By David Faust
Do you ever struggle to find the right balance between engagement and disengagement? Books like Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend and Cloud’s Necessary Endings remind us that it’s OK to say, “I can’t do that” or, “Let’s stop and find a new approach.”
There is a time to pull back and let go. We don’t have to fulfill every request or make ourselves available to others’ demands 24 hours a day. Jesus served those who truly needed him, but he disengaged from the crowd when it was time to be alone with the heavenly Father. Sometimes we need to bow out.
The book of Hebrews, however, cautions us not to take this too far. If our boundaries are too thick and our walls are too high, we won’t exercise bold, vigorous faith or experience deep, meaningful relationships. Yes, it’s possible to overdo it and burn out. But be honest—is your church currently plagued by an epidemic of overcommitment? Probably not. In many churches the opposite is true. Today so many distractions and competing interests vie for our attention that they weaken our service to Christ.
The book of Hebrews calls us to devote ourselves fully to God so we won’t “drift away” from the message we have heard (2:1). It says to encourage each other so that no one develops “a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God” (3:12, 13). It calls us to learn from the ordinary men and women whose life stories became extraordinary because they lived “by faith” (chapter 11).
It’s OK to have healthy boundaries—to say no, to change jobs, to try new approaches to ministry—but we should never settle for lukewarm faith and bow out of serving the Lord altogether. Discipleship is a lifetime commitment. At baptism a repentant believer pledges, “I’m all in.” We might bow out of a particular ministry, but we always bow down before Jesus.
Vibrant Faith & Healthy Relationships
Hebrews 10 shows how to keep our faith vibrant and our relationships healthy in the body of Christ. Three exhortations in this text begin with the phrase “let us,” and each step requires us to bow in surrender to the Lord.
We bow in worship: “Let us draw near to God” (v. 22). Don’t push God away; draw close to him. Go to worship services prepared to participate, not just critique. Pour out your heart in praise to the Lord.
We bow in hope: “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful” (v. 23). We bow cheerfully before the heavenly Father and hold onto our hope “unswervingly.” There can be no zig-zagging or flip-flopping here. We must cling steadfastly to the living hope only the risen Christ can give.
We bow in fellowship: “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another” (vv. 24, 25). We don’t serve God in isolation; we serve him shoulder to shoulder in community with Christ’s body. While we cling the Lord, we also cling to our Christian brothers and sisters and prod each other to engage in love and good deeds.
Yes, it’s good to strive for balance and be careful not to overcommit. But when it comes to worship, hope, and fellowship, God’s call is plain: Don’t bow out. Bow in.
1. In your current level of involvement in the Lord’s work, are you too engaged or not engaged enough?
2. How will you “draw near to God” this week?
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church, Indianapolis, Indiana.
The Lookout’s Bible Reading Plan for September 21, 2014
Use this guide to read through the Bible in 12 months. Follow David Faust’s comments on the highlighted text in every issue of The Lookout.
Isaiah 40, 41
Isaiah 42, 43
Isaiah 44, 45
Isaiah 49, 50