We’re in the second half of the year. Like a football game, the half-time is over and we’re back to play. Except, there was really no half-time. With the regular disruptions of life and the craziness of the COVID-19 pandemic, it feels like this has been going on for such a long time. All the hope and resolutions we had at the start of 2020 now seem so far away and possibly, not feasible. As we have undertaken our performance review of the current year, it does not look good. Perhaps, instead of losing weight, we have added more weight, or have been politely, yet nevertheless, rejected by that dream company, because nobody is recruiting in a pandemic. Or much worse. Inevitably, our hearts are floundering—we are struggling under the crushing weight of underachievement or non-achievement uncertainty and loss, and what all of this ultimately means for who we will become.
At this time, we are tempted 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 part of the things that this pandemic is showing us is the futility of looking inwards: scientists who need to develop a vaccine; governments who need to ensure adequate health and economic policies; older people depending on others to serve their needs so they can remain safe; others taking adequate precautions so that the spread of the virus is limited. We are learning all of these lessons because we are seeing that we cannot defeat the pandemic or all the craziness going on by our own resolve alone.
However, all of these physical lessons are also pointing us to a deeper spiritual lesson: we are meant to go through life 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.
Paul exhorts all of us with floundering hearts in Hebrews 4.14-15 to look outward…at Christ. Paul points to three things we should remember about Jesus:
- Jesus the Son of God: Paul reminds us 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, Paul tells us 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 In other words, believers do not 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 the atonement of sin, a spotless lamb was offered (cf. Lev. 4). Jesus was the lamb offered in our stead. In verse 15, Paul 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, Paul 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. Or shoppers at a supermarket trying to “stock up” or procure face masks. Paul envisions no scarcity, but an abundance of grace at our times of need and even in uncertain days like these.
How do we press on even when the checklist of our resolutions and goals isn’t halfway ticked? How do we gain ground in a harsh economic climate? How do we move ahead after the loss of a job, an opportunity or a dear one? How do we cope in a health crisis like this pandemic? How do we survive when we cannot physically meet with those we love? 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 is husband to Oluwapelumi and father to Jesudimimu (JD). He originally trained and worked as a lawyer but now serves as Counselling and Community Minister at City Church, where he is also a pastoral resident. You can usually find him reading an article on his computer or a book. He is unsuccessfully trying to make his Twitter account more than a series of likes and retweets.