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Stuck-ness in the Bible (Hebrews 6:11, 12)

August 5, 2018 Speaker: Bryce Morgan Series: Stuck

Topic: One Mission: Through Many Tribulations Passage: Hebrews 6:11–6:12

Stuck-ness in the Bible

Hebrews 6:11, 12

(One Mission: Through Many Tribulations)

August 5th, 2018

 

 

I. Ever Been Stuck?

 

Ever been...stuck?

 

Years ago, probably only 2-3 years after I got my driver's license, a friend and I drove my dad's car up to Sunset Crater, just east of Flagstaff. It was winter, and there was snow on the road. Well, thankfully, I did not slide into a snow bank or find myself in need of chains. We simply came out of the visitors' center and discovered the car would not start.

 

Now remember, this was 1990 or 1991 P.C.P. (that is, 'pre cell phone'). So all I could do was go back in the visitors' center (five minutes before they closed) and call my dad down in Phoenix. Of course, it was his course car I was driving. So when I reached him, he told me to sit tight while he reached out to some friends.

 

So there we were, me and friend, sitting in an empty parking lot, in an inoperable car, the sun setting and the temperature driving into the 20s, unsure about when help would come. There we were...stuck.

 

But could that story, or one like it from your own life, be an analogy of something you've experienced on the inside? What I'm asking is, “Ever been stuck...spiritually?”

 

The symptoms of spiritual 'stuck-ness' range from low to no desire to pray and read God's word, to a seeming inability to forgive those God has called you to forgive. Spiritual stuck-ness can be characterized by things like confusion and complacency, and can feel like aimlessness, or numbness, or stubbornness, or even powerlessness. In fact, I think it's fair to say that even things like vocational and relational stuck-ness can lead to or reveal spiritual stuck-ness.

 

Ever been...stuck?

 

So what should you do, what can you do when you find yourself stuck? Maybe the more fundamental question is actually, does God's word even talk about this kind of 'stuck-ness'. Well, the answer to that question is “yes”. Let me show you where. Turn over, if you would, to Hebrews chapter 6.

 

 

II. The Passage: "So That You May Not Be Sluggish" (6:11, 12)

 

Let's look together at verses 11 and 12 of Hebrews 6. You may know that this book was written to Jewish Christians who were feeling pressured by their unbelieving friends and families, maybe even former church members, to return to a Jesus-less Judaism.

But these verses are not the only ones relevant to our discussion about 'stuck-ness'. Two other passages, right here in the immediate context, are also helpful. So as we look at our main verses, think with me for a minute about...

 

 

1. Stuck-ness and Your Heading (6:11, 12)

 

Having a “heading” means moving forward in a particular direction. Often we think about that word in the context of aviation (“the plane was on the correct heading, when suddenly it veered off course”). So let's consider what these verses tell us about having a spiritual heading. Verses 11 and 12...

 

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, [12] so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

 

Let me read those verses in another translation as well...

 

Now we desire each of you to demonstrate the same diligence for the full assurance of your hope until the end, so that you won’t become lazy but will be imitators of those who inherit the promises through faith and perseverance. (CSB)

 

Did you see 'stuck-ness' in that passage?

 

If “earnestness” or “diligence” is about moving forward, then words like “sluggish” and “lazy” are about being stuck. Notice that the writer does not deny or minimize the possibility of spiritual sluggishness or laziness. Such a condition is very, very real. And as you can hopefully tell by the writer's words, it is also very, very serious.

 

Let's look at a couple other examples of spiritual stuck-ness. Turn with me three books earlier to II Timothy 1 (keep a finger at Hebrews 6). We read in verses 6-8...

 

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, [7] for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. [8] Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God...

 

God had equipped Timothy to do the work of evangelist. But Timothy was stuck. Fear had reduced his flames down to mere embers. What did his stuck-ness look like? It looked like embarrassment. It looked like an unwillingness to suffer for Jesus. Therefore, stuck-ness meant silence when it came to the gospel. That's why Paul is urging Timothy to “fan [those embers] into flame”.

 

Let's also look together at another passage, this time in the last book of the NT: Revelation 3. We read, starting in verse 15...

 

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! [16] So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. [17] For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.”

So in this passage, where do we see spiritual stuck-ness? Yes! Being “lukewarm” is the same as being stuck. To be clear, “hot” and “cold” in this passage are both ways of talking about spiritual fruitfulness. The original readers of Revelation would have imagined both refreshingly cold water that flowed down from the snowy mountains, AND healing hot springs that we were well-known in their region. Both were useful, just in different ways. But these readers were neither hot or cold. They were stuck.

 

And their stuck-ness was a result of their sinful sense of self-sufficiency. Do you see that in verse 17? They were saying, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing... Just as God spoke through the writer of Hebrews, here we see Jesus addressing, with loving firmness, another case of spiritual stuck-ness.

 

But if we go back to Hebrews, I think we also have to think about...

 

 

2. Stuck-ness and Your Hearing (5:11–12)

 

If we look back to Hebrews, to two verses that come just before chapter 6, I think God wants to show something else about spiritual stuck-ness. We read in 5:11, 12...

 

About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. [12] For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food...

 

What's interesting about that word translated “dull” in the ESV is that in Greek it's the same word we saw in 6:12: sluggish. “Since you have become “sluggish” in your hearing”, or as another translation puts it, “You have become too lazy to understand”.

