Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” This passage is in the bigger context of Jesus being our high priest. This passage is important because we should be able to come to God with confidence (the word used here means to be able to speak freely and unhindered).
One of the biggest things that trips up Christians is the lack of belief in ourselves because of our sins or shortcomings. Earlier, this passage says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (vs. 15). This is vital because, oftentimes, our sin leaves us feeling guilty and unequipped to carry out the works of God’s kingdom.
Our lack of confidence leads to a downward spiral, where we feel like even God isn’t on our side. It’s vital, as the church, to have confidence in approaching God’s throne of grace. Without grace we will always flounder and hesitate to do good works. However, when we have confidence we won’t hesitate to do what’s right in the eyes of God, because we know that we have already received his grace. Hesitation turns into procrastination, and procrastination leads to stagnation.
The Bible has a lot to say about working for the kingdom of God. It also has a lot to say about idleness. Jesus told a parable of a vineyard owner who came seeking fruit on a fig tree he had planted in the past. When he approached the tree, it had no fruit. Luke records, “And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?'” (Luke 13:7 ESV).
Jesus was clearly talking about people here. That is a gut-wrenching question–“Why should it use up the ground?” This question was meant to be thought-provoking for Jesus’ listeners. Are there people who are using up the ground? In other words, are there people who sap energy and nutrients that are vital for the growth of other Christians yet don’t produce anything worthwhile? The master told the vinedresser to cut it down, but the vinedresser pleaded.
“Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down” (Luke 13:9). Here, God is exercising grace and allowing room for others to nurture the unproductive one. The purposefully ambiguous text doesn’t provide a reason why the fig tree isn’t producing. Whatever the reason isn’t important to the vinedresser. He is interested in sparing the tree and helping to nurture it back to health.
This parable is an important lesson that these two truths exist: (1) it’s not OK to be unproductive in the kingdom and (2) we should help nurture one another to become more productive. God expects everyone to be equipped for serving in the Kingdom. Being unproductive hurts other people because we neglect to use our God-given gifts to help them.
When Paul was on his very first missionary journey, he endured incredible challenges. It is not surprising, because the Lord told Ananias that he would show Paul how much he would suffer for his name. And suffer Paul did. From the very first step he took on the mission trail, Paul experienced opposition.
When Paul and Barnabas came into Lystra, Paul was stoned and left for dead. Luke records that “when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe” (Acts 14:20 ESV). When they had gone on to Derbe, they circled back and entered Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22).
In the midst of hardships, Paul and his companions were strengthening the church, encouraging people to remain faithful, and were appointing elders in every church. This is such an example of what the church could and should be doing! Most people shut down when they are discouraged. It is normal to feel defeated. But what happens when we share our pain and suffering and use that to the glory of God? Luke records that, in those same churches, “the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily” (Acts 16:5). God will bless the church when we lean into him and endure hardships together!
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Giving to the poor is all through the Bible. God has a very special place in his heart for the poor. In Acts 2, the Christians sold possessions and gave liberally so that there were no needs. If someone was sick, Jesus and his disciples healed them so they could go back to work and provide.
Jesus told the rich man that, if he wanted to be perfect, he would go sell everything then come back and follow Christ. Poverty was just as real as it is today. There are many people who die of starvation each day. Our homeless population even in the US is out of control.
The idea of storing up treasures in heaven was not a new concept. Nor was Jesus the only one to say it. Paul told Timothy to tell the rich not to put their “hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life” (1 Tim. 6:18-19).
The future is important. Jesus doesn’t propose throwing money out. Rather, we should take care of each others’ needs because we’ve been so richly blessed.
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There are many passages in the Bible about reaping what you sow. Galatians 6:7-9 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for what one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”
Let us not grow weary of doing good. Why does Paul even have to say that? Isn’t it common sense that we should do good. The reason Paul reminds the Galatians not to grow weary in doing good is because it can be exhausting doing good. Helping others, being patient, exercising control, forgiving people who hurt us, it all can wear us down.
This is all the more reason why it’s important to be reminded that what we sow now is what we will reap later. Everything we do now has future implications, both good and bad. The Bible is full of references to helping the poor and giving to those in need–of not racking up debt for selfish gain. We must sow a harvest in love and generosity.
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