Keep Calm, Trust and Pray
The Final words of admonition by the writer of Hebrews. Importance of trusting leadership & praying for them!
Heb 13:17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. 19 I urge you the more earnestly to do this in order that I may be restored to you the sooner.
1862, during the Civil War, the Union army took Fredericksburg, Va. And advanced on the confederate army assembled behind a large stone wall south of town. The union army attacked and shortly 8000 soldiers lay shot and scattered in front of that stone wall, most of them Union soldiers. Night fell and soldiers in both camps heard the cries and moans of those dying on the battlefield. They were wounded, cold and parched, it was one of the horrible scenes of war. Next day sergeant Richard Rowland Kirkland asked Brig. General Kershaw for permission to scale the wall and help what soldiers he could. He was told no, it was too dangerous. But he continued insisting and got permission. He asked if he could wave a white handkerchief as he went and the General said no. Kirkland said, “All right, sir, I'll take my chances.” And over the wall he went.
Immediately shots rang out, the other side thought a charge was forming but then stopped when it was just one man. Kirkland took many canteens with him, covered a man with his own coat. Both sides watched as he went from wounded soldier to another. He stopped at every wounded soldier. Did I mention these were mostly northern boys? Did I mention Kirkland was a confederate sergeant? He was promoted to Lieutenant at the battle of Gettysburg and I have a feeling, he was the kind of leader men would trust. The kind of leader men would follow.
But what does it mean for Christians? In this context, leaders are spiritual leaders. Back in V7 he says we should imitate these leaders. Now he says obey and submit. But the word obey has other meanings. It’s not just the word barked out by an angry parent or drill sergeants. It carries the idea of trust and agreement, even to befriend. So obey implies follow them because you trust them. The next word, submit, means surrender, as in ‘go their way’, give in to them.
Some people think this is a pastor’s favorite verse: “Obey your leaders!” because we want to boss people around. But actually it reminds us to be trustworthy. To be people who others are willing to follow.
But he quickly tells you why to trust your pastor. They “keep watch for your souls because they must keep account!” Let me repeat that last bit: “Must keep account!” Interesting idea. The pastor is to serve the church. Jesus came to serve. Pastors are to imitate Him. But while the pastor serves the church it doesn’t mean he works for the church. He keeps account with God. Now, the pastor may serve at the church’s pleasure. It could be the church who tells him when its time to go. But he works for God. He serves and gives his account to God.
There are people who know a lot more about leadership than I do. I just keep it simple. I just want to lead, by following hard after Jesus. I want to follow Jesus in such a way, someone just might say, “He’s following Jesus, I can follow him. I trust him.” I cannot think of any higher tribute man can give me. In fact, if you wrote that on my tomb it’d be great – “He followed Christ.”
But this isn’t about me, it’s about the church trusting their leaders. If your leader proves himself untrustworthy find one who is. Now I don’t mean they have to be perfect, they can’t. But they ought to earn and keep trust.
Because they keep account. I used to think that meant someday I’d stand before God and be held accountable for what I taught and preached and how I led others. And that may be true. But I’ve learned something else. When I come before God in prayer, I may pray for your Dr. visit and your Aunt Bobby’s surgery, but I have to give account for you in prayer. Now I don’t have to tell God how you’re doing, He knows better than I how you’re doing! But I am either rejoicing over your progress or I carry the burden of your lack of following Christ! When I come to the Lord, on your behalf, with a burden for your eternal soul, that doesn’t speak well of your walk with Christ.
So after telling them to trust and obey, he invites them to pray for Him. He follows Trust and Obey with Pray and Pray!
V 19: Pray for us! This is a very logical thing to say after “Trust us and obey us!” Pray for us! Why? There are lots of reasons but here he says that He will act honorably! To deal honestly with people, to Behave Well! I so wish more pastors were concerned with that! Pastors should be about acting well! I see so many pastors with an “I’m right and I don’t care what you think” attitude. That’s not honorable! I may be right about a lot of things but guess what! I’ve been wrong a time or two. All pastors, all teachers and all leaders are wrong now and then.
He has a clear conscience about the letter he has written and his position on the Excellence of Jesus Christ, but he says pray for me to act honorably AND to be able to see you all soon.
How do you pray for your pastor and teacher and leaders? Do you pray for them? I did a quick look at the times Paul asked for prayers in his letters. He did that a lot! I figure if Paul needed prayers I definitely do! Here are a few things he asked prayer for: He wanted to be a blessing to people, he wanted boldness to preach the gospel, he hoped for open doors for the word of God and that the Word of God spread freely, He asked for safety and and for restoration; to be with the people of God once again.
Pray for your leaders! Pray earnestly. Pray with your heart and soul for me, and Larry and Matt and your Sunday School teacher and any other leader you come across. Wives pray for your husbands. Men pray for the people who teach you what it means to follow Jesus.
Heb 13:20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant,
Heb 13:21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
Heb 13:22 I appeal to you, brothers, bear with my word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly.
Heb 13:23 You should know that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom I shall see you if he comes soon.
Heb 13:24 Greet all your leaders and all the saints. Those who come from Italy send you greetings.
Heb 13:25 Grace be with all of you.
Then the Writer prays for them: (read 20-21) V20 is a beautiful benediction. He packs so much in just a few words. There is a God of Peace who wants us to be at Peace with Him. There is the Lord’s Resurrection that gives us this peace with God. There He is as shepherd, or savior and our Lord and leader, and it is all because of His sacrifice for us! His blood establishes an Eternal Covenant! Not a temporary stay of execution!
And he says all that to introduce V21 (read) God has to equip us so that we can please Him.
You know what this means?
It means you were not equipped to please Him until He graced you with His presence. And He is working in you – all the time – to continue to please Him! And it’s all through Jesus Christ that you are equipped and enabled to bring Glory to God the Father! That is the ultimate goal! Not our obedience, not our pleasing Him, Both of those are good! But the Goal is God’s Glory. Men should see our good works and do what? Glorify our Father in Heaven!
So, he says, give heed to this brief letter! (V22) It may seem long to you but concerning the subject matter, this is short! It’s like the author knew how many books would be written on the subjects he wrote about in this book!
And He calls them brothers. Even though he is a leader, he is also just a brother. He is not their father, he is their brother. In equal standing before God, the same grace and mercy was needed to save his rotten soul as well.
He gives them a bit of good news. Timothy has been released. He has just asked for their prayers and then he tells them, look! God has answered your prayers for Timothy! He’s released and I’ll try to bring him to see you! SOMETIMES we need to be reminded that prayer really does matter! It’s easy to think God is going to do what God is going to do no matter what I say. But God says the effectual fervent prayers of the righteous man avails much with God!
And Finally; (read 24-25) Grace be with you all. It is Grace that makes ALLLLL the difference! Without grace we are lost and dead. But when grace is with us we have life eternal!
When it comes to your salvation, your growth, your eternity in heaven – Its ALL GRACE!
Do you have grace?