Three of my favorite words in the Bible are found in the book of Hebrews. Whenever I see them, I breathe a sigh of relief because those words reveal God’s expectations. Those three words are found at the beginning of Hebrews 12:14.
The NIV version says, “Make every effort . . . .”
The Lord knew that living our faith was not going to come naturally. It would take effort.
Who wrote those words?
We don’t know who authored Hebrews, but I would like to meet him one day in heaven.
Theologians think it was probably Barnabas or Apollos, and that would make sense. Those men spent a lot of time with Paul, learning Christian doctrine, traveling from city to city, and teaching Christianity to people from many different backgrounds.
If you study the life of Paul, you’ll learn that he was highly respected, was loved and appreciated by many, but probably was not the easiest person to live with. He burned everyone’s candles at both ends.
Barnabas and Paul argued over John Mark and went their separate ways for a time. First Corinthians seems to reveal that some tension existed between Paul and Apollos. No one was better at Christian doctrine than Paul, but no one caused quite as much trouble as Paul either.
Is that why theologians think the author of Hebrews was Barnabas or Apollos?
God expects us to make an effort
Whoever the Holy Spirit inspired to write the book of Hebrews really understood the Christian life in a non-Christian world. God has very high standards for his children, and all of us are going to struggle to live up to his expectations. But, then again, God expects us to struggle.
What God is really asking us is to “make every effort.”
The New International Version of Hebrews 12:14–15 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Our salvation doesn’t depend on living up to God’s standards. We were saved by his grace through Christ because we couldn’t live perfectly. Our witness, however, does depend on our efforts. And a LOT of Christians are making a great effort to “live in peace” and be “holy” because they want people to see the Lord.
A different way to view the news
I decided to look at the news a bit differently and was surprised by the thoughts that followed.
There was another mass shooting, this time in Virginia Beach. I was appalled at the pain that one man’s massacre left behind. I was impressed by his coworkers and the law enforcement who risked their lives to stop him from killing more.
I also wondered if, in the aftermath, there were Christian coworkers who were wishing they had made “every effort” to lead that man to the Lord.
After those thoughts, I decided to consider the story from a different point of view. I wondered how many news stories do not exist today because of the Christians who have made every effort to make sure that “no one falls short of the grace of God.”
The unreported news
We normally hear about the failures, but, one day in heaven, we will learn of all the successes.
If I see things from a new perspective, I’ll realize that there are hundreds, thousands, and maybe tens of thousands of people who have lived full lives because somewhere, sometime, a person made every effort to live like God requested his children to live.
I know there are countless millions of people who will live eternally because Christians made that effort.
For every shooter, there are billions of people who are not evil. For every human being who falls short, there are humans who don’t. There are a lot of people making an effort to live in peace with others and be holy. As a result, there are a lot of people who will get to meet their Lord one day.
Growth that isn’t good
There is one more word from the author of Hebrews. He knew what comes naturally for Christians who make an effort to live holy lives while surrounded by people who don’t.
Hebrews 12:15 says, “See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”
Do stories like the Virginia shooting increase your efforts to share God’s grace or do they feed the “bitter root” that grows up and causes trouble?
I know I’m guilty of the latter. I almost can’t watch the news these days without my “bitter root” growing another few inches. I need to make a greater effort not to fall short of living with the presence and power of God’s grace. I need to make every effort to help others find that blessing in their lives as well.
Praise God for the news we don’t see
It is a different way to view the news. Most of the news does not reflect holy living. Praise God for all we don’t see on the news that does. There are people who are making every effort to live with God’s standards, and people come to know God’s salvation every day.
Does your bitter root need a little tending to?
If so, make every effort to live a holy life and lead others to faith. That effort will be rewarded here on earth and in heaven. People are rarely bitter at a baptism!
Today, you will have the opportunity to be an example of God’s grace to someone. It was an effort for the author of Hebrews, and it will be an effort for us. But someday the good news will be known.
Let’s joyfully and faithfully be part of those headlines.