“SOME MEDICINE TO KEEP YOU GOING IN 2003”
1. Let me remedy a problem some of you may be struggling with as we begin this new year. At the same time, perhaps you are not struggling with this problem, . . . but you will, I assure you.
2. I’m not sure but that there have been only a very few Christians of such stout-heartedness and temperance that they’ve not had to struggle with this difficulty. But most of us have had this ailment, so I’ll address it tonight in an attempt to encourage you and forestall the problem in this coming new year.
3. Make your way to Hebrews 12.3, as I chat with you for a bit. I speak directly to Christians this evening, though you unconverted people are invited to listen in. We Christians are already persuaded that unconverted people are spiritually incapacitated, since they are spiritually dead. Indeed, before our own conversion we were dead in trespasses and sins.
4. In Romans 5.6, Paul states the matter very plainly: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Thank you, Lord Jesus, for dying for the ungodly. But the point I seek to make initially is that before you were converted you were “without strength,” weak, profoundly weak.
5. Therefore, it is clear that no strength is required to get converted. No strength of character or strength of body. It’s by grace a sinner is saved, with the Gospel being the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.
6. But there is something many Christians get confused about after they get saved. It’s the realization that you are no more capable after your conversion than you were before your conversion. Writing about Christians, Paul jotted down these words in Romans 6.19: “I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh.”
7. The word “without strength” that Paul used to describe the utter weakness and inability of the unconverted, in Romans 5.6, he also used to describe Christians in Romans 6.19, translated “infirmity.”
8. Now, what does this mean to you and to me? It means that you have no more ability to serve God and do right on your own after you got converted than you did before you got converted. What you are, and what you have been able to do in God’s service since your conversion, is entirely to be explained by the grace of God. We see that Paul realized this in First Corinthians 15.10, where he wrote, “But by the grace of God I am what I am.”
9. What you will amount to as a Christian in Christ’s service this coming new year will be the result of God’s grace at work in your life. And if there develops a problem in your life it will be related to you availing yourself of God’s grace.
10. You have already turned to the text, Hebrews 12.3, where I want to camp this evening to deal with a Christian problem, its prevention, and its prescription if it’s already afflicted you.
11. Let’s stand and read that single verse from God’s Word together: “For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds.”
1A. IT’S A CHRISTIAN PROBLEM OF THE MIND
And it should surprise no one that this problem is a problem of the mind, since the human mind is the battleground upon which most Christian conflict is fought. Maybe you have this problem. Perhaps you have once had this problem. It is likely that you will someday have this problem. There are two prominent features to this problem:
1B. First, the writer to the Hebrews warns against being “wearied.”
1C. What does it mean to be wearied? It just means to be tired, nothing more complicated than that. Not wearied physically, but wearied in your mind.
2C. Ever find yourself serving God and you just feel so completely and profoundly tired? You’ve had enough rest. You’ve eaten properly and you’re not sick. But you are weary.
3C. I think shrinks might call this condition clinical depression, though I’ve not studied psychology enough to know for sure how they would misdiagnose the problem. God’s Word says the issue is being weary in your mind.
2B. Next, the writer of Hebrews mentions being “faint in your minds.”
1C. It’s likely that this is a bit of elaborating on what is meant by “wearied,” rather than an entirely different symptom of the problem.
2C. This means that you’ve become simply exhausted in your mind. I can tell you that there have been times in my Christian life when, though I am physically rested and properly nourished, I feel like I have suffered from mind-numbing fatigue.
3C. Perhaps this is something like being shell-shocked. Perhaps you could call it spiritual battle fatigue. It’s a numbness and a dullness of the mind that makes you feel like you’ve been beat up.
4C. Do you feel like this? Have you ever felt like this? You probably will feel like this someday.
2A. LOOK AT THE PREVENTION OF THE PROBLEM
1B. Some people who show symptoms of this problem correctly conclude that this comes from spiritual conflict and being opposed in your service to God. To a degree, they are right. This point observes that the Lord Jesus Christ was pummeled by spiritual adversaries: “him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself.”
