It is the middle of the year, kind of like half-time in a football game. This is typically when most of us review our performance in the last six months to see how we are keeping up with our resolutions. How are we doing with that resolution to lose weight? To pursue that degree? To read x number of books? To get that new job? Most times, the performance review does not look so good. Perhaps, instead of losing weight, we have added more weight, or have been politely, but nevertheless, rejected by that dream company. Or much worse. Needless to say, the last 45 minutes of the football match have not been very good. And inevitably, our hearts are floundering—we are struggling under the crushing weight of underachievement or nonachievement, and what this ultimately means for who we will become.
There exists a huge tendency for us to begin looking inwards, navel-gazing and examining ourselves to see where and how we can re-strategize. Perhaps, it would be helpful to do this. But maybe a better approach is to begin by looking outward. The best type of strength for living is not the one generated from within ourselves, but the one given to us by another—Jesus Christ.
The writer of Hebrews exhorts all of us with floundering hearts in Hebrews 4:14-15 to look outward…at Christ. He points to three things we should remember about Jesus:
- Jesus the Son of God: We are reminded in verse 14 that Jesus is not just a ‘Supreme Being’ but God—the second person of the Trinity—the creator of the Heavens and the Earth, the source of all things and the one who holds all things together (cf. John 1:1-5; Col. 1: 15-20).
- Jesus our High Priest: In Old Testament times, the priest acted as an intermediary between the people and God, offering sacrifices to God on behalf of the Israelites (cf. Lev. 9). Similarly, we are told that this same Jesus, high and lofty, is the one who intercedes for us before God. He is not just king and creator of the world, but our Priest. In other words, believers do not just have a general relationship with God, but also a personal relationship because of Jesus.
- Jesus our substitute: In offering sacrifices, the priests in the Old Testament had to offer specific animals or grains or other acceptable items as offerings before God. Particularly, for atonement of sin, a spotless lamb was offered (cf. Lev. 4). Jesus was the one offered in our stead. In verse 15, the writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus was tempted in every way we are tempted (think about that!) and was ultimately offered in our place on the cross.
When we look outward to Christ, we are reminded that we are loved by God, sustained by God and forgiven by God because of our sinless substitute who is our priest before God.
Look to the End
Picture the players in the football match. They are downcast and toiling for victory because they do not know the end of the game. From the viewpoint of the half-time, their current dismal performance only spells doom. This is how we—I—also tend to think. But what if the players knew the end of the match, that they would win the game? Wouldn’t their perspective also change? What if we also know the end? Knowing the end of the game changes everything.
Similarly, the writer of Hebrews encourages our hearts with a picture of the end. In Hebrews 4:16, he encourages our hearts with the truth that there is lavish grace and mercy available by coming to God’s throne of grace. This is not a throne beset with a long queue of petitioners waiting for a tiny drop of grace like a long car-queue at a petrol station waiting to refuel during a petrol scarcity. He envisions no scarcity, but an abundance of grace at our times of need.
How do we press on even when the checklist of our resolutions and goals isn’t halfway ticked? How do we gain ground in an economic climate that is harsh? How do we move ahead after the loss of a job, an opportunity or a dear one? Might I suggest, that we do not begin by looking inward, or even around us for what we need to change or do better. Let us start by looking to Jesus who gives us our identity and to God’s lavish Throne of Grace with an ever-ready supply. This is how our flailing, failing and floundering hearts are enabled to press on.
Emmanuel Oset serves City Church through its blog, among others, and mostly retweets at @eaoset.