by Robby Higginbottom
August 25, 2014
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. Hebrews 2:1
Lately I’ve been working through Shark Week programming on our DVR at home. One program reenacted a shark attack off the coast of South Africa. (Apparently this didn’t really happen, but I still watched. Shame on you, Discovery Channel!) The story unfolded in Seal Bay, that legendary buffet where massive great white sharks feast on innocent seals. A boat of whale-watchers found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time as their boat hit some rocks, drifted into open water, and began to sink. As the people bobbed in the water and waited for rescue, the currents naturally carried people away from the crash site. They were drifting away, and rescuing them became increasingly difficult…as great white sharks were circling.
That’s a graphic image, but this fictional shark attack has a lesson for us. The people did not swim into trouble. They drifted. They weren’t looking to be separated from the pack or targeted by sharks, but they were. If this were real life, what would I tell the survivors? “Well, you probably shouldn’t go on a whale-watching cruise in shark-infested waters with a captain who gets too close to the rocks.” In other words, the real problem was an error in judgment before they ever left the shore. We all need to pay much closer attention to what we’re doing with our lives!
Are you drifting away? Whether you’re a freshman or a fifth-year senior or somewhere in between, have the currents of college swept you out to the sea of uncertainty? As you float off, do you feel the danger? In Hebrews 2, the author addresses Christians who are having a hard time. They’re being persecuted, and they’re tempted to turn back and stop following Jesus. In the fog of life, they’ve stopped paying attention to what they’ve heard, and they’re drifting away.
Sadly, I’ve seen this scenario unfold so many times for students. Some of us actively run away from God, but many of us simply bob in the water and assume that we can stay in the same place. Then ten days…ten months…ten years later, we have drifted so far away that following Jesus no longer makes sense. College students or recent graduates say things like, “I used to believe that, but now I know better.” How does this happen?
Drift is subtle. We hardly notice as it happens. In the end, drift is surprising. We never thought we could end up this far away. The antidote to this drifting away is paying “much closer attention to what we have heard” (Heb 2:1). What does this mean? The author of Hebrews is referring to what believers have heard from God himself – the message of the Scriptures, the good news of Jesus Christ. If we’ve heard the gospel before, we are tempted to believe we don’t need to hear it anymore. But that’s a lie. The truth is, the message that God uses to save us is the same message that God uses to strengthen us every day of our life with Christ.
Have you ever seen someone drift away from Jesus when he or she is striving to live in God’s Word, in the local church, and in real Christian community? In my experience, it’s the absence of these things that explains our drifting away. “Why doesn’t God seem real to me anymore?” “Why do I not desire to worship with God’s people on Sundays?” “Why does no one really know how I’m doing?” If you asked me those questions, I might respond: “Tell me about your relationship with God through his Word, in his church, and with his people.”
When we drift away, we tend to cut ourselves off from the very things God has given us to help us enjoy living close to him. Then we blame God, his Word, the church, or Christians for failing us or letting us down. It’s true—the church is messy and Christians are the reason why—but here’s the point: the deepest root of our drifting away from Jesus is in us, not in the people or institutions around us. I am always in danger of drifting away and pointing the finger at anything but me.
As we realize how easy it is to drift away from the Lord, I pray that the Lord will give us a renewed desire to fight for our relationship with him. If your time in God’s Word is dead or nonexistent, ask someone for help. Open the book and beg for God to speak to you. If your connection to a local church is shallow or nonexistent, grab a friend and commit to being there on Sunday unless you absolutely can’t make it. Ask the Lord to make you a worshiper and a servant in his church, not a consumer and critic of spiritual performances. And if you don’t have a community of Christian friends to encourage you and hold you accountable, find some and even “break up” with the people who lead you to drift away. From a biblical perspective, people who help you drift away from the Lord are not true friends (Prov 17:17, 18:24, 27:5-6, 27:17).
None of this is easy. As we consider the challenge, Hebrews helps us again. The overarching message of the book is simple: Jesus is better. He is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3). In other words, no one is as wonderful as Jesus. He is the great high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses (Heb 4:14-16). In other words, no one can understand and help us like Jesus. He is the one who “has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Heb 9:26). In other words, no can can pay for your sin except Jesus. When we drift, we are drifting away from the most glorious, compassionate, self-sacrificing person. We may forget the Lord, but he doesn’t forget us. We may take our eyes off of him, but Jesus is the one who looks at us and loves us (Mark 10:21). If you are his, he loves you and invites you to return. And if you don’t know him, don’t you want to know such a God?