“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it…Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in in the day of rebellion.”
This is the author's exhortation to believers in Hebrews 2 and 3. Throughout Hebrews, the author is writing to an audience with a great deal of knowledge about religious practices, but who have doubts about God's control over the world as a result of difficult trials, as well as those who "appear to have grown less attentive to Christian instruction." (NSV Study Bible).
This is a common struggle many believers face today: we face trials that erode our trust in Jesus’ goodness, supremacy, and faithfulness. Then the promises of the world begin to look more trustworthy, more supreme, or simply easier. As a result, we may begin to listen to God less, or when we listen, we neglect to do what we hear. Perhaps we begin to spiritually “shut our ears” to God–reading our Bibles less, praying less, spending less time meditating and seeking His will–because we are afraid, we are holding on to a sin or temptation in our hearts we are loathe to let go, or we are simply disillusioned by what seem to be empty promises. Or perhaps we feel or hear the nudge of conviction that comes from the Holy Spirit, but we become accustomed to ignoring it–this is what the scripture calls “hardening our hearts.”
However, this passage, as well as elsewhere in scripture, reveal an important truth: active, passionate, engaged listening and response to God is the secret to breakthrough for ourselves and others. When we are in situations that seem hopeless or broken, the very worst thing we can do is shut our ears to God. In fact, Hebrews 2 reminds us that in these situations “we must pay much closer attention” to what we have heard about who God is and our identity in Him!
“Pay close attention:” this is a rich command with a lot of implications. Most importantly, it implies we must keep our hearts open to receive and hear God (through scripture, prayer, the correction and encouragement of brothers and sisters). In short, paying attention to God means seeking God in a living, dynamic way. We put ourselves around Godly people who give us advice from the Lord. We get in our bibles. We pray. We journal. We worship. We saturate and soak in the presence of God. We get out in nature and marvel. We paint, we dance, we rejoice.
This also implies we do not just read, but really digest the teaching we receive, letting it convict, break, and change us. “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit…discerning our thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
Looking for direction? This truth means if we are really saturating ourselves in God’s presence, it is actually hard to MISS his direction, correction, and encouragement! God WANTS to direct, correct, and love on you–that’s why Jesus came as the WORD. He just wants to do it in a vivid, dynamic, ongoing relationship with you.
Our breakthrough comes from a lifestyle of listening to our best friend and Father as part of an ongoing gift of relationship with Him. We are not just listening to words on a page, but to an extraordinary person who loves us more than we can ever imagine. Over and over, the author of Hebrews returns to the imperative to this imperative: “Consider Jesus.” This is because by “considering Jesus,” as the passage goes on to urge us, our hearts are changed, grown, strengthened, confirmed. We remember we already have the victory. We remember that evil doesn’t get the final say. We remember that we have a brother who “was tempted in every way” but overcame. We remember we have all the spiritual equipment we need–the shoes of peace, the sword of the spirit, and the helmet of salvation–and all we have to do is accept them. We remember that when we reject to obey what we hear, we are really rejecting our best friend and brother.
Listening to Jesus, considering Jesus, is our breakthrough. He is “where our help comes from.” After reminding us that “No creature is hidden from his sight, we are all naked and exposed in the eyes of him to who we must give account,” the author of Hebrews immediately jumps to Jesus as the source of hope, new life, and victory. “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of God, that we may receive mercy and grace to help in a time of need.” (Hebrews 4: 16). The crazy thing is that often we stay away from Jesus when we feel we’ve failed, or we are in a downward spiral of not spending enough time with him. Yet more than anything, He wants you to listen and consider Him so that you may be empowered, so that you can receive the wisdom you need to pray for a friend, the fortification you need to resist sin, the direction you need for the new chapter, and so much more.
-Recall a time when you felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit, but you resisted what was said. How did that affect your relationship with God and other people?
-Recall a time when you felt the conviction of the Holy Spirit or heard direction from God in a situation, and you obeyed. How did that affect your relationship with God and other people?
-How much do you pay attention to (seek, dwell, and act on) God’s guidance in comparison to the world’s? In what areas of your life are you following the world’s direction or suggestions instead of God’s? (romantic relationships, money, definition of success, career, friendships, etc.)
-Part of “paying attention” to God is considering the ways He is communicating with youright now. Hebrews 2 and 3 lists many ways God is revealed and confirmed to us: through scripture, through human eyewitnesses of Jesus (in our case, brothers and sisters in Christ), through signs and wonders, and through gifts of the Holy Spirit (how has God worked through you?). In what ways in your life has Christ been revealed to you? Thank Him!
-Take 10 minutes in a quiet space to “consider Jesus.” Make a list of all the things you know to be true about him, what you love about him, etc, and tell him those things. Take some time to quietly listen for the Holy Spirit’s presence as well.
-Think about a friend or acquaintance who needs breakthrough. Take a couple minutes to pray for them based on what you just wrote about Jesus and what you know to be true about God.
-Think about an area in your life where you need breakthrough. Based on what you wrote about Jesus and what you know to be true about God, cry out to God.