I wish I could tell you that you will get to a place spiritually where you will never be stuck again. Unfortunately, this is not possible. No matter your spiritual stage, you will discover there are times you will get stuck. This is a life cycle. Sometimes we get rolled over like the turtle above, and we ask ourselves: How did I ever get this way? It takes time to right ourselves again. Hopefully, like the poor turtle, someone will see us and help us turn around again. To get spiritually unstuck, your relationships matter.
You and I know we cannot just stay stuck. We have to take the next step! Today we are going to examine how we take it. The passage we will explore is Hebrews 10:24-25, which says:
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
The book of Hebrews is a powerful book. The main theme throughout the book is the superiority of Jesus Christ in everything. Towards the end of the book the author emphasizes that Christ was the last sacrifice that superseded all the former and repeated sacrifices for sins of the Old Testament. He appeared once for all to put away sin by His last, permanent, one-time sacrifice. Out of that superiority–His one and only sacrifice–flow all of the great themes of our faith. Things like salvation, victory over death, entering into God’s rest, the High Priest ministry of Christ for all mankind, the certainty of God’s promises, the New Covenant, enduring through trials, and the unshakable kingdom of God.
You may read this and think: With all of these great spiritual truths, how does anyone get spiritually stuck? I am not sure, but I know that we all do. The author of Hebrews talks about getting stuck. Let me give you some illustrations. Hebrews 4 talks about us not hardening our hearts and responding to the Word of God when we realize we are stuck. Hebrews 5 warns that we should not get stuck as baby Christians in immaturity. Hebrews 10 reminds us not to get stuck in willful sin. Hebrews 12 cautions against getting stuck when we are spiritually drained. If you are spiritually stuck today, or if you know someone who is stuck, there are some steps you need to take to get unstuck. We will oversimplify three points made in Hebrews, so we can remember them a little better.
1) PUSH: If you are stuck, or if you know someone who is stuck, you have or she/he has got to push. Verse 24 above says we should spur one another on towards love and good deeds. We will call it “push.” There are two strong Greek phrases in that verse. The first one is “to consider.” This means to think hard and fix your mind on a solution. Let us think really hard so we can do what? The second phrase: “stir or provoke” one another to love and good deeds. This phrase means to incite. This is used in two ways in the Hebrew Bible. The first way refers to urging someone on, as if they were running a race. You are cheering on the sidelines encouraging them to keep going and to finish the race. The second way has a negative meaning. It means to incite someone by irritating them with your behavior. Today we are talking about the pushing we give someone else to encourage them to move forward.
People get stuck all of the time. We must learn how to push others towards love and good deeds. We get so caught up in the notion that love is a feeling. This is NOT the Biblical definition of love! In a nutshell, love is figuring out how to do something good for the person who really loves us. When we get stuck, we need someone there to push us in love out of our ruts. God also wants us to do good works for others to help us turn this world around. Ephesians 2:10 says, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to.” Here we get stuck and find out we are not loving the way we ought to or doing good works the way we ought to and we pull back and realize where we are at. God does not want us to go through our spiritual journeys alone. We need each other’s help! Most of the time, we cannot get unstuck by ourselves. This is why God designed the church and relationships in a certain way. They help people get unstuck. We need to push others in the right direction.
If you need to push someone who is stuck, it can feel a little threatening for you. For example if you push someone who is not treating his spouse right, it might be kind of scary to approach him about his situation. To be on the receiving end of a push can be scary too. You might think, “Well who died and left you in charge? I don’t want to hear from you!” When someone is stuck and you see him like a turtle on its back, you have got to turn him back over the right way! This requires pushing sometimes, and it’s not always easy. God has designed the church in such a way that we become “fellow pushers.” We are able to detect sometimes when someone is really struggling and tipped over on their back. We come alongside and we think about how to incite them and get them going again.
If you are growing cold in your love towards other people, and you just don’t want to do good things anymore for people and for God, then you have your first sign that YOU may be getting stuck. You need to call out to someone and let him or her know you are on your back. Let someone come alongside of you and push you to get you on your feet again. If you happen to stumble across someone at your church, workplace, school or even in your family who is in a funk, take a risk. Think really hard how it is that you can motivate someone and help to turn him or her over.
2) APPEAR: If you are stuck, or if you know someone who is stuck, then your or he/she needs to get in the habit of appearing at church on a regular, weekly basis. The first part of verse 25 in our passage above says we should not neglect to meet with one another. Another sign you might be spiritually stuck is if you stop going to church. You start to get into the habit of not attending services. There are many people who fall into this category. There is a growing and unfortunate trend now that people only go to church once or twice a month. God designed the church and bought it with His precious blood. God wants people to appear in His church. Something happens there to help people get unstuck. It is really important to God that we get together on a regular basis and appear in one congregation to hear from God.
The Greek word for “meeting together” in verse 25 is episunagogen. Does this sound like a word we know? Yes! Synagogue. The author of the book was thinking about the synagogue and how people would meet there on a regular, weekly basis. He brings this idea over to the Christian experience we have today. We come together to worship, to hear the Word of God proclaimed, to be edified, and to involve ourselves in fellowship. In today’s world we have opportunities to meet more often than just Sunday mornings. There are Tuesday night prayer meetings, Wednesday night services, Thursday Bible studies, Friday evening small groups, Saturday work parties and more. Some people might mistakenly think we have to be at church every single time the door is open. This verse says that when church has its main meetings (which are now typically on Sunday mornings), we need to choose at least one and appear.
