A main theme in Hebrews. Part 21.

It’s official. The coronavirus has spawned a pandemic. We’re all feeling our way along in the dark, not quite sure how to conduct ourselves. For instance, the citizens of our city bought out all the toilet paper. No one is sure why. It’s an odd purchase. Why not all the Kleenex? Who knows!

Historians tell us that there’s a pandemic about every one hundred years. Cyclically, in ancient times, the bubonic plague also regularly came through, at one time killing nearly half the population of Europe. Human beings have survived far worse things than our current crisis. We understand viruses and bacteria better. We have microscopes. We have running water.

Yet, the Scriptures speak to us in any crisis. These words we’ve been examining in Hebrews were written to people who faced hard times, just like we do. Our difficulty is a pandemic. Their difficulty was persecution for their beliefs. These people suffered great loss for following Christ.

Christians bucked the culture. Because of their faith in Christ, their abandonment of Judaism for Christianity, and their turning away from the Roman gods, these first-century believers had lost everything — homes, safety, family, money, and soon, many of them would lose their lives.

This isn’t Eden. How intensely we want it to be! During this pandemic and the unknowns that it will bring, Eden sounds downright blissful. How welcome that reality would have been to the first-century recipients of this letter as well, even more so than it is for us, who live in comfort. For them, losing the comfort of their homes was shattering, another loss of Eden.

We are reminded in this letter, “‘Yet a little while, and the coming One will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’ But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:37-39 ESV).

Inwardly, we anticipate this. We yearn for this coming beauty and tranquility that we can’t yet see. And so, in our brokenness, we strain and strive to gain our own Paradise on earth, our own Eden, fighting against the circumstances God has allowed into our lives.

Life here on earth is never the perfection we long for, the perfection for which we were created and will one day enjoy with our Lord and Savior. And so, we’re often bitterly disappointed, wondering if God even loves us, becoming disillusioned, not trusting him. Some even walk away from God during the trials of life that we all face in this fallen world.

Yet C.S. Lewis wrote: “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”

C.S. Lewis wrote: If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world. Click To Tweet

This longing for beauty and perfection is evidence of the sense of eternity that God has set within us. An eternal soul resides in each one. Intuitively, we know everything is out of kilter in this fallen world where sickness comes and people die. We know something isn’t right.

This longing for beauty and perfection is evidence of the sense of eternity that God has set within us. An eternal soul resides in each one. Intuitively, we know everything is out of kilter in this fallen world. Click To Tweet

We ache for the perfect, because we were made for perfect union with God in a perfect world in perfect relationship with those around us. Sin, death, and destruction came because our first parents disobeyed God. Their death arrived slowly and so does ours, and all the while we struggle with the harsh realities of our current situation, whether sickness, discomfort, tragedy, pandemic, or the daily grind of the ordinary.

To remedy this pain, we may seek our own perfection, believing that if we obey all the “rules,” we’ll be guaranteed a perfect life. We rule-keepers, we legalists, often feel that this is our due. Soon, we are disappointed.

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In Scripture, the essentials for our spiritual growth are given: meditating on God’s Word, gathering with other believers to worship God, being baptised as Jesus was, serving one another as we have been gifted to do, seeking to obey the Lord, partaking in communion/eucharist, caring for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the refugee, learning from God’s Word, praying, and fellowshipping together.

But these don’t guarantee an easy life. These don’t mean that our marriages won’t be difficult, that our spouses won’t betray us, or that a pandemic won’t arrive right on time. They’re not a magic formula that makes certain our teenagers won’t use drugs or that we won’t endure calamity after calamity, lose all our money, watch our house burn down, or get cancer.

In fact, most of the recipients of that letter to the Hebrews probably didn’t make it out of that hard time alive. Nero made sure of that. They were unnamed, so we can’t follow their individual histories.

Hardship on this planet is a given norm. Sometimes it’s devastating and frightening, such as when a pandemic spreads worldwide. Most of the time it’s ordinary — the drip, drip, drip of trials that accumulate throughout a lifetime.

One day, Christ will come. The above verse contains that promise. But, he isn’t here yet. The process of growth and the active seeking of it doesn’t prevent the norm of trials at this point in the history of the earth.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James the brother of Jesus wrote in James 1:2-5 NIV.) Notice that he didn’t say “if” you face trials.

Increasing our trust in God produces inner growth in holiness, a process fraught with stops, starts, messes, and frequent requests for do-overs. These provide lifelong lessons where Jesus picks us up and dusts us off repeatedly, putting us back on our feet to move forward once again.

Our trust and obedience is most pure when propelled by our love for Jesus. When devotion to Jesus is our motive, we know we are truly his.

Our trust and obedience is most pure when propelled by our love for Jesus. When devotion to Jesus is our motive, we know we are truly his. Click To Tweet

The process of growth in holiness won’t be complete until we see Jesus face to face. It’s a promise for the future, when we will see God’s love in all its fullness. The sooner we come to grips with this and lean into our expectation of an eternity with him, fastening our spiritual eyes there, rather than on this earth, the sooner we will find peace.

One day we will be with him, and all will be well. Let’s set our affections then on heavenly expectations. We can’t expect heaven on earth here. If we do, we are sorely disappointed and constantly agitated that we cannot gain it here or control it. Wait for it.

Let earthly expectations go. Trust the Lord, even in a pandemic.

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A few faith builders:

Mark 13:24-27, At that time people will…

Luke 17:24-37, For the Son of Man in his day…

Matthew 25:31-46, When the Son of Man comes in his glory…

John 5:21-30, Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming…

John 6:28-40, I will raise him up on the last day…

John 11:21-27, I am the resurrection and the life…

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Encourage one another with these words…

2 Thessalonians 1:3-2:17, Encourage one another…

1 Corinthians 15, I want to remind you of the gospel…

Isaiah 25:6-9, He will swallow up death forever…

Romans 8, There is no condemnation; we are more than conquerors…

Ephesians 1:3-3:21, He chose us in him before the creation…

Colossians 1:9-27, This is the gospel that you heard…

Philippians 3, Put no confidence in the flesh…

2 Peter 1:3-11, You will receive a rich welcome…

2 Peter 3, to stimulate you to wholesome thinking…

Hebrews 5:11-6:12, We are convinced of better things…

Hebrews 10, This is the covenant I will make with them…

Revelation 20:11-22:5, They will reign forever and ever…

Revelation 22:12-17, Look, I am coming soon…