 

So before he calls them to be earnest, to be diligent, to be fervent, to be zealous in chapter 6, he points out that they are also experiencing a kind of stuck-ness when it comes to God's word. What does that stuck-ness look like? It looks like an inability to hear and handle the word with maturity. “By this time you ought to be teachers”. But they weren't. Therefore, they needed to be brought back to the basics.

 

What does all this mean for us? It means that when you and I feel spiritually stuck, we have to keep in mind that our condition will affect the way we hear God's word. In fact, it may be affecting you even now, even as you've listened to God's word this morning. So what can you do? Well, first acknowledge that there is nothing lacking in God's word. It is rich, it is powerful, it is dynamic, it is unchanging, it is light in our darkness. Second, pray in light of this 'sluggishness of hearing'. Ask God to open the ears of your heart!

 

But there's something else here, again, just before our main verses. If we look at verses 7-9 of chapter 6, I think we're also encouraged to think about...

 

 

3. Stuck-ness and Your Hoping (6:7-9)

 

Remember what we read in verse 11. The writer called them to diligence, so that they would have the full assurance of hope until the end. Listen to what verses 7-9 tell us about hope...

For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. [8] But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. [9] Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.

 

So what does any of that have to do with spiritual stuck-ness? Well think about this: the reassuring tone and encouraging words of this writer remind us that complacency, that stubborness, that aimlessness, that spiritual stuck-ness is not a definitive argument against the genuineness of our salvation. Or to put it in other words, just because you're feeling stuck, it doesn't mean you don't belong to God.

 

As the writer warmly expresses it in 6:9...Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation.

 

Can spiritual stuck-ness lead to a recognition that one's faith was never truly focused on Christ, that a person's faith was more about what their parents believed, or what they wanted God to fix in a time of crisis, or in some self-help version of the gospel? Absolutely. And that is something we should soberly consider...when the circumstances merit such consideration. \

 

But notice what we've seen here in Hebrews, and in II Timothy, and in Revelation 3. We've seen God speaking through the biblical writers in order to encourage his people in those times of spiritual stuck-ness. Isn't that a beautiful thing?

 

 

III. Urging, But Understanding

 

And it's that idea I hope you'll walk away with this morning: yes, God is urging...but He is also understanding.

 

Please don't miss the fact that God wants to use his word in your life to call you forward; to urge you beyond your stuck-ness; to grow you. We've heard from the author of Hebrews this morning. We've also heard from the Apostle Paul, and from Jesus through the Apostle John. But what about Peter? How might Peter help us as well? Listen to how Peter describes his calling as a servant of God:

 

I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to stir you up by way of reminder... (II Peter 1:13)

 

Do you see there another reference to spiritual stuck-ness? The Greek word Peter uses here paints the picture of a sleeping person or calm waters. Those sound pretty nice, until we learn the goal is actually to wake up or be stirred up! God's word should rouse us, shouldn't it? We should hear in his word the call to run, to fight, to labor, to grow in his grace.

 

Are you moving forward spiritually in those ways? Or do you, if your honest with yourself, do you feel stuck?

 

Well, if you do, then hold onto what we've seen this morning. Hold onto the fact that what you're experiencing has also been experienced by your spiritual ancestors, by all those who came before. And...try to hold on to these two other verses from earlier in Hebrews.

Turn if you would to Hebrews 4, verses 15 and 16. We are told...

 

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. [16] Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

 

If you are feeling spiritually stuck this morning, or when you do feel spiritually stuck, remember that, yes, God is urging you to move forward. But...but also, He is understanding when it comes to your struggle. And, amazingly, your Father has provided you with an understanding Advocate, one who is able to sympathize with your weaknesses, with your struggles, with your stuck-ness. Jesus has been tempted in every way. He gets it.

 

Therefore, He doesn't point a finger, or give you a stern look, or shake his head with disappointment when it comes to your stuck-ness. No. Instead, both the Father and the Son invite you to “draw near to the throne of grace”. In light of the cross of Jesus, in light of the sacrifice of the spotless Lamb of God, they lovingly invite you to come and find mercy, to come and find grace. What kind of mercy and grace? Mercy and grace “to help in time of need”. And that includes in time of stuck-ness.

 

Does that encourage you? Does that reassure your heart? I pray it does. God spoke these words for that very reason. In fact, Jesus reassured that lukewarm church in Revelation 3 in the very same way. Just a few verses after the ones we read, Jesus issues a very similar invitation. Revelation 3:20...

 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.

 

God is both urging AND understanding. Let's not lose sight of either of those important truths.

 

Before we finish, let me add one more thing. I don't want you to leave this morning believing that spiritual stuck-ness is always the result of spiritual stubbornness or spiritual neglect. It can be. But you can also feel stuck because hard things you've experienced have tethered you in painful and paralyzing ways. You may desperately want to move forward, but you feel stuck and don't know what to do.

 

Well, in cases like that, please know that the same truths we've talked about this morning still apply. No matter how you're stuck, there is always an opportunity to respond in faith. For example, a person dealing with a painful experience might not be able to fix how they feel or just 'get over it'. But they can respond in faith through prayer and reaching out to others for help. They may feel stuck for some time, but that doesn't always mean there isn't progress.

 

In the coming weeks, we're going to think more about how God's word can help us in our stuck-ness. As we've seen, God the Father loves to help his children in their times of need...just as...my father finally came to Flagstaff all those years ago. Yes, we had to wait for 3-4 hours in a very cold car, but help came.

 

2000 years ago, our help has come as well. Amen?

 

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