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"Therefore . . . Let Us Be Thankful"

Hebrews 12:28-13:25

Jim Davis

The Hebrew writer begins his concluding remarks in the book of Hebrews by reminding the readers to be thankful.

Hebrews 12:28-29
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." (NIV)

In reality, ingratitude was the heart and core of their problems. Their hardships had caused them to lose sight of God’s blessings. They had lost sight of Christ’s preeminence; they had lost sight of the guidance God’s word afforded them, and they had lost sight of the peace that God offered to them through Christ. They allowed their troubles to rob them of their reverence for God.

The only way that you can remain faithful in difficult times is by focusing on the blessings God has afforded you.

Remember Your Blessings

The writer seeks to refocus their lives by reminding them of their blessings. They need to remember what they have turned away from.

Hebrews 13:1-12
Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral. Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you." So we say with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?" Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them. We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. (NIV)

Be thankful for fellow believers. "Keep on loving each other as brothers" (13:1). Reminding ourselves that our love for one another is a great blessing of comfort. When troubles come a person usually feels isolated and alone. Satan knows that if he can isolate each of us in our own little world he can destroy us. Notice how Job felt as he suffered.

Job 19:14-19
My kinsmen have gone away; my friends have forgotten me. My guests and my maidservants count me a stranger; they look upon me as an alien. I summon my servant, but he does not answer, though I beg him with my own mouth. My breath is offensive to my wife; I am loathsome to my own brothers. Even the little boys scorn me; when I appear, they ridicule me. All my intimate friends detest me; those I love have turned against me. (NIV)

It is essential to understand that difficult times demand manifesting our love to each other. There is a synergy effect we receive by standing together as one. One horse may be able to pull 500 pounds, but two horses can pull 2,000. We call this synergy.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word synergy.

"1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects. 2. Cooperative interaction among groups, especially among the acquired subsidiaries or merged parts of a corporation, that creates an enhanced combined effect. "

This explains why community worship is so important. We need the encouragement of others in order to be provoked to love and good works. It is detrimental to our faith to abandon the church when troubles arise.

Hebrews 10:23-25
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another-- and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (NIV)

Be thankful for strangers. "Do not forget to entertain strangers" (13:2). Our distrustful society as a whole doesn't treat strangers very well. We expect them to start dressing like we do and talking like we do. Have you ever been to a church that didn't know how to react to strangers? We must be thankful for the strangers in our midst. When troubles arise, we tend to become distrustful of others, especially strangers. Try to image living in a society hostile to Christianity? No doubt paranoia would set in and you would see strangers as a threat. Some in the church are afraid of the strange people who come to worship. Strangers are a blessing; they may be messengers sent to us by God. God may have sent that stranger to us to serve us in some way to enhance our lives. "Some people have entertained angels without knowing it." The writer is probably referring to angels visiting Abraham (Genesis 18:1-10).We must remember how we have felt when we have been treated as a stranger and respond to the strangers in our lives with the acceptance we have desired in such times.

Exodus 23:9
"Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt. (NIV)

Psalms 69:6-13
May those who hope in you not be disgraced because of me, O Lord, the LORD Almighty; may those who seek you not be put to shame because of me, O God of Israel. For I endure scorn for your sake, and shame covers my face. I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother's sons; for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn; when I put on sackcloth, people make sport of me. Those who sit at the gate mock me, and I am the song of the drunkards. But I pray to you, O LORD, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation. (NIV)

Be thankful for your suffering because it allows you to empathize with others. "Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." Remember how you have felt and encourage others that are having the same problems.

2 Corinthians 1:3-7
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort. (NIV)

It was not unusual for Christians to be arrested for their faith in Christ, yet Christ's love demanded a ministry to them. To minister to those imprisoned for Christ was to minister to Christ himself (Matthew 25:36, 40).

Be thankful for the oneness of marriage."Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure, for God will judge the adulterer and all the sexually immoral" (13:4). When we are burdened with troubles it makes it easy for Satan to tempt us sexually. He may tempt us to look to temporary pleasures for relief. In times like these we must remember the blessing of marriage is designed to keep us pure. We need to remember that our marriages provide us an honorable way to channel our God given desires. It is great to have a marriage where two people can come together as one person to express their oneness. The union can become the sustaining force of both lives in difficult times. It is clear that to seek this support outside of marriage is sin.

