[10 min read]
For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. | Hebrews 2:16–18 (ESV)
God’s goal for your life is to get you to glory. God never fails to accomplish his goals. His goals are realities since he rules over all things. To be with God in glory is to be in the presence of the most glorious thing: God himself. So, in getting you to glory, God is really just bringing you back to a vibrant, restored relationship with himself.
If life in glory with God is the end product, then what are the steps he takes to get there? According to the end of Hebrews 2, God’s present help for sinners and sufferers is the way that he’s getting you to glory. If glory is a custom mansion that God is building for him and his church to live in, then the building blocks to get started on that mansion are all the ways he helps and aids his people. The blueprint is set, now we need to get to work—or better yet, learn how God is working right now in our midst.
God Helps Sinners
The way we know God helps sinners now is that he has made propitiation for sin in the past. Propitiation is a ten-cent word that denotes the process by which an offended party is satisfied. In our case, the justified anger of God against sinners is what needs to be satisfied. Since Christ himself became the final propitiation for our sins, God is no longer at odds with those who trust in Christ. So, his greatest help is in the forgiveness of sins through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, his beloved Son.
And since God has helped blood-bought sinners by providing total forgiveness in the past, then there is no sinner too great that he can’t help in the present. What sin are you struggling with today? There are almost surely several. Has God set you free in the past from the condemnation deserved for a reckless addiction to drugs? Yes