“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” We accept that proverb in many areas of life, such as medicine and mechanics. Yet in the most critical area of our lives, we often allow problems to confront us before we examine ourselves. Spiritually, we often operate under the old adage — the squeaking gate gets the oil.
The warning passages of Hebrews set before us the danger of spiritual regression. In chapter 2 the writer warns against being a "leaky vessel:" In chapter 4, the threat is unbelief that robs us of rest. In chapter 5, the danger is spiritual immaturity, which leads, in chapter 6, to a total loss of spiritual life.
How can the believer avoid these dangers? Chapter six is full of answers to that question. They come in the form of a spiritual preventative maintenance program. Three checkpoints are mentioned that, if dealt with daily, will prepare us for the crises likely to face all believers.
Area #1: We must daily maintain our desire to grow. (6:1-3)
Most of us have known the tragedy of a child that could not grow and develop physically or mentally. In my growing-up years, we had in our church family a twelve-year-old who had proper physical development but the mind of an infant. He could not walk, so his family carried him. One night at they were leaving a revival service, the evangelist accused the boy of being too lazy to walk. Of course, when he realized his error, he was mortified. But the damage had been done.
In God’s sight, however, it is infinitely sadder to see a Christian that isn’t developing — simply because there is no desire for advancement. Life crises will almost certainly overwhelm the believer who has failed to maintain a passion for spiritual growth.
One of my favorite Old Testament texts is the prayer of Jabez. In 1 Chronicles 4:10, Jabez asks God to "enlarge his borders." In short, this Old Testament saint was tired of going in circles, like the repetitive debates mentioned in Hebrews 6:1-3. Jabez wanted growth – expansion.
Jesus put it this way in Matthew 5:6. "Blessed are those who continually hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will continually be filled" (Snider version). God promised us growth, but, as believers, we must feed the desire. That is a part of the Christian's daily preventative maintenance program.
Area #2: We must daily maintain our desire for God's service. (6:4-8)
A key indicator of spiritual growth is a desire to serve others. People who are only concerned about their own salvation and welfare, or that of their family, are not growing Christians. One of the reasons the Hebrew writer expected greater things of these Hebrew Christians is that he observed in them a heart for others. He says in v. 10, "You have ministered to the saints, and DO minister" (emphasis mine). That is, they were contributing to the advancement of the kingdom of God!
One of the aspects of the Ukrainian church that impressed me was their insistence that every believer had to have a ministry. Yes, that requirement could become legalistic. And yes, they defined ministry quite broadly: from cooking and cleaning to singing in the choir or leading a Bible study. But the result was that believers focused more consistently on their impact on others.
What are you doing to advance the kingdom of God on a regular basis? Or do you even see the needs around you? Christians who are blind to the needs of others or who seldom engage in attempting to meet those needs will likely have their faith swept away in raging rivers of the storms of life.
Area #3 We must daily maintain our confidence in God. (6:9-20)
This text highlights at least three reasons for our confidence. First, God cares for us as individuals (6:9, 10). Believers are not just a part of the masses to God; He sees us individually, never forgetting our devotion to Him or our needs.
Secondly, we must maintain our assurance that God will keep His promises (6:11-18a). We live in upsetting times, and if we are not careful, we will allow our circumstances as individuals, as a church, or as a nation to rob us of our confidence that God is in charge and that He knows what He is doing! God had Noah build an upper window in the ark, and He also has one in your life! Are you using it, or has Fox News (or any other news source) so covered your upper window that you can't see through the storm to God? The songwriter said, "The darker the night; the brighter the light shines!" Despair is a prime source of spiritual failure!
Third, we must maintain our confidence in the hope set before us (6:18b-20). My mother often used the flannel graph of Pilgrim's Progress as a part of her children's ministry. I have seen it many times. Often in that allegory, Evangelist would point him to heaven when Christian became discouraged. And when that happened, Christian was immediately strengthened for the journey.
How often do you stop to contemplate "the things God has prepared for those who love Him?" He told us about them because He knew the way could get long and tough. Like Peter, he knew the danger of getting our eyes on the waves. Hope will die unless we feed it on the promises of God!
There is no surer way to lose the satisfaction of a real relationship with God than to quit your daily maintenance program. Maintaining your desire to grow, serve, and trust are our best defenses against backsliding. Is your preventive maintenance program in operation? If not, why not purpose right now to begin anew? Your eternity may well depend on it.