Sorry to use worldly terminology, but I think the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews were beginning to fear they had backed the wrong horse in spiritual terms. After all the temple and all its comings and goings were still functioning despite what Jesus had prophesied. Had He got it wrong, had they got it wrong by trusting Him? What was there to show for the choice they had made to follow Him as Lord? They had left vibrant, visible observable and tangible worship ritual. They were obviously beginning to experience persecution, or at least exclusion from their previous circles of familiarity. For what? The result was that some had given up meeting together, others had turned away from the Christian community and from Christ completely, and many who had not succumbed to either of these temptations were just feeling plain weary.
It is that last category or grouping I am thinking about tonight: the weary. If you were a pastor I wonder what you would write to encourage weary people to keep going? Well, listen to some of what the unidentified writer of the Letter to the Hebrews says. They do not absolve the weary recipients of the letter from accepting responsibility for their spiritual walk. Listen for example to Chapter 12:12 – 13:
“So take a new grip with your tired hands and strengthen your weak knees. Mark out a straight path for your feet so that those who are weak and lame will not fall but become strong.”
God is not harsh or cruel. When He says things like this to us in Scripture when we are feeling weary then by His grace they must be within our reach. I find these verses have meant a lot to me in this phase of my life where I often feel weak. Certainly that is true physically, but we are pretty much wired, spirit soul and body, so I have known emotional and mental weakness at times since taking ill and at times even a spiritual weariness has crept in. What do the words quoted above mean when heard in the tone of the one true and living God, the Saviour of men and women who meets us in such kind love in Jesus Christ?
Well, I find it helpful to go back to earlier verses in the Chapter these words come from. There, the writer tells us to lay aside not only the sin that drains us of ability to run the race for Christ, but also to lay aside every weight. Not every reason for weariness can be traced back to sin or to some sort of backsliding. Sometimes there are realities in our lives that are better thought of as being weights rather than sins. All of us have these weights, they are easily picked up, it is part of being human. They get there somehow because of our life story, because of just living in this world, because of our personality. The causes of human weariness are manifold and not all of them are because we are backslidden or because we have sinned in terms of breaking God’s commandments.
What weights might you be carrying that makes it a wearying thing to run the race for Christ, what thoughts, what attitudes what pains, or burdens that are not sinful but do make the going diffiuclt for us, is the question I guess I am asking you to consider. For myself, I have seen one or two weights that I am trying to put off my shoulders, or untie from my legs as i seek to live for Jesus and walk a path I have not had to walk in life before. Little energy has this positive effect: it forces to the surface an obvious question: “What am I mean to do? What is the will of God for me to bear and to do? What would He not have me carry?”
Let me share one such weight that has come into sharp focus for me. I have carried it for years both as a person and as a pastor but somehow less energy helped me to see it and to face up to the need to do something about it. For as long as I can remember I have felt a sort of responsibility for everyone’s happiness. In a sense there is a good side to that, but for me it somehow became something that passed from something good into something destructive of my own well being. Bit by bit God has been helping me to dismantle this over sensitive sense of responsibility. It has not been easy to get rid of that weight and to learn to carry only responsibility that God wants me to carry and that alone. Some situations and some people I need to leave by faith and trust in His care and accept I have no further part to play in the matter other than that.
There are other weariness causing weights that God has been encouraging me recognise, name and acknowledge and then lay down and I may speak about them some other time. For now, I wonder if you know what weights may be tiring you out? You could become less weary, the grip of your hands stronger, and your joints stronger again if you laid whatever it may be aside. It is strange how we fail to see things which once we do see them are glaringly obvious, but that does seem to be the case very for so many of us if not all of us at times.
Will you ask God a simple question? “Lord, are their weights I am carrying that you never asked me to carry? Please help me to see them and enter into the rest of Christ whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.”
May God bless draw near with insight and revelation as you hold that question before Him: expect Him to answer.