Day 38: Ties that bind
A LoveSingapore 40.Day prayer and fast devotional, following 2020's theme of In the Long Run – A Journey Through the Book of Hebrews.
LoveSingapore // August 7, 2020, 12:01 am
Bible reading for 40.DAY 2020 | August 7: Hebrews 13: 18-19, 22-25
In closing, Pray that I may be restored to you, says the Preacher (Hebrews 13:18-19). He is one of their leaders whose life they could observe (Hebrews 13:7). But now he is separated from them. He may have been one of those imprisoned during the persecution (Hebrews 11:36; 13:3). Whatever the cause of separation, he can’t wait to renew face-to-face fellowship with the church he loves. He is a relational leader, committed to building and keeping community.
Modestly, he almost apologises for his word of exhortation (Hebrews 13:22). That is, his sermon. Hebrews is the gold-standard of preaching and pastoral care in the Early Church.
The author is thoroughly Christ-centred and Cross-centred. His portrayal of the Identity and Work of Jesus Christ is consistently grounded in history and Scripture. He lays solid theological foundations for all his exhortations. His illustrations are down to earth, concrete, and compelling: Sinai, tabernacle, priesthood, Melchizedek, the heroes of faith, and so on.
These closing comments and personal greetings reinforce the ties that bind the community of Christ.
This Preacher also delicately models the ministry of soul-care as one who will give account to God (Hebrews 13:17). He detects subtle threats to the spiritual and community life of the church. He offers correctives that endure for all time.
With a two-edged sword, he consoles like a pastor and confronts like a prophet. His assurances are profoundly comforting. His admonitions are aptly terrifying. But he doesn’t scold like a schoolmaster. He includes himself in his grimmest warnings: Lest we drift. How shall we escape. We must give account. If we sin wilfully.
If God answers his prayer, the Preacher will soon return, along with Timothy, who may have been his fellow prisoner (Hebrews 13:23). Meanwhile, his carefully scripted Sermon takes the place of a personal visit. A substitute, yes. But never a poor one!
These closing comments and personal greetings are not small talk. They reinforce the ties that bind all saints together in the community of Christ. The Preacher ends with a word that recaps all that God has spoken in and through his Son:
Grace be with all of you (Hebrews 13:25).
• All preachers need prayer. Even those with a fine pedigree like the Apostle Paul. He repeatedly asked the churches he founded to pray for him. His requests are very specific and strategic. Pray those same prayers now for your pastors: For the right words (Ephesians 6:19). For clarity to make Christ as plain as day (Colossians 4:4). For courage to proclaim fearlessly (Ephesians 6:20). For the message to take root and produce a bumper crop of lasting fruit (2 Thessalonians 3:1).
Yes, all preachers need prayer. Even those gifted like Charles Spurgeon, the Prince of Preachers. A delegation of American pastors asked Spurgeon the secret for his success. In response, Spurgeon led them to the lower level of his meeting house and quietly opened the door. The visitors saw over 400 people praying for God’s blessing and power to rest upon their pastor who would stand in the pulpit to preach the Word of God that night. ‘There, gentlemen, is the secret for my success’ (Will Bruce). Will you pray likewise for your pastors?
• All pastors need a good rhythm of self-care. Because they are called to shepherd souls, Satan’s chief tactic is to distract them from personal soul care even as they care for others. Uphold them daily in the war room.
Pray that they will pause regularly to refresh. To catch their breath. To be alone with God. To listen to God. To recover from emotional fatigue. To deal with the primal wounds of the heart, the overcrowding of the soul, the cynicism of the mind, the paralysis of the will. For we are all work in progress. And we must change. We don’t grow by chance. We grow by change. Starting with our inner script (Edmund Chan). Ask God to give our pastors trusted confidants with whom they can open up in prayer and accountability.
• All churches must pay attention to the quality of leadership succession. For the post-Covid era in a post-truth world where the consumer is king, we need next-generation pastors who are both sound in theology and strong in faith. Today many of our legendary pastors, gifted teachers, and best theologians are either retired or retiring soon.
Pray that they will step up efforts to entrust and impart their wealth of wisdom, knowledge, and experience to faithful ones of the next generation who will be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2): To guide them in discerning the state of the Church, the state of the Family, the state of Youth, the state of Culture. To coach them in addressing the issues biblically and with brokenhearted boldness. To show them on what it means to be relational, being pastoral to comfort the weak, being prophetic to correct the wayward. To equip them in resisting the idea that the newer is the truer, only what is recent is decent, every shift of ground is a step forward, and every latest word must be hailed as the last word on its subject (JI Packer).
• All believers have a part to play. Due to Covid-19, we have been separated from one another. Absence should make the heart grow fonder. God created us for community.May we value relationships more than ever. May we pay closer attention to what we have heard and make conscientious efforts to strengthen the ties that bind. Pray.