Reaching a goal is easy at its inception. Enthusiasm fuels our momentum and paints a romantic picture of victory. Decisiveness produces determination, and we’re convinced we can do this thing (whatever this thing is)! We can practically reach out and touch it from right there on the starting line.
Then difficulty derails the dream. Our mental mood music screeches to a stop. The slow-motion prance through the Swiss meadow, hair floating behind like a Pantene commercial, ends with a face plant in an ant pile. Suddenly, our goal and all our good intentions seem a million miles away, and we wonder: Can I really do this? Do I really want this? Is it worth it? What was I thinking?
We look for things to comfort us in the here and now, ways to make ourselves feel better. Countermeasures of compromise. We give up and embark on a new journey of justification.
Does this sound familiar to anyone but me? Because of my frequent failures to stick goals out to their glorious end, I get a little restless and uncomfortable when I read scriptures like Hebrews 3:6, which says we are a part of the house of Christ “if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end,” and verse fourteen, which talks about becoming “partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end” (emphasis mine).
What does it mean to hold my confidence steadfast to the end? What about in the book of Revelation chapters two and three when Jesus repeatedly refers to “he who overcomes” when describing eternal rewards? Will I be one who overcomes? Will I make it to the very end?
Mercifully, God offers us the chance to learn from someone else’s mistakes. When things got tough and didn’t go the way the Israelites wanted, time and again, they grumbled against God, longingly looking back at their slavery as a place of comfort, convenience, and familiarity. They witnessed repeated demonstrations of the mighty power, provision, and faithfulness of God only to stand at the precipice of His promises and reject Him.
“Beware,” Hebrews 3:12 admonishes. We are just like them! We must be on the lookout, eyes open and mind alert, vigilant to carefully weigh and examine the condition of our hearts for any sign of unbelief. “But,” as verse thirteen begins, we can’t depend on ourselves alone to effectively do the job or keep the faith to the end. Second only to the work of the Holy Spirit to convict and empower us to stay the course is the need for other believers to help us.
“Exhort one another daily,” verse thirteen continues. In the Greek, this means “call to one’s side, address, speak to, entreat, comfort, instruct, admonish, console or receive consolation or be comforted, encourage, strengthen; command” (Strong’s G3870 www.blueletterbible.org).
If we expect to hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, we NEED our brothers and sisters who have been adopted into God’s family through faith in Jesus Christ to come to our side when we call for help. How often? Every day that is called today!
When we struggle and waver, we need them to encourage and strengthen us. When we can’t see our shortcomings, our part in our own misery, or our own sin, we need trustworthy, God-fearing, truth-speaking Christian friends who will lovingly confront us. We need them to address what they see and warn us. When tragedy strikes or our faith fails us, we need others who will console and comfort us.
It is a matter of survival.
It’s the reason we are told in Hebrews 10:23-25, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”
As the day of Christ’s return draws nearer, our fellowship needs to grow stronger. God set it up that way for our own well being. Otherwise, we risk getting caught up in the domino effect described in Hebrews 3:7-19, whereby sin deceives us, our hearts grow hard, we draw away from God and His fellowship because of unbelief, and we find ourselves deprived of God’s rest.
The devil would love to isolate you because he wants you to fail. He wants you to turn from your faith just as you approach the finish line. He wants to keep you too busy, too indifferent, too insecure, too ashamed, too hurt by something a Christian did to hurt you, or too offended by hypocrites in the church.
Churches, like every place on this earth, are full of humans who sin and disappoint. The only one who will never disappoint is Jesus. Look to Him to be perfect, which frees you to live in fellowship with imperfect Christians, offering and receiving forgiveness when we fall short. That’s the difference.
Instead of expecting perfection, look for pursuit. Is the group of believers assembled in that place seeking the Lord, studying His word, and striving to obey, even though they mess up at times? Are the people gathering together, exhorting one another, and addressing sin in a loving manner? Is there evidence of the Lord at work in them in spite of their weaknesses? Signs of progress toward holiness? If yes, come alongside them, that all of us would be able to hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.
Lord, help us to trust You in our relationships with other Christians, shortcomings and all. Help us to focus on your faithfulness while exhorting and being exhorted, that together we might endure to the end. When we are tempted to give up and lose our faith, help us to push on together as we become more wholly Yours.