. That short moment of pleasure will cost them eternity. Where our short moment of suffering will yield us an eternity of glory with our savior.
Good things, bad things, here on earth doesn’t matter. What matters is what we do with what we have while we’re here. Did we give God the glory by placing our faith in Jesus and blessing others with thanksgiving, or did we live to glorify and please ourselves? Mega millions mean nothing in the light of eternal salvation.
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