Truth is powerful but we shouldn’t think of it in a mechanistic or formulaic way as though we’re getting a prescription filled at the pharmacy. It is not independent or abstract but rooted and anchored in Jesus of Nazareth. For that reason, truth should be partnered with trust because we don’t believe in a system (confess your sins and be healed),—we trust in a Savior! And the fact is that sin is bigger than we are means that even with the aid of truth, we can’t always figure it out, size it up properly, or get our minds around it. Our limitations and sinfulness get in the way.
We learn to look to the One who has no such problems. We trust what He has to say about sin and that He has dealt with it definitively for us (1 John 2:1-2). This is absolutely critical because another gateway of sin is discouragement. Whereas deception is looking at something in the wrong way, discouragement is failing to keep our eyes on Jesus. As a result, we tend to look too much at ourselves, others, our situation, etc. The result can be paralyzing. Over the long haul, we can be worn down and lose heart.
The letter of Hebrews appears to be addressing exactly such a situation (12:3,13:22). The recipients of the letter had made a commitment to Christ. As Jewish Christians, they were taking some flak for their faith from their family, friends, and community for believing that a crucified carpenter from Nazareth was the Jewish Messiah (10:32-34, 12:4). Some disciples were struggling to hang in there—not showing up at assemblies (10:24-25), they were in danger of rejecting Jesus’ sacrifice and returning to old covenant sacrifices (10:26-29). They had need of diligence (6:10-12), and to endure rather than shrink back (10:36-39). They needed to keep their eyes on Jesus (12:1-3).
What does the writer do to help such people? Over and over again He points them to Christ and His work as our high priest. He reminds them that Jesus has triumphed over sin and Satan and has the absolute power to help us in our time of need (2:14-18, 4:16-18, 10:19-23). Because of this, they had hope. It anchors the soul and brings them into the presence of God (6:19-20).
To trust in the work of Jesus is to make the bold choice for hope. It’s a bold choice because some people give into despair, turning inward and downward. In the movie Shawshank Redemption, this is the path that Brooks, the elderly prison librarian, chooses when he is paroled and struggles to adapt to life on the outside. The other option available to us is the choice Red makes when he is paroled later, living in the same apartment that Brooks did, working the same job, and experiencing the same difficulties. He looks up and sees the beam where Brooks hanged himself after carving the words, “Brooks was here.” Red gets his knife out and carves, “So was Red.” He was exactly where Brooks was, but he makes a different choice. In the midst of death, he makes the bold choice for life and hope.
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful,” (10:23).