Dear church family: This week, I have heard of many difficulties that are affecting the lives of many of our church families. Everyone, it seems, is going through some type of trial, which has the potential to discourage you, personally, and some so severely, that it may cause them to ask, "Is it worth continuing to walk with the Lord?"
As your pastor, I have been overwhelmed by the needs, and so often, find myself at a loss as to how I can encourage each family to continue to trust the Lord in the face of its particular tribulation. Words, I know, often fall to the ground and my words fall short of uplifting each person, not to mention how emotionally and spiritually draining it can be when I feel like I fall short of meeting your needs, or of being able to speak to your particular situation and give you an answer.
This morning, however, I was relieved as I studied the book of Hebrews and looked into the mirror of God's Word, and realized that God's Word has the answer, and that my place was not to speak some new word to you, but to simply point you to God's Word. So, my prayers are for you to hear from the Lord through His Word. There are several truths in just the first few verses of Hebrews that help us in our trials. I just want to mention a few of these to you, so that they may be a source of encouragement.
First, we must understand why the book was written. It was written to encourage Christians who were going through trials and tribulations. Apparently, these believers had lived through some persecution in the past and had come through it, and now were facing a new persecution from the Romans. This tribulation was the precursor to the violent persecution by Emperor Nero, but at this point, their lives were not being threatened (yet), but they were being treated as second-class citizens.
If a Christian could get a job, it was a very-low-status job, and all Christians were facing ridicule and mockery by the Romans: "Why doesn't your God give you a better job? Will not your God provide for you?" All this, while they would be forced to eat rotting fruit and scavenge to feed their families.
This was just the tip of the iceberg. But the Christians, because of the tribulation that seemed unrelenting, had apparently been deserting the church and returning, either to paganism or Judaism. This is why we have the warning twice in Hebrews to not desert the faith and not forsake the gathering together. Hebrews also stresses that we need to persevere and endure in the faith.
Now, with this in mind, why would Christians such as these 1st Century believers, and you and I today, stay devoted to Christ? The writer of Hebrews spends the entire book answering this question and giving examples from the Old Testament as to why we should stay devoted.
In the very first verses, he says that "Christ is superior" to angels, to Moses, to the Law, as a sacrifice, and to Abraham, to Melchelzedek, and to creation. Too simplify this, he is asking, "If you depart the faith, where else will you run?" Will you go back to the old way of life, which provided no hope?
Even though times are tough, Christ is still superior to the times, and even though everything is not working out in your favor right now, Christ is still worthy to be followed and worshiped, and Christ is working in your favor in the heavenly temple.
In summary, the answer to your trials and tribulations is that Jesus' worth to you is superior to the difficulty you are facing. The difficulty you are facing has the potential to lead you away from His Worth, back to a place of despair and hopelessness. You may think, "but I'm there already," but please realize that, "in this world there will be many tribulations."
The question is, "Do you think you can face them better without Christ?" At least with Christ, we are promised "a final rest" and "all things will work together for good for those who love the Lord."
Church, we are not the first to face hard times, nor are we the first to be tempted to depart from the faith. History and the testimony of the saints tells us that our commitment to Christ and to His Word is the only true source of hope that we have. To depart from those eternal truths would be senseless, reckless, and you would be removing yourself from any hope that lies ahead of you.
In this time of hardship, I implore you to "run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith." I pray that during these times, you and your family will look to Jesus. He does have the answer. But for now, the answer is to be steadfast and allow Christ to use these times to do his sanctifying work in you.
The answer is to simply -- by faith -- worship Jesus, because he is superior to everything else. Trust that he shall soon bring us rest.
Rev. Todd Dionne is pastor of Corinth Baptist Church in Jonesboro.