A conversation on wandering.
Today we are continuing our conversation through some of the key principles found in the Book of Hebrews. The foundation of this book that we see over and over and over again is that Jesus is greater. Greater than angels, greater than Moses. Greater than you and I. And this is the heart of Hebrews and what I need to hear again today: Jesus is greater.
We started off the series with an overview of that concept and ended with the processing of moving from being told to actually processing Jesus’ greatness. And today we process what it looks like to continue in faith. To not wander. To not give up on faith when things get hard.
Think about a time you have resolved to do something, or to quit something. And someone comes to you and says “don’t quit.” What does that do to you? Maybe it causes you to pause. Or reflect. Or even change. There are really complicated moments in life where there is resolve to quit. Jobs. Addictions. Friendships. These can be heavy, emotional, complicated moments. But it generally isn’t that easy to just “not quit” just because someone says “don’t quit.”
We need to process this concept of not wandering off as being so much more than a simple command that we should hear or that we should share.
Identify some of the changes you’ve made in your own life, be it marriage, career, relocation or something else. Think about the influences on these changes. Thinking about how the change process was started. Thinking about how it went from possibility to reality.
Thinking about how it was followed through with as opposed to abandoning the idea and not changing.
Why did these changes happen as opposed to not happen?
What is the difference between a potential change that happens and a potential change that doesn’t happen?
So much of this theme of “don’t wander” shows up in Hebrews.
Why do people choose to follow Jesus and why do people choose to stop following Jesus?
Again this book was written to people who had already decided to follow Jesus but were feeling external pressure that was causing them to question whether or not it was worth it.
In our culture today we don’t necessarily count the cost of things. I get into projects all the time without counting the costs. Maybe it’s not a culture thing. Maybe it’s just me.
We definitely have a Christian culture that doesn’t present much of the cost. Someone who knows nothing about Jesus is invited to say a prayer to accept Jesus into their heart, and they’re told it’s the best decision they’ve ever made, and when they’re done it’s kind of like “Well, alright, good job, uh, good luck!”
That’s over simplified and not always the case, but it is common.
These people in Hebrews though had counted the cost. They likely knew the disciples personally. They likely knew people who had been killed for following Jesus, so the whole of the book took on some different meanings.
This concept of not wandering for us today has often been communicated with fear.
“Don’t wander away from God OR ELSE!!!!”
In a transactional culture, it’s a lot easier to just get that down. Just follow it, don’t question it.
It seems like the things I’m most committed to I would have to blatantly choose to wander away from them. Wandering definitely carries this connotation that sometimes it’s not completely intentional. I think about my kids when we’re in public, and whenever they wander off it’s not because they want to wander. It’s because something has gotten their attention and drawn them in. If you haven’t seen this in action, just take a four year old to the zoo. You might lose them for a bit.
The Greek really paints this picture of a slow slipping away. This isn’t a moment of high emotion and deciding you’re going to go the other way. This is over a period of time, seemingly without maybe you noticing it.
“How did I get here?”
Why do you unintentionally wander from things?
Think about your most committed commitments. Think about your own attitudes toward those things. It’d be hard to unintentionally wander from them. But ignoring or avoiding could definitely catalyze that.
What would it look like for you to wander away from them? What are the reasons you would wander away from them?
Think about your life changes you made note of.today about life changes. What have been motivators to stay in those commitments?
Have those been motivators that you’d consider healthy or “good”, or would you consider them to be unhealthy or “bad?”
Really process this for yourself. We’re not using good and bad as a moral scale here. This is internal. What you would internally consider something good or beneficial for you, or something you’d consider bad or detrimental to you.
What motivates your commitment to something?
Do you consider those motivations to be good or bad?
Again, we don’t really know who wrote Hebrews, but it’s very likely they had personal or first hand relationships with the disciples. They saw these men follow Jesus and lay their lives down for the message of the gospel. The writer watched these men persist in their faith when challenge was all they saw in front of them. They persisted in commitment, and not because of what they could get from it necessarily.
Hebrews 11 really points to the pictures of all of the “heroes of faith” who persisted through challenge. We’ll get into this in a few weeks, but take a look at this theme.
Noah persisted through persecution to build an ark that saved humanity.
Abraham persisted through impossible circumstances to become the father of many nations.
