Last week I opened a fortune cookie and got the message I’ve been waiting for:
“You will become an accomplished writer.”
This three-inch slip of hope is now taped to my keyboard, a humble reminder of my artistic dream. Not that I believe in fortune cookies. But every word of encouragement helps. Even with two completed, full length manuscripts and two more books underway, I struggle to own my second identity, because my books have yet to find a publisher. Despite my passion and productivity, I sometimes doubt.
For most aspiring writers, doubt is part and parcel of our journey. A few lucky authors hit the bestseller jackpot, while the majority scramble to get noticed. Even landing an agent and publisher doesn’t guarantee success, unless you measure success with a very short ruler.
On Doubting Days, it’s hard to feel inspired. Who am I kidding? I’ll ask myself. Who cares what I have to say?
Which brings us to our next passage, another pinnacle moment on our hike so far:
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place through the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience, and having our bodies washed with pure water.
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we possess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on to love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Heb.10:19-25)
Before penning these words, the writer of Hebrews devoted nine and a half chapters to stoking our faith. He’s shown us the absolute supremacy of Christ, the absolute fullness of his sacrifice, the absolute faithfulness of God, and the absolute certainty of every promise He’s made to us. We are absolutely loved, absolutely forgiven, and absolutely ready to join the Father and Son in heaven when that Day comes. God wants us to be certain!
Consider these key phrases: We have confidence. A new and living way. Full assurance of faith. Hearts… and bodies washed with pure water. Hold unswervingly. He is faithful.
If you can truly claim this measure of confidence—and I hope, by now, you can—you’ll be unshakeable. Nothing will defeat you. Whatever ups and downs, losses, disappointments, or setbacks you face, nothing can rob you of this confidence and joy in what God has done FOR YOU. And for everyone who loves Him.
If Hebrews is a call to repentance for drifting/disheartened disciples and a passionate reminder of what God has done, this passage is its perfect application. Rejoice in God’s forgiveness and draw near. Be filled with this confidence. And use your overflowing faith and gratitude to encourage others!
I come from a faith community that practiced and preached a number of favorite scriptures. The last portion of this passage (Heb. 10: 24-25) is one of them. With it, we were admonished to attend every service and gathering so we could encourage one another. The premise was sound. Meeting together IS important, and we ARE called to help each other cross the finish line.
But often these verses were preached in isolation, ignoring the previous words about our supreme hope and confidence, secured for us through Christ. About the OVERFLOW that fills our hearts so we have something precious to share in the fellowship. Because what’s more encouraging than being around someone who truly rejoices in God’s abundant gifts—especially those unseen gifts that can never spoil or fade away?
When we’re truly focused on the gift of salvation, our hearts will overflow. The fellowship will feel it. The saints will be refreshed, even if nothing particularly exciting is happening in their day-to-day lives. Even if earthly life, at the moment, is tedious, troubling, or sorrowful. Even if “the fig tree does not bud, and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails, and the fields produce no food…” or worse, if “Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds; therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails” (Hab.3:17;1:3-4). Habakkuk, in the worst of times, understood God’s overarching grace, the promise of future joy in heaven.
I recall many times when our fellowship bubbled with joy and zeal. I also remember being in gatherings where the prevailing mood was flat or anxious, where members were admonished for missing meetings or not taking seriously the command to “encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching”. The trouble then, if I may diagnose in retrospect, was not spotty attendance (we all showed up, all the time), but a lack of inner joy. Whether through distraction or discouragement, if we weren’t filled with confidence in our own salvation, how could we overflow with genuine encouragement for each other?
This hope and confidence should shine brightest when our outward circumstances look bleak. When we can’t point to anything but God for the reason for our hope. When our cups are dry. When we don’t have publishing deals, or healthy bank accounts, or upcoming vacations, or grandchildren to brighten our later years. When tomorrow looks like more of the difficult same, unless God turns an unexpected page.
In this context, the command to encourage one another makes perfect sense. If we’re fully aware of the Winning Ticket we hold in Christ, we’ll have plenty of joy to share with the downcast. Fellowshipping with someone who is joyful IN SPITE of ongoing troubles and heartache is most inspiring. After all, if someone seems blessed on every earthly front, why wouldn’t they be happy?
So before we meet up to encourage one another, let’s go to the source of eternal encouragement. Let’s show up to the fellowship banquet with fresh bread in our baskets!
As for my fortune cookie prediction, who knows? I may or may not see my future books do well. But if my words encourage anyone, if they mean anything in God’s estimation, that’s accomplishment enough.