The Point of No Return
(Read Hebrews 12)
by contributing author
For 4 years a close friend had been encouraging me to attend a weekend men’s retreat with him. The event focused on prayer, worship, sharing, and brotherhood. This was way out of my comfort zone. Spiritually, I was still pretty unsure of myself, I was self-conscious of what others thought of my faith — and I was not a hugger. In the meantime, my son attended a youth version of the retreat that I was invited to. But when I saw the pure joy in him, my decision was made. I agreed.
Well, the first night was a nightmare for me. They showed a long, predictable, and amateurish welcome movie. Then, to my horror there were guys singing worship songs, arm in arm and others doing all the raising the roof gestures with arms in the air. Way out of my league. I kept thinking how am I going to get out of this.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”
Most scholars believe that Hebrews was originally intended for Christian-Jews. It was becoming increasingly difficult for them to openly worship Jesus Christ. There was condemnation and even persecution from unbelieving Jews, and of course, the Romans. There was a strong push for them to go back to their sacrificial system of the past. Believers today face a similar temptation with our openly hostile unbelieving society. There’s still a strong push to do what feels good and go for temporary pleasure, ignoring any future consequences.
My weekend improved dramatically as time wore on. With each hour, I was growing more comfortable with the whole experience. The second night included a time for true sharing in small table groups. Wow. This was a time when we would share very personal stories of what was going on in our lives. I barely opened my mouth for the first session. I had put up walls around me. I wanted to go back.
“In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.”
Guys were sharing really deep revelations about their failures and struggles in their lives. My contribution was sweaty hands. I was so worried about what they would think if I shared some of my sins.
Hebrews 12 tells us that we will endure hardship in our lives. It is guaranteed. As Pastor Greg Laurie said, “God has not promised us a smooth ride, but He has promised to get us to the other side”. We can choose to use hardship as the crutch of a victim or as a stepping stone to freedom.
“Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.”
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”
Before the last morning of my weekend, I had made some friends. I had experienced some pretty powerful moments. Everyone was chill and sincere. We were being broken down to our vulnerable souls. I was more comfortable with the process, the worship, and sharing but I was still holding back. I kept a shell around me. Even then, I still wanted to go back.
Then, on the last morning, it hit. We had a life-changing worship service that still leaves me with chills. After that, we were told to gather our stuff, pack up, and be prepared to share something to the entire congregation for the closing ceremony. Well, I had coasted through most of the weekend without sharing a lot or giving much of myself. I was freaking out. It occurred to me that I wasn’t alone. All the other guys were going through the same thing. I collapsed on the floor and prayed. I asked Jesus for strength and guidance, and help. Suddenly, my shoulders felt warm. I felt His hands on me. He was telling me that He was with me. He didn’t say it would be fine, but that He would always be with me. There was no turning back.
The closing ceremony was uneventful. Everything went great, but it was nothing compared to my epiphany moment of prayer that morning. My savior Jesus Christ has and will always be present in our lives. His kingdom is unshakable. The early Christian readers of Hebrews endured unspeakable hardships and the true believers reached the other side that God has promised. They went past the point of no return.
Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”
- Have you ever been in a situation where doing the right thing was the thing that made you stand out? How did you feel? What did you do?
- We’ve all endured punishment from our parents. At the time, did it make you feel loved? Or did you feel anger? Did it make you feel unloved?
- Think of a time in your life when you have been confronted with a decision whether to declare your faith in God or to deny Him.
- When faced with moral decisions in your life, no matter how trivial they seem, what do you usually do? Next time, consider your reaction. Use your faith and moral compass as a muscle. The more you choose the right decision, the easier it becomes.
- Consider a time in your life where you faced punishment from your parents or caregivers. Realizing that there are times when we are wrongly punished, but there are also times when we deserve it. Focus on something you wrongly did when you were punished. Think back to your feelings at that time compared to how you feel about it many years later. Can you see any love in the punishment? Think deeply about this and pray for God to show us this love.
- All Christians will face criticism and some will face persecution. Pray to Jesus that you will honor Him in all you do in life. Jesus doesn’t ask that we’re prefect in our defense of Him, He only asks that acknowledge and glorify him.
- I owe a lot to my friend who patiently encouraged me to attend this transformational weekend. He didn’t lead me to Christ, but his exhortation, kindness, and persistence has brought me closer to Him. May God continue to bless those vessels who bring us closer to our Savior. Consider these people in your life.
Where else in your life can you live out the teachings of Christ? Look for next week’s Devotion.