As Advent draws to a close today and we look toward the twelve days of Christmas, I want to reflect briefly on some of what I’ve learned over the past few weeks.
One morning during my normal time for reading scripture I read this from the letter to the Hebrews:
“We do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.”
Advent is a season of waiting, longing, preparation, anticipation.
In order to adopt an Advent posture, it seems we must admit that we need help. We must submit to the fact that we simply cannot save ourselves.
We declare “no confidence” in the flesh to solve our problems. We look elsewhere for help, for salvation. We wait in hope for Christ.
Faith as passivity?
But sometimes this can seem like a passive posture. It can seem like we are not taking action.
And in some ways that’s true, I suppose. We refuse to take matters into our own hands. So we do refuse to take certain kinds of actions, which can appear to be “doing nothing” to people who insist on taking matters into their own hands.
But faith is not “doing nothing.” We know this because the Hebrew writer sets up a dichotomy between those who “have faith and are saved” and those who “shrink back and are destroyed.”
Shrinking back vs. having faith
The opposite of faith is shrinking back. Sometimes we think of faith as passive, but there is a tenacity to it that refuses to “shrink back” in fear or shame or self-preservation.
Shrinking back is the posture that leads to destruction, because it hears God’s promises, but refuses to act as if he will bring them to fulfillment.
Shrinking back takes a “we’ll see” approach to God, while taking matters into our own hands. We work to secure our own future because we don’t believe God will come through on his promise to save.
Faith is just the opposite. It hears God’s promises and says “Yes!” by acting in accordance with them. Faith hears God say “I have given you this land,” and responds by taking possession of it.
Faith is crying out to God to save, and then acting as if he is on his way. Better yet, knowing that he is already here, already at work, and we open our eyes and begin to pay closer attention so we can join him.
Faith is a refusal to take matters into our own hands, but it is also a tenacious moving forward, believing that God has not abandoned us and his promises are true.
Patient tenacity: this is the posture of a Christian, and we cultivate it during Advent.
Of course we are entering a different kind of season tomorrow, but how can you take this posture of patient tenacity with you into Christmas?
A few questions for reflection:
- In what areas are you still waiting for God to fulfill his promises?
- How are you tempted to “shrink back,” taking matters into your own hands?
- What would patient tenacity look like for you?
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