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by Gary Holloway
Could you use a word of encouragement?
When my niece, Katie, was a baby and would begin to cry uncontrollably, her father, Rush, would burst out in song with the first words of a hymn, Troublesome times are here... I think he was on to something.
Sometimes we all need a word of encouragement. Troublesome times are here, and not just when the baby is crying. We face all kinds of trouble. There are ordinary troubles: nagging illnesses make us feel not quite ourselves; our jobs become boring and repetitive; we worry about our children; we dont feel appreciated.
Then there are real troubles, serious ones: the tumor is malignant; the company is downsizing and you lose your job; your single daughter is expecting; your parents have to move in with you; your faith is challenged and you begin to wonder if youve lost it altogether.
Then there are the troublesome times in which we live, times we cannot control. Like many of my generation who were raised in small towns and suburbs, I grew up in Mayberry, or rather, in Beaver Cleavers neighborhood. I played outside with all the neighborhood kids and even went to their houses without my parents being alarmed. After all, everyone in our neighborhood was a Christian of some sort (well, except for the Jewish family around the corner and the one family down the street who didnt go to church anywhere). Even if they werent devout Christians, they were good people, decent people. You could trust your kids would be O.K. at their houses.
Times have changed. We hear so much today about violence and abuse that we want to know a great deal about a family before we let our kids play with them. We dont let them play in the neighborhood after dark. We dont even walk in the neighborhood after dark. Our culture, our nation, seems to have changed for the worse, and no matter what politicians promise, they cannot deliver. Things dont get better.
What we need is a word of encouragement.
A Timely Word
This introduction points you to a book that gives encouragement the biblical book of Hebrews. Hebrews is one of the neglected books of the New Testament. We neglect it, perhaps, because it speaks of things so foreign to our experience: sacrifices, high priests, tabernacles, and covenants. It tells stories of obscure characters like Melchizedek. Were not even sure what kind of biblical book this is. We place it with the epistles or letters, but it doesnt read like a letter. We dont even know who wrote it. Why study such a strange book?
Because we live in strange times difficult times, troublesome times. We need strength. We want encouragement. Thats exactly what Hebrews supplies. Near the end of Hebrews, the author tells his readers, I urge you, brothers, to bear with my word of encouragement, for I have written to you briefly (13:22). The author of Hebrews writes to Christians who live in troublesome times. Their world, like ours, was increasingly hostile to Christianity. They, too, feared for their children. They, too, faced sickness of body and soul.
Hebrews is written to encourage them and us. All the things mentioned in Hebrews angels, Moses, Melchizedek, priests, heroes, tabernacles, sacrifices, and covenants are there to point us to the greatest encourager of all: Jesus Christ. No matter what we face individually or as the people of God, Christ has faced it before us. He is there as the pioneer of our faith, who blazes the trail for us. He is the champion who wins the victory for us. He is there, suffering with us in our hour of deepest despair. He is there, waiting for us to join him in glory. No matter what we face, no matter what trouble comes, Jesus is always there for us. That is the message of Hebrews: a word of encouragement. Exactly what we need to hear.
Author: Gary Holloway
Publication Date: January 22, 2003
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