It’s not uncommon to want to give up when things get tough. But the easy way out is just that –easy. But easier isn’t always better. What may seem easier may not be better for us. The old saying “grass is always greener on the other side” is a bit of wisdom that we need today. The paradox found in this statement is that it doesn’t matter which side of the fence you move to, it always seems better on the other side. But the challenge we are given as Christians is not to seek greener grass on the other side (or it will always elude us), but rather to plant new grass where we already are. While God is fully capable of (and sometimes does) move us to greener pastures, we often miss the blessing and lesson we could appreciate where we already are.
The recipients of the letter that we know as “Hebrews” were Hebrew Christians who were tempted to give up on Christianity because it just got too hard. But evidently, they had already been through tougher times and now were living in “better times.” They were tempted to return to Judaism (the familiar, nostalgic way of life that seemed ‘easier’), even though they had tasted the power and presence of Jesus Christ. What would cause a Christian to want to return to a less-than-satisfying previous existence? Why is it that Christians have an easier time standing for the truth under persecution than they do in times of peace? It’s ironic, isn’t it? Many in America, who live in relative freedom, have a harder time staying faithful than, say, people in India or China who are dying daily because of their faith in Jesus.
The flesh often tries to delude us into thinking that things are always better in some “other life.” However, Christians are the most alive when they’re laying down their lives. The writer of Hebrews challenged the reader to “not throw away their confidence; it will be richly rewarded.” Jesus echoed a similar sentiment when He asked what benefit it is to a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul (Mark 8:36). It is a very sly and deceitful enemy who can manipulate us into forfeiting more for less.
Our church is far from perfect. But a church becomes the “greener grass” when the hearts of her people commit themselves to persevere and encourage one another. But encouragement can only flow from a selfless heart. The heart that focuses on self cannot be encouraging and certainly cannot spur another Christian on to love and good deeds. And it’s not easy to be an encourager when you’re overwhelmed by your own misfortune. But the Christian who has lost everything has gained everything. The Christian who tries to hold on to everything… loses everything.
We are challenged by the living example of Jesus to die to self and live in service to each other. But our greatest stigma is a worldly culture that tells us fleshly things like “you can have whatever you want.” And if the greatest love we can express is laying down our lives for our friends, and if the world does indeed pay attention to the Gospel when we express true Christian love to one another (in the sacrificial manner that Jesus showed us), then we have much to think and pray about. God’s will is that His Church would save the lost. We are a “lamp stand” that shines the Glorious Light of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. When the Spirit’s light is blazing, the lost are transformed into saints. But when the Light struggles to shine because the lamp stand withholds the oil of joy, the flame dies –and the lost can find darkness anywhere. There’s nothing truly appealing about a lamp stand with no light when you’re stumbling in the darkness, trying to find some light.
The enemy is clever and knows how to distract us so that we don’t fuel the flame but rather cater to the darkness. But when we pick up our crosses and really live (by dying), the flame burns brightly. We can come up with thousands of excuses not to serve one another. Or we can seek opportunities to serve that don’t require much of us. I remember when Jesus said, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven -- for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven," [Luke 7:44-18]. I don’t know about you, but I know that Jesus has forgiven me for much, much more than I deserve. I am so grateful to Him. And I want to be able to love much. What would K.C.C. look like to the world around us if we all loved each other a whole lot more? We all have the capacity to die to self and encourage and serve one another. And when many of us are doing it for one another, it becomes a contagious and unspeakable joy. Or we can certainly all have “better things to do” and passively allow the Light to go out. Let us spur one another on by love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together as some are in the habit of doing. Let us persevere and reap the rewards that God has promised and guaranteed for us. God’s “rewards program” is the “best in the business.” Let us hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess, for he who promised us is faithful. Let’s draw near to God in full assurance of faith.
Love in Jesus,