Be thankful for what you have."Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have . . . "(13:5a). Contentment is essential to godliness.

1 Timothy 6:6-12
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (NIV)

Paul's contentment in difficult times sustained his faith.

Philippians 4:10-19
I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (NIV)

Be thankful that you can trust God at all times. "God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me'"(13:5b-6)? Too often when we place our faith in people we end up disappointed. Place your faith in God and you want have to worry about what men seek to do to you.

Ancient kings had great walled cities with observation towers to protect and warn them of problems. When David was fleeing for his life he had no walls to protect him or his men. He was totally dependent on God's protection.

Psalms 18:1-7
I love you, O LORD, my strength. The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. The cords of death entangled me; the torrents of destruction overwhelmed me. The cords of the grave coiled around me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called to the LORD; I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears. The earth trembled and quaked, and the foundations of the mountains shook; they trembled because he was angry. (NIV)

Hebrews 4:16
Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (NIV)

A woman told a fellow Christian that her favorite scripture was "When I am afraid, I will trust in you [God]" (Psalms 56:3 NIV). The fellow Christian told her, "My favorite scripture is, "Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation" (Isaiah 12:2 NIV).

Grateful hearts must realize God's willingness and promise to equip us with what we need to do his will. "May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Hebrews 13:20-21 NIV). I believe you can totally rely upon God to equip to do what he is calling you to do.

Be thankful for your leaders who speak the word of God to you. "Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings"(13:7-8).

Paul gave the elders at Ephesus a godly charge to build the church up through the word of God's grace.

Acts 20:28-32
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears. "Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. (NIV)

Be thankful that our hearts are strengthened by the grace God provides. "Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. It is good for our hearts to be strengthened by grace, not by ceremonial foods, which are of no value to those who eat them"(13:9-10). Paul's thorn in the flesh made him focus on the strength God's grace provided.

2 Corinthians 12:7-10
To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (NIV)

According to Paul's view on his thorn in the flesh, God's grace provides us the means to look at our troubles as a blessing, for this is where we discover the strength of God's grace.

Let us be thankful that we can bear the disgrace Christ bore for our sins. "We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle have no right to eat. The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come." (13:10-14)

These Hebrews were looking for a way to escape the persecution of the unbelieving Jews. As a result they were finding it difficult to give up worshipping in the city of Jerusalem. To refuse to worship there only brought persecution. However, they must go to the one who suffered and died outside the city so that they might have access to an enduring city, which was to come.

Jesus Christ was not counted worthy die in the city of Jerusalem for our sins. He was used as a scapegoat as he was taken outside of the city. He was not counted as a worthy temple offering for our sins. He died disgracefully outside the city on a cross. However, the worthiness of his sacrifice saves us from sin. We should be thankful that we have been counted worthy to suffer the same disgrace for him. We should count it a joy to suffer with Christ for that joyful privilege is the key to our endurance.

Hebrews 12:1-3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (NIV)

Remember someone's opinion of you does not have to become your reality as you suffer disgrace for Christ.

Gratitude Provides the Bases for Faithful Praise

Praise is the natural response of grateful hearts. "Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-- the fruit of lips that confess his name." (13:15)

The sacrifice of praise is not only expressed to God in words, but it is also expressed to God as we go about doing good for others. "And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased" (13:16).

Praise is offered to God as we obey those who have the rule over us. "Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you." (Hebrews 13:17) Obedience to godly leaders is the hallmark of praise.

Praise is offered to God as we pray for the concerns of others. "Pray for us. We are sure that we have a clear conscience and desire to live honorably in every way. I particularly urge you to pray so that I may be restored to you soon" (13:18-19).

Conclusion:

A Life of Gratitude and Praise Results in Peace

Hebrews 13:20-25
May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Brothers, I urge you to bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written you only a short letter. I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released. If he arrives soon, I will come with him to see you. Greet all your leaders and all God's people. Those from Italy send you their greetings. Grace be with you all. (NIV)

The Hebrews ingratitude became the source of their unbelief. Christians confess we have no claims or demands to press against God. He has taken the initiative with us and provided our salvation through the atoning work of Christ. You would think, then, that gratitude to him would flow naturally from our human reason. Often it does not work that way. "For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him" (Romans 1:21).

Unshakable lives are built as grateful hearts respond to the message of God's unshakable kingdom.

Hebrews 12:28-29
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our "God is a consuming fire." (NIV)
 
 
 
 

 

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