“Now we desire each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the full assurance of your hope until the end, so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
When I was growing up, one of my heroes was Jacques Vaughn. Vaughn was the point guard for the University of Kansas Jayhawks basketball team. The fact that he was 19 or 20 really didn’t register for me. I wanted to be like him. He was a tremendous player, but he was also a great student and by most accounts I ever heard a good person. I still remember a play when he was going for a contested layup, faked a pass behind his back as he closed in on the basket which the defender completely fell for, and cleared his own way for an easy score. I had his picture taped on the front of my school folder and had memorized his signature. Having heroes like that can be a very good thing. They motivate us to become more than we are right now. And Vaughn did that for me. I became more like him…as far as being a good student goes; I was terrible at basketball. As the writer of Hebrews finishes up this warning section, he concludes with an encouragement to find some heroes. Let’s talk about it.
If you’re not paying attention, what the author does here might not make sense. It’s subtle. He calls his audience—the audience he’s been warning and challenging and (finally, as we saw yesterday) encouraging—to “demonstrate the same diligence.” The question this naturally begs should be obvious: The same diligence as whom? Who is it exactly they should be copying?
We’ll come back to that question in a little while. Let’s look at the rest of the passage first. This desire he is expressing is rooted in the same hope he has for their growth in their faith. If they are going to grow and by that demonstrate the sincerity of their conviction and faith, they are going to have to follow this other example.
What’s more, this diligence cannot come with an expiration date. It must last until our faith is made sight and our hopes are finally fulfilled in Christ’s return in glory. Or, as he puts it, it must last until the end. When we set off on the path of Christ, there is no exit ramp for that along the way. If we want off at some point during the journey, we’re going to have to leap out of the car while it’s going. Doing that, though, will necessarily mean we’re left behind. That’s what he warned them about, and what we talked about at the beginning of the week.
If we stop growing, we will become lazy. Have you ever had the experience of feeling really lethargic? A lethargic person doesn’t want to do anything. They just want to lie around all day and be served. There is a difference between being lethargic and simply being tired. Rest can cure tiredness. It won’t touch lethargy. In fact, it can make it worse.
Being lethargic comes when you don’t do anything for a long time. Perhaps it started by simply resting, but after a while, you lost any motivation to do anything at all. You just want to loaf around. If you do that, though, thinking you just need more rest, the feeling won’t go away. It will grow more acute. If you don’t nip this in the bud quickly, it will make you lazy. The laziness is induced by behavior.
In the same sort of way, if we don’t actively commit ourselves to growing in our faith, there is no sort of spiritual inertia that is going to naturally pull us in that direction. Without feeding and nurturing it, our faith will gradually atrophy. If we regularly gorge ourselves on spiritual garbage and other things that do not support a Christian worldview, whatever our confession might be, we will eventually start to think, believe, and behave in ways that do not cohere with that confession. That is a dangerous place to put ourselves.
For followers of Jesus, this is not something with which to mess around. This doesn’t mean we can’t get rest or enjoy leisure activities. It means we can’t stop our forward journey of growth. Those who will inherit the promises of God in Christ will do so when they profess their faith and persevere in that profession in spite of all the challenges to the contrary—including challenges that come from within.
This all brings us back to our question. Who is he calling us to model ourselves after in our efforts to do this? The answer to that lies at the end of v. 8 which we touched on just briefly yesterday. He encouraged them in their past and present efforts to serve the saints. Who are these folks? Other faithful believers in the church.
You can’t grow in your faith, and you won’t remain faithful to the life of Christ over the long hall of life if you try to do such a thing on your own. The Christian life was never intended to be a solo venture. You need to surround yourself with a community of likeminded people. This will give you a communal context for pursuing faithfulness that will help you stay on track by providing encouragement, accountability, help, hope, and—in the context of these verses most importantly—inspiration. It will give you people to look up to, whose examples can inspire you to further faithfulness in your own life.
You need heroes. You need faith heroes; people who have spent their lives in pursuit of Jesus, journeyed successfully in many respects, and who offer you by virtue of their transformed lives a model for getting your own life with Jesus right. You need people like Mae Brooks, who celebrated her 97th birthday yesterday on what was officially announced in my town as Mae Brooks Day. When it comes to following Jesus, everyone around here wants to be Mae Brooks when they grow up. Her faithfulness is legendary and she’s still setting an example worth pursuing. She is an heir of the promises through an incredible lifetime of faith and perseverance. I hope my life can reflect even a portion of what she has achieved should the Lord tarry and grant me so many years.
Who are your heroes? Who are the people whose examples you can look up to and after which you can model your life? You can look to the past like the author of Hebrews would later encourage his audience to do in the Hall of Faith in chapter 11. There’s certainly much there; even more for you than the author could offer to them.
Even better, though, is having contemporary examples to follow. This is where you’ve got to do some work. If you’re not connected to a church community, you need to fix that. You’ll have to overcome your natural pull in the other direction, but every bit of effort you give to this will be worth it. Become an imitator; an imitator of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance. You’ll be glad you did.