05/11/2020 - By Pastor Todd Nathan
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
"Survival mode means there's no long-term or medium-term plan. It's all about getting through the next 24 hours. The end of the week feels like a long way off. When you're stuck in survival mode, you feel like you'll never dig yourself out of the hole."
Survival mode is not just related to those who are staying at home. It is evident in those who are working remotely, trying to be effective and productive while dealing with distractions and activity around them. It is evident in those who are able to go to work, who may feel anxious and a bit fearful of contracting the virus. And those who make essential trips to a store hoping that wearing a mandatory mask and social distancing will be enough while wondering if they will be able to find the supplies or food on the shelves. Or even those who just get out for a walk or a much needed drive to deal with feeling confined or cabin fever. It's about doing what it takes to get through with hope, while dealing with some levels of stress, exhaustion, fears, anxiousness and uncertainty. Survival mode involves our emotions, our mind, our will and our spiritual lives.
Believe it or not, Scripture provides many examples of people who were faced with circumstances that impacted their social lives, their personal freedoms, and their ability to freely worship with others. They felt isolated or alone creating a deep longing to be with God and with people again. Many of you have expressed exactly that - and maybe on Mother's Day you took a risk by being with extended family. Consider Jospeh who was sent into slavery by his jealous brothers. Or David who fled Jerusalem and his son Absalom to live in the wilderness for a period of time. Or Daniel who was carried off into captivity and forced to live in a new land with new customs and demands. Or even the believers that the Letter of Hebrews was written to, who were facing great persecution and hardship. They were losing confidence in God and turning back to their former practices as Jews. The author of Hebrews exhorts the believers in 10:23-25,
"23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."
All three commands are not easy to put into practice, especially when you are in survival mode! But they are essential for all believers.
"Holding fast to the confession of our hope without wavering" is exactly what we need to do to get through these uncertain times. We have amazing hope in Jesus Christ who not only set us free from sin and death, but who gives us the promise of eternal life. He also promises that He will never leave us or forsake us, and has given us the Holy Spirit as a sign and seal of this! Believers need to hold fast without wavering by anchoring ourselves to the rock which is Jesus and stand firmly on who He is. We need to trust Him with our lives because we know this - God's never made one mistake! God's Got This! "Stirring one another to love and good deeds" seems challenging when we are not together. The word for "stirring" means, "to provoke". We are to provoke one another to action - to show great love and do good deeds every day. Jesus said, "Let you light shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." So, who are you provoking to show love and do good deeds? Are you doing this yourself. Survival mode causes us to focus on ourselves, much more than others. But each day you can be proactive with your family, with your circle of friends, with your co-workers to think beyond yourselves and make a difference. Write a note of encouragement. Send a text to let someone know you are thinking about the, Drop off a meal. We don't want to fall into to the trap of self and forget that there is a world that needs hope - especially now.
"Not neglecting meeting together". Ok, This is the hard one to figure out. How do we meet together when we are dealing with government restrictions, especially in NJ, and churches are in Phase 3 for re-opening? What this verse means is to find ways to stay connected. Don't drift and isolate yourselves. We need each other. Hopefully by mid-June we will be able to safely meet together in the church building, but until then we need to be deliberate and intentional to find creative ways to "meet together". Zoom is just one way. FaceTiming a friend, facebook live prayer times, spontaneous phone calls or texts, all help! To not neglect something means that you need to be deliberate in providing care so something stays healthy - in this case our relationships.
Hold fast without wavering! Provoke one another to love and good deeds! Not neglecting meeting together! All three are great actions steps that help us thrive rather than survive.
With much love and compassion for you all, as we strive together as a church family,