As in, on the field.
You’re engaged in a contest that will test every fiber of your strength, will, endurance, and confidence. Sometimes you’re on defense, and the task is to stand your ground against an opponent that has considerable resources. Sometimes you’re on offense, and the task is to recapture lost ground or gain new ground as you outwit, outmaneuver, or overpower your enemy.
Let’s just go ahead and dispense with the obvious. I like you and everything. But left to your own game plan or abilities, you’re cosmic road kill. Dead meat with all the trimmings.
You. Can’t. Win. This.
Heck, you won’t even make the uniforms look pretty.
Oh, and did I mention… this is no game. This is your life. The visible and the invisible. The temporal and the eternal. The private and the very public. The “spiritual” and the “secular” (as if there is any distinction).
Fortunately, you do have some weapons at your disposal that are mighty through God. And there is a pathway – a strategy that leads to prevailing strength and power. For starters you have what the author of Hebrews refers to as a “great cloud of witnesses.” These are people who’ve been where you are, been tested or attacked as you have been, and have a legacy of faith and faithfulness to cheer you on. And they’re saying things like this:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).
Imagine you on the field – sweating, striving, mixing it up with a team of cheating bullies. But someone is giving you the will to carry on. On one side of the grandstands, the witnesses are shouting encouragement: Hold fast! And the other side echoes back: Draw near!
Back and forth it goes.
They are reminding you that on this field, your victory has already been secured. Your team has clenched the championship because your champion, your Faithful and True, has won it. But in your life, it is your task to enforce the victory.
Your second asset is the Champion – your Great High Priest. He has passed through this life in a role of servanthood and sympathy. He gets what it’s like to be you. He has forever identified with your battles and your scars, your dreams and your desires.
He has passed through His battles in a role of victor and overcomer. He resisted every scheme of the enemy, every onslaught of the world’s fury, and every appeal to the weakness of his flesh-and-bones. Tested, yes. Yet without sin.
He has passed through the heavens in a role of authority and intercessor. And in that role, He now gives you executive power to use His name to enforce His conquest.
In this arena, there are no limits to the time-outs you can call. And get this: You get to come boldly to some kind of Bench. It is a mercy seat – a place where the King of Kings and Lord of Lords invites you to approach with confidence.
Access is by grace. Surprisingly enough, this isn’t a position you try out for. In fact, you were picked for this team precisely because you weren’t qualified.
There at the Bench – the throne – you receive renewed strength, instructions for “calling the next play,” and secret insight for understanding your opponent’s game plan. And you can come back again and again.
I can’t think of a simpler game plan for entering into the victory already won for you. And in case you forget, just listen for the sound of those witnesses:
Specifically, the writer of Hebrews reminds us that since we have this sympathetic, victorious, authoritative High Priest, we should “hold fast our confession.” Since the key to overcoming is holding fast, I guess it’s a pretty good idea to have a pretty good idea of what it is we’re holding fast to
Our confession is a faith statement – combination of what we believe about Jesus and what we intend to do about it.
We declare that Jesus is Lord. Then we live that out in our lives.
We declare that there is salvation in (only) His name. Then we live as though we have trusted in His name to save us.
We declare that Jesus died as the substitute sin bearer for us. Then we live that out by bringing the dregs of our lives to Him for forgiveness.
We declare that Jesus rose from the dead and lives today. Then we live that out by ordering our lives as if He lives with us and in us.
Don’t give up your confession. As you confess the truth of who Jesus is, both as a belief and as a practice, you freeze the enemy in his tracks
He invites you to come boldly – with confidence – to the throne of grace, so that you may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. For years I read that and assumed that the strategy here was, when you have a need, you come to the throne of grace to get help.
If you wait that long, you’re in trouble. Imagine a quarterback who never met with the coach or practiced with the team unless it was a live game situation. Not even Peyton Manning could pull that off.
No, the idea is that you come to the throne of grace now so that you can get help later when the need arises.
And may I remind you that it is a throne of grace? We seem to forget that from time to time. There’s a huge difference between approaching a throne of grace and a throne of law, or self-righteousness.
At the throne of self-righteousness you pray, “Lord, I come to earn your trust.” At the throne of grace, you pray, “Lord I can’t trust myself; I choose to trust you.”
At the throne of self-righteousness you pray, “Lord, you can count on me.” At the throne of grace, you pray, “Lord I receive your faithfulness.”
At the throne of self-righteousness you pray, “Lord, I’m here to help.” At the throne of grace, you pray, “Lord, I am helpless.”
Read this, then read it again out loud: All of heaven stands to attend to the one who can courageously bring his nothingness to God.
That’s what makes it a throne of grace.
Every Day is Game Day
Showtime. This is no exhibition game or practice. You’re on the field. The Champion has given you His name. The Judge has given you free access to His grace throne. The witnesses are in the stands. And your enemy is breathing out his own version of trash talk.
And so your family life growing up was a broken mess. Can you hear the call? Hold fast. Draw near.
And so you faced abuse or abandonment as a child. Hold fast. Draw near.
Okay, so you made some foolish choices and live with shameful consequences. Hold fast. Draw near.
And you’re eyeballs-deep in debt and just lost your job. Hold fast. Draw near.
So your closest friend or only spouse has walked out on you. Hold fast. Draw near.
Or you’re seized with panic at the most inopportune moments. Hold fast. Draw near.
So the doctor just came in mentioning the “c” word. Hold fast. Draw near.
Or your teenage daughter just came in mentioning the “p” word. Hold fast. Draw near.
So your future has lost all its clarity and certainty. Hold fast. Draw near.
Or your past keeps trying to throw penalty flags on you. Hold fast. Draw near.
So you’re broadsided every day by a culture that hates the gospel. Hold fast. Draw near.
Or you’ve face-planted just after one of your greatest moments of triumph. Hold fast. Draw near.
Jesus knows what it’s like. Hold fast.
Jesus hears what you ask. Draw near.
Someday soon your clock will tick down to zero. You’ll stand before His throne and confess that Jesus is Lord. Don’t you think it’s a good idea to get some practice in before that moment happens? Why do you think He put you in this arena in the first place?