How are your hiking legs? Are you keeping up?
The next few lines, like the next turn on our mountain vista hike, are breathtaking:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb.4: 14-16)
This is the third time the writer refers to Jesus as our high priest, a recurring theme throughout Hebrews. We’ll start diving into that hot topic in my next post; for today, let’s find some sunny rocks to sit on while we contemplate other beautiful images.
I’m not a Marvel superhero fan, but every time I think of Jesus “going through the heavens”, here’s what I see: our powerful, all-conquering Hero bursting through the heavens, cape flying, entering the holy sanctuary on our behalf. He’s got us covered! He’s found a way, MADE a way, to deal with the mess and catastrophe of our sins against God, others, and ourselves, and he’s making things right. I picture my fellow sinners and me, staring shame-faced at the ground while he pushes past our misery to go where we cannot. To pay the price, offer the sacrifice, clear the way. How can we NOT hold firmly to such a Hero, such a faith?
With victory on our side, we’re urged to approach the throne of grace with confidence. To pray freely and gratefully. Sounds simple, right?
Then why do we sometimes approach the throne of grace like we’re approaching The Bench in a court of law: reluctantly, fearfully, dragging our heels in a spirit of procrastination rather than a spirit of joy?
Or am I the only one who too often struggles to pray? Even knowing God has given me carte blanche, an open invitation to feast on his mercy and grace…
Imagine a 24-hour Help Center with no fees, no wait times, no screening process, no bank holidays, and no inept responders. In fact, the person you’ll always reach—the moment you call— is infinitely wise, patient, compassionate, and helpful—the perfect counsellor and advisor. He has all the time in the world for you, and is never shocked or overwhelmed by what you share. Not only is he the perfect listener, but he always knows how to encourage and direct you. And it’s never with fluff or empty clichés, but with pure gold, advice and affirmation you’d spend thousands to get anywhere else. And it’s all free. Not only that, everything he advises actually works. With every call, he fixes, relieves, strengthens, and heals what ails you—even things you didn’t know were weighing on you till you started talking.
You can return all your self-help books, cancel the workshop you were going to attend, and lay off the self-medicating. If you still feel a bit shaky, you can call right back for more encouragement, at no extra charge, ever, because the Helpline is always, always free. The call center welcomes ‘likes’, feedback, and positive reviews, and delights in frequent and regular callers; you’ll never become an annoyance, In fact, the One who takes every calls always makes you feel like his favorite, even though you know he must have countless others. It’s like THE. BEST.THING. EVER.
So why do we put off calling?
Only one explanation makes sense. Our strange reluctance is the work of our Enemy, stopping us from accessing the greatest power in the universe. He KNOWS what waits for us at the throne of grace, and it’s everything we need to withstand his attacks. All the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience…the grace to forgive others, and the power of self-control. The gift of wisdom, readily given to those who ask (James 1:3). The shield of faith, reactivated as we remember all God has done for us. The comfort of forgiveness and release; the promise of God’s loving intervention when we pray for others. The gratitude that floods our hearts as we praise him for his goodness and protection, now and in the past and future. And so much more.
These days I begin almost every prayer by praising him for the throne of grace, the mighty refuge and fortress where I run to him. The fact that God has given us this access, this intimacy, this freedom to approach him is simply staggering. The only gift or offering we bring in return is a humble, contrite heart, and a teachable spirit (Isaiah 66:2).
I think of Esther’s story, how fearfully she approached King Xerxes—her own husband—when she approached him without being summoned, praying he’d extend his golden scepter and not punish her for her audacity. King Xerxes was merely a king, a man. The Creator of the Universe has given us, his children, a lifetime pass to walk into his Oval Office, the throne room, the inner sanctum, whenever we want. No golden scepter need be extended; it hangs permanently over the open threshold, lighting our way.
Another analogy for this grace is monetary: imagine a Mega Lottery bank account with your name on it. You can withdraw whatever you need whenever you need it. No limits, no taxes, no fines. It’s ready when you are. Is your spiritual currency gathering dust? Or are you faithfully withdrawing and sharing with others, just as our generous Benefactor hopes you will?
Every now and then a new ‘starving millionaire’ story turns up, always after a death. Someone elderly and isolated has been living on noodles, or cat food, or hot dogs, when it turns out they had millions in the bank or stashed under their mattress. We scratch our heads, wondering why anyone would choose such a life, given their wealth. Yet this is how some of our prayer-weak lives must look to God. We’re eating cat food, sleeping on tired mattresses, and shrinking from prayer— when we could be feasting.
I’ve convicted the tar out of myself with this one. Time to approach the throne of grace with confidence—and revel in my access!