2B. The mistake is made by people who think that the way to prevent this problem of burnout, or fade out, or spiritual battle fatigue, or becoming spiritually shell shocked is by laying low, by dropping out, by quitting, by staying home, by lowering your spiritual profile so you are no longer the target of spiritual opposition.
3B. These approaches to the problem sound good, except that such a response is completely wrong. To stop serving God or, as one of my former secretaries once told me when she quit, “I need a vacation from God,” is no solution. Sin is never a solution to a sin problem. Sin is never a solution to any problem. Amen?
4B. The writer to the Hebrews, anticipating such a problem as this, and seeking to prevent its occurrence, says simply “consider him.” Consider Christ. Consider the Savior. But what this does mean? It means “to reason with careful deliberation.” In other words, put your mind on the Lord Jesus Christ. Think about what He did in suffering and bleeding and dying for you.
5B. But it means, as a practical matter, more than that. Let me come back to this in a moment,
3A. AS I CONCLUDE WITH THE PRESCRIPTION FOR THE PROBLEM
1B. Perhaps you are not concerned with preventing this weariness, this faintness in your mind that threatens to incapacitate you. It’s already come upon you. You are already finding it difficult to continue. You haven’t told anyone yet, but you are struggling.
2B. The problem is, you are simply running out of spiritual gas. Remember when I pointed out that Christians have no more innate ability in and of themselves to serve God than a lost person does? That’s what is happening here. When a man is weary and faint in his mind he is falling back on his own resources. Only you and I don’t have our own resources.
3B. What you and I need is grace to help in time of need. But prayer is only one means of grace to help in time of need. What the writer of Hebrews tell you to do, to prevent this problem, and what you should do to eliminate this problem, is consider Christ. The verse before our text says the same thing in a different way: “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”
4B. If you are weary and faint in your minds you haven’t considered Him sufficiently. You haven’t looked at Him frequently enough or intensely enough. For if you did He would avail you of enough grace to fight on, to continue the struggle, to stand fast and having done all to stand. You see, the problem isn’t with Him. It’s with you, and it’s with me. Amen?
1. This problem comes about when the Christian does not avail himself or herself of the needed grace to endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ, or to stand fast, or to quit you like men.
2. So, what it needed is more grace. Yesterday’s grace will not do you. Last week’s grace will not do. Grace, God’s enablement to live for Him and serve Him is doled out as it is needed. He does not allow you to store it up for future use.
3. And how do you get God’s grace for living and for service? Look to Jesus. Consider Him. But those are very abstract and difficult to grab hold of concepts. Let me give you some very practical suggestions that will serve you well in your challenge to look unto Jesus, to consider Him.
4. Read your Bible. Read it every day. Read through it every year. And study it besides. Psalm 119.130: “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.”
5. Second, pray. “Pray without ceasing,” First Thessalonians 5.17. Pray for yourself. Pray for your pastor. Pray for the lost. Pray for your fellow Church members. Pray passionately. Pray purposefully. Pray persistently.
6. Finally, listen to your pastor. For most of you, your pastor is the fellow responsible for you coming to Christ. That means Dr. Hymers or I have begotten most of you in the Gospel. Your pastor’s ministry to you of teaching, of preaching, of counseling are a means of grace that is vital to your spiritual well-being.
7. So you see, if you are faithfully in Church, listening carefully to the sermons, reading your Bible and praying, this problem either will not overcome you, or it will be quickly overcome, as you seek counsel and intensify your pray life, intensify your Bible time, and allow the man who guided you to Christ in the first place to help you look unto Jesus even more intensely. These various means of grace will help you to the place where, like we read of the wonderful Christians in China and the Sudan, like Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail: “at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”
8. In this new year, commit yourself to God’s service by faithfully attending every service, listening carefully to all the teaching and preaching, reading your Bible faithfully, and being a fervent prayer warrior. Using these means to constantly “consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself,” you will be so strengthened by God’s super abounding supply of grace that you will not become “wearied and faint in your minds.”
Fritz Reinecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 714.
Bauer, Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature, (Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 2000), page 67.