Moses persisted in mistreatment instead of enjoying “the fleeting pleasures of sin” and in doing so became the greatest savior Israel had until Jesus.
Rahab persisted in trusting some Israelite men against all odds and was saved through destruction and even became an ancestor of Jesus.
So many more examples of these things.
They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated - the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.
Often we can be motivated to follow Jesus so we can get something good out of it. These people didn’t get what they had been promised, yet they persisted.
We all have our reasons for doing things. We might follow Jesus sometimes for what we can get. Good or bad, what reasons do you have? Why do you not wander, especially when everything in your life might push you toward wandering?
Internal is always key and this is no exception. I need to be able to answer this honestly within myself and you need to be able to do the same.
Why do you pursue a relationship with Jesus, especially in times when doing so doesn’t seem beneficial?
It’s easy to hear “don't wander” as a command.
To experience shame when questions arise and things get difficult.
But I think if we can have some perspective of those who have wandered I think it can really help us wrap our head around what the author of Hebrews is talking about.
When I think of wandering, my initial thought is to the Israelites, wandering into the wilderness. Lost.
Some holding onto the hope of some day while others holding onto the known realities of the past asking to be allowed to return to their lives as slaves in Egypt, because “at least they would know where their next meal would come from.”
Wandering and seeking but not finding. For 40 years. Started off really great.
I had an opportunity to visit this wilderness, and it’s not the wilderness of Minnesota. There are no trees, no 10,000 lakes, no shelter. Just dirt and rock.
There was no hope that the Israelites would have had the ability to care for themselves.
No hope of finding food or water.
No hope of protection from the sun’s summer heat.
No AC to cool down.
No blankets for warmth in the cold desert nights.
Just dirt and rock.
This idea of “don't wander” has been a difficult topic for me.
I have some past church experience PTSD that when “don’t wander” is communicated I hear “don’t question.”
Suck it up and pretend like you get it all.
Play the part.
Never doubt. Never question. Just follow blindly.
I did that for a while, but what I discovered was that my avoidance of “wandering” actually caused me to wander.
It’s like my faith was a hike, but I wasn't allowed to bring a GPS, or a map, or look at the signs; in fact I had to wear a blindfold, and I had to trust that I was going the right way and listening to the right people.
But what if our questions, doubts, and concerns, and struggles were not viewed as wandering, but rather as our maps, our gps, and our path to deeper relationships?
I don't know my wife better because I refuse to ask questions. I ask questions, spend time, and get to learn and grow in my understanding.
What if our questions and doubts are part of the process of knowing God?
You see, in the midst of the wilderness, God was with the Israelites. God was providing and helping. God was present.
Even in the difficult moments, God did not abandon them. He continued to provide.
Likewise in my most frustrated, confused, and doubtful moments, I believe God will never abandon me.
No matter what, God chooses to maintain his presence with you, me, and humanity. The wandering we see in Hebrews is not questions, doubting, struggling, ect. This wandering is to give up. To throw it away. To quit.
The writer of hebrews is encouraging the early Christians to maintain hope, even despite life’s circumstances. While this season can feel like wandering in the wilderness, God’s call for us today is to not wander. To maintain hope. To continue to grow in belief and engage with the process of doubts, questions, growth. To invest in relationships.:
"You do not have to travel the wilderness of life in the dark. Let God’s truth guide you as a pillar of fire by night and as a cloud by day. Where God leads, go! When God tells you to stop and camp out for a while, then trust and obey; because there is wisdom in camping out in the wilderness while God paves the road that you are to walk. Never forget that a road paved by God is not always smooth and easy. Oftentimes the road is rough, ragged, and dangerous, but even through such dangers and fear, it is the Lord who guides our steps." - The Cloud that Goes Before Us: Following God in our Wilderness
How does God’s commitment to presence with you help your resolve to “not wander”?
Take it Deeper Questions:
Read Hebrews 10:19-25
What is the point of the “let us” phrases found in this text? (NIV)
What are the reasons people have for not wandering from things?
What reasons do people have for wandering and/or not wandering from God?
How do the “let us” phrases inform, challenge and/or focus you in not wandering from God?
Bible Reading Plan:
1 Timothy 5
1 Timothy 6
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