Welcome to Welling, for your spiritual well-being and your ministry overflowing. Thank you for the privilege of accessing your life on the basis of God’s word and to build it. This series is called “The Strong Weak.” These are times of exhaustion, times of anxiety, negativity, and so on. Everybody feels a little reduced productivity and efficiency. A recent Forbes article talked about rampant burnout. And if you’re unhappy and unproductive with your life and work, you may be experiencing burnout is what they say.
And yet, they call you to take responsibility for your burnout. A bit like what the writer of the Hebrews is talking to the people in a house church in one very long sermon, asking them to process these circumstantial challenges that they face, the discipline of God in their lives, not to reject it, but to accept it as children, and to be trained in righteousness so that it’ll be fruitful in their lives.
My basic comment here is that all of us are weak. But some of us are stronger. And when the stronger among the weak strengthen themselves and the weaker becomes stronger for the race, none of us is “strong strong.” But there are some strong weak. I’m addressing you.
In verses 12 and 13 of Hebrews chapter 12, it reads, “Therefore”– on the basis of verses four through 11– “and the discipline of God in our lives, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees, make level path for your feet so that the lame may not be disabled but healed.”
Verse 12 is really a quotation from Isaiah 35, so that we can have a new vigor, a new resolve in refreshment and renewal. It says to strengthen your listless hands and your weak knees. He’s calling for the readers, the hearers– that’s you and me– to do something about our own weakness so that we can get strong.
This passage divides into two words. Strengthen your will is found in verse 12. We’ve already addressed it. Strengthen yourself, individually, yourselves together. But it’s never for your own sake. It is for the sake of others who need to be strengthened. And so verse 13 says, “Straighten your way. Make level paths for your feet so that the lame may not be disabled but be healed.”
Strengthen yourselves for others’ selves. The strong among the weak become stronger for the weaker to become stronger. Everybody is going through these massive, deep times of exhaustion and powerlessness. I was talking to a friend in South Africa. I said, how are church services going? How is support coming?
He said, “Brother Ramesh, I have fiber optic network in my house, but my people don’t. If they have the internet, it’s not steady. And if it is strong, it is very expensive. And of course, there’s no way to give and everything. So I need to be strong for their sake. I must strengthen myself for their sake.”
That’s what the author is saying. “Make straight paths for your feet.” That calls for your intentionality, for your planning and preparation, your projection. Make the way straight so that others who are walking on the straight path with you, running the race with you, will run longer and farther and perhaps even keep pace.
It’s true that in any race, people can stumble. They can fall. They can struggle. They can kick a stone, get knocked off. They can lose their way. So while some commentators think that verse thirteen is referring to the runner’s own limb, I am going with another commentator, who says that the strong members of the community must encourage the weak members of the community. For you’re all weak, but there are some stronger among the weak. And as strong among the weak strengthen themselves, the weak among the weak can become stronger.
So my dear friend, we are exerting a big influence on people. They watch us. They draw strength from us. If we go astray, they’ll go further astray faster. If we fall, they will use our fall as an excuse for their fall and justify and rationalize their own losses. So I want to encourage you, as the stronger among the weak, to serve by your example. People are following you. And as you follow Christ, it is better for them to follow you. Serve as a leader. People need someone to follow.
That’s what happened in Hebrews chapter 11. The heroes of the faith are not written just for the sake of information, but to give us inspiration to pay the cost of following God in faith. In the early part of Hebrews 12, he’s asking us to follow the Lord Jesus, the author and the finisher of our faith. So watch your influence on others. If you feel weak, they’re feeling severely so. So strengthen yourselves for the sake of others. It’s not for us as the ends, but simply as means.
When a plane takes off, I listen to the announcements. And they seem pretty mundane. Wearing seat belts and keeping your seat erect. But one announcement always catches my attention, saying, if you’re traveling with kids and the cabin loses pressure, when the oxygen masks fall, put the mask on you first and then help the children.
It’s a great picture of what Hebrews is saying here. Yeah, we’re all facing pressure in the cabin. The oxygen masks have fallen. You put the mask on first, but not for your sake, simply as a means to help others to be stronger for the race. Let’s keep Welling.