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Blessing Spiritual Leaders Even in Times of Trial (Hebrews 13:17-25)

Hebrews 13:17–25 - 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable for you. 18 Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a good conscience, desiring to conduct ourselves honorably in all things. 19 And I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you the sooner. 20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. 22 But I urge you, brethren, bear with this word of exhortation, for I have written to you briefly. 23 Take notice that our brother Timothy has been released, with whom, if he comes soon, I will see you. 24 Greet all of your leaders and all the saints. Those from Italy greet you. 25 Grace be with you all. What does today’s passage say? In today's passage, the author instructs believers to consistently follow and submit to church leaders (v. 17) since pastors and elders will give an account to God for how well they guided their congregation. Therefore, members should make leading a joyful privilege, not a burdensome duty. The writer then requests prayer (v. 18) so he can soon be reunited with the readers and fruitfully minister with a clear conscience and honorable, godly behavior. He also intercedes in prayer (vv. 20-21) for God to inwardly strengthen and equip believers to obediently carry out His perfect will in a manner that pleases Christ and brings glory to Him forevermore. Finally, the author gives personal updates and greetings to conclude the letter (vv. 22-25). How can I apply Hebrews 13:17-25 to my life? As followers of Jesus Christ, God desires for us to grow in spiritual maturity and Christlike character. Our passage today provides practical principles for how we can increasingly live lives that are pleasing and honoring to God. Whether we are leading the body of Christ like the writer of Hebrews or faithfully attending our local church, we all have a part to play for the gospel mission to advance. This requires that each one of us takes personal responsibility for our spiritual development while also seeking unity and harmony within the body of believers. There will be trials of many kinds that surface along the journey as the enemy actively opposes biblical truth from penetrating hearts and transforming lives. But we can confidently press forward knowing that God promises to generously supply us His strength, wisdom and sustaining grace through every hardship we face for His name’s sake. Our responsibility is to continually draw near to Him in dependent prayer while also supporting one another along the way. As we choose to obey God’s Word, we position ourselves to experience the blessings of walking in step with the Spirit day by day. Here are some basic principles from this passage that we should apply to our lives:

  1. Continually Obey Your Spiritual Leaders Who Will Be Held Accountable for Watching over Your Souls (v.  17): Those who have been placed over you as spiritual leaders carry a heavy weight of responsibility. They will be held accountable before God for how well they shepherd and guide the flock under their care. Therefore, it is important that believers make the job of spiritual leadership a joy rather than a burden by submitting to their authority and continually following their biblical wisdom and direction. The church depends on the harmony between leaders and congregants to properly grow spiritually. Make sure that in your Christian walk you are not resistant to your leaders, whether intentional or not, but rather demonstrate a spirit of humility and honor by relinquishing preference and deferring to their leadership. When we fight against those God has appointed, we are actually fighting against what He desires to accomplish in our life. Practically speaking, this means not criticizing decisions you may disagree with, choosing to implement counsel even when it contradicts your own ideas, and proactively communicating about issues rather than gossiping with others. It also means praying for and encouraging your spiritual leaders on a regular basis. Our attitude of honor and respect directly impacts the blessing of God on our own life as well as the fruitfulness of ministry in our church as a whole (Romans 13:1-2, 1 Timothy 5:17-20, Ephesians 4:11-13, Hebrews 13:7).

Food for thought: Am I harboring resentment or criticism in my heart about my spiritual leaders? Am I obeying the teaching and spiritual direction given to me and not just giving it lip service? Have I sincerely asked God to give me a submissive attitude and spirit toward authority?

  1. Pray for your spiritual leaders that they live their lives beyond reproach (v. 18): The writer of Hebrews urges the believers to pray for their leaders. This admonition implies that spiritual leadership carries an immense responsibility and spiritual battle that we may not fully comprehend as congregants. Our pastors, elders and ministry leaders need grace daily to fight temptation, withstand criticism, juggle demands, receive confusing counsel and continue moving forward despite hardship and weariness. As they give of themselves to minister to others, their spiritual tank can run low if not regularly filled by the Spirit. Our prayers for their protection, wisdom, discernment, purity and perseverance are vital support that fuels their ability to keep standing strong. Cover them daily through prayer so they can finish the race well with their integrity intact. We owe them great gratitude for their labor among us. Ask God to make them "blameless and above reproach" so that their service brings honor to Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:25, 2 Thessalonians 3:1, James 5:16).

Food for thought: Do I regularly pray for my spiritual leaders when I pray?  Have I specifically prayed for areas they may struggle with that I may be aware of? Could I send them an encouraging note this week to let them know I am praying?

  1. Persevere Through Your Trials as God Equips You for Everything He Has Called You to in Jesus Christ (vv. 20-22): As believers, we will face difficulties, opposition, and suffering as we seek to walk faithfully with God. Yet we can press on knowing that through Christ, we have been equipped and enabled to endure these trials for the sake of the gospel. God promises to supply us strength, wisdom, and grace for each day. Every trial has purpose in perfecting our faith, refining our character, and deepening our trust in God alone to sustain us. We must not lose heart or retreat. As the Great Shepherd, Jesus leads us through our trials and protects us from the prowling enemy. He intercedes so we can bear fruit that remains. He sends the Spirit to remind us of truth when lies condemn. Though trials will come, we can rejoice that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. His resurrection power works mightily in us as we hope in Him. Our suffering pales compared to the eternal glory it produces. Persevere by keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus and the joy set before you. Run to Him as your shelter and strength in times of trouble. He promises to never leave or abandon you as you traverse difficult terrain for the glory of His name (Romans 5:3-5, James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7).

Food for thought: What trial am I struggling to see God's purpose in? How has He proven faithful to help me through difficulties in the past? Am I relying on His strength each day or trying to white-knuckle it? This passage gives us practical wisdom for faithful Christian living in the closing words of this letter. Whether we find ourselves in a position of spiritual leadership or sitting under the teaching of those whom God has placed over us, we each have a part to play for the glory of Christ. God makes it clear that there are blessings connected to the body of Christ functioning in unity and order, with each member using their unique gifts to build up one another. There are also consequences when believers choose to live independently without proper accountability and connection to their local church. Scripture warns us not to forsake gathering together with other followers of Jesus. We need each other along this journey called life. No one was designed to walk alone. As we face various trials that will surely come as evil powers continue working to undermine our faith, we must stand firm together. We have God’s promise that although hardship may last for the night, inevitable joy comes in the morning. Place your confident hope in Christ alone and you will never be disappointed. Fix your eyes on the unseen eternal realities rather than the temporal struggles before you. God is able to do above and beyond all you could ever imagine. Stay the course and finish well by relying fully on His resurrection power living inside every believer through the indwelling Holy Spirit. The best is yet to come! Prayer Dear Heavenly Father, I pray that You would continually mold me to live a life that is pleasing and honoring to You each day. I pray that You would produce in me a spirit of humility, respect, and submission towards those You have placed in spiritual leadership over me. Enable me to graciously receive their biblical counsel and to implement it with sincerity rather than just giving lip service. Grow me to become less resistant to authority so that I do not hinder what You want to accomplish through my local church body. I also pray You give me a heart to consistently lift up my spiritual leaders in prayer. I ask You to keep them blameless and pure as they serve and shepherd Your people. As trials come my way, I pray that You would remind me of Your sustaining grace and equip me to persevere by faith in Christ. I long to stay firmly rooted in Your Word and draw strength from Your Spirit so I can bear fruit that remains for Your glory. I pray these things in the most precious name of Jesus, Amen.

Hebrews 13:20-21 – “ 20 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, 21 equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” With His Blessings, Pastor Corby

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