Now the question is: WHY? The Holy Spirit shows up in a unique way that He doesn’t show up in any other venue on the entire planet. When God’s people get together, the Spirit of God begins to move in a marvelous way when His people come together using their spiritual gifts, by the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, by opening up the Word of God in proclamation as the Spirit of God moves in the hearts of people. The major way God wants to change people coming every seven days is through worship to Him, falling down at His feet, letting the Spirit of God take charge of the meeting, and seeing lives change. This doesn’t happen in any other venue. It is so important to appear in church. It helps prevent us from getting stuck long term.
There is a flip side to this last point. Churches can also be places to get stuck and stay stuck. Many churches have plateaued or declined. Boring sermons. Lifeless rituals. Shoddy music. People who appear in these churches every seven days are going to get stuck. You want to be in a vibrant church where God is moving, and you can catch a wave of God’s movement. You won’t stay stuck in this kind of church.
It doesn’t take long to get into the habit of not appearing. It only takes about three weeks. If you go three weeks then you are probably going to be on the threshold of getting stuck. Then you need an excuse to come like someone calling you asking where you were last week and inviting you come this week. You throw yourself a little pity party. What does it really take to get unstuck? Changing your attitude, getting out of bed, finding your keys, getting in your car, driving into the parking lot, walking into the church building to getting your fanny into a seat. This will keep you right where you need to be. You can’t blame it on other people if somehow you get into a habit of not appearing.
Here’s a formula for you: A + T = D. It means that absence plus time equals distance. If you stay away and do not appear and a lot of time goes by then there will be distance between you and that church. Your heart will move away. It is so important not to miss out on Godly worship with the brothers and sisters of Christ. If you are unstuck, keep coming regularly. Don’t let this formula above take over you!
3) LIFT: If you are stuck, or if you know someone who is stuck, then encouragement is needed when you or he/she is down. The second part of verse 25 in our passage above says that we should encourage one another–and all the more as we see the Day approaching. The word “encourage” in the Greek means to calls alongside of. When a signal for help is given by someone who might be stuck then they need someone to encourage them and tell them things that will help them out of the difficulty they are in. When we feel comforted and someone encourages us then we feel lifted.
The church services in the first century are not like the ones we have right now. There were not big long rows of seats in large auditoriums with big platforms where the worship leaders lead and the preachers preached. They were in smaller venues that were more informal and participative than we see today. Today it is very, very hard to come to the weekly large meeting and lift people. Lifting people can happen easier in a small group setting where there is more participation going on, where people can open up their lives, and talk to each other about what is happening from week to week. In a small group meeting you can start ministering and really lift up people who are struggling in this life. Sometimes it is in those small group settings we meet people who can get us unstuck. In small groups you can all cry together, pray together, break bread together, worship together, laugh together, pour your hearts out together and lift each other. You can share stories with each other that really encourage one another. I hope you have had or will find a small group where you can be lifted up and lift up others before the Lord.
We will all get stuck at one point in time or another. I’m originally from California. California driving is a beast of its own. Sometimes you can cruise the highway and make good time and zip from here to there. Other times you are sitting there in bumper-to-bumper traffic just crawling along inch by inch wondering when you will ever begin to really move again. You can sure feel stuck, especially during rush hour traffic! Life can be like that sometimes. Let someone show you an exit if you find yourself stuck on the highway of life. Allow them to show you the back road where you can get unstuck.
Satan will use three little tools to keep you unstuck. 1) Secrecy: If Satan can make you think that you shouldn’t talk to anyone about what is happening to you while you are stuck, you are entrapped and will stay stuck. Go to a trusted friend, share your struggles, and get it out in the open. There is freedom that comes in that moment when you share. 2) Isolation: If you have a secret you are unwilling to discuss and you are stuck, you will begin to feel isolated from other people. You will move back into a more private mode. Don’t be like the turtle that stays hidden in its shell. The way to get unstuck is through relationships. 3) Alienation: It is not hard to go from secrecy to isolation to alienation. Don’t start to get an attitude about people and assume they don’t care about you. Be careful not to believe things about people that aren’t true. Satan wants to keep us stuck with these three tools.
The end of verse 25 says “the Day is drawing near.” What is this Day he is talking about? He is talking about when Christ comes for the church. When you lift someone up, you can remind them that one day Jesus Christ is coming back again, and this pain and struggle of life will be over. It’s all temporary, and one day you will never have to deal with it again. When you see someone stuck in sin, you can remind them that one day Jesus is coming back, and we should all be ready. We are now 2,000 years closer to the coming of Christ then when this passage was first written. There should be all the more urgency to go to someone and seek help. The church should never get so comfortable with the immediate that it forgets Jesus is coming back again. Let us lift people and encourage them because God so designed the church to encourage one another.
Let’s all imagine that we are wearing shirts with a letter “U” or “S” on them right now. Would you have a U representing that you are unstuck or in the process of getting unstuck? Or, would you have an S representing that you are stuck or in the process of getting stuck? If you have a U, then keep on lifting, appearing and pushing or you will eventually get stuck. And for those of you who have an S, you will need to take some measures beginning with that next step. It’s always worse to stay stuck, and the cost of staying stuck is always worse than getting unstuck. Just ask that upside down turtle! Eventually if that turtle isn’t flipped over, it will die.
I don’t know where you are today, but every single one of us has one of those two letters on our chest–a U or an S. If you are wearing that S letter, it is ever so important that you find someone you know, love and trust who is a little further down the road than you and allow him to help you take that next step. Or if you are in a small group, open up there. I hope that small group is a safe place for you, and you find out that they can help you. This week won’t you commit to taking the next step? Get off of your back and onto your feet again!