Big Idea: The Son of God gives us the other sons and daughters of God to encourage us.
This week I have been on vacation with my family. We hiked in Chaco National Park and I had my hands on my kids as much as humanly possible, terrified they might fall into one of the kivas there (deep ceremonial pits). A few days later, we were at a city park in Durango and my son fell off the ladder and cut the back of his head open. I was afraid of a big danger, but did not take the more routine one seriously enough. I think there are similar principles in our spiritual lives. Many people are terrified about somehow accidentally taking the mark of the beast or of something that will probably never happen. But there is something mundane which I believe ought to be much more frightening. Have you ever given much thought to how easy it is to harden your heart?
Something does not go my way, I throw a fit, and get a little harder. Someone does not act the way that I believe they should, I get self righteous, and get a little harder. Somehow I think my sin is not my fault, I try to justify myself, and get a little harder. It can happen in lots of ways but the result is the same: We get more vulnerable to sin, less dedicated to prayer, and further from God’s will in our lives. Worse still, hardness leads to hardness. Like a callous that continues to get thicker because irritating it no longer hurts, the harder our hearts get, the easier it is for us to wander down heart-hardening paths. The harder we get, the less sensitive we are to the One who can heal us. The high-profile failures of ministry leaders may seem to be sudden, but I suspect that it is almost always the sudden collapse after years of gradual erosion. In Moses’ day, hardness kept the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years. They did not trust God when He spoke, and so they hardened their hearts against Him. Hardness led to hardness and they lost the opportunity to experience His rest.
Is there a solution? Does God give us any tools to avoid such a dangerous path? He does, but it might seem too simple to embrace. The vaccine against a hard heart is our local church. Not just Sunday services (although those are important, as we will see later in Hebrews), but being challenged and encouraged by our brothers and sisters daily. When I am weak, someone else in my church is strong and can help sustain me. When I am strong, someone else in my church is weak and needs me. We have to exhort each other today before the deceitfulness of sin can take root in our hearts. The high-profile ministry failures I mentioned above are often linked to a failure of this kind of accountability, and a lot of low-profile ministry failures are too. Discouragement and vulnerability to sin, when we lack the fellowship with and transparency to other believers, are a dangerous mix. The Christian life is too hard to live alone, so the Son of God gave us brothers and sisters.
Discussion Idea: Who is someone in your life that can encourage you or correct you when you get out of step with God?
Prayer Focus: It is easy for us to get defensive when confronted, instead of grateful. Pray that we will have humble hearts which will appreciate the loving hand of someone who loves us more than they love being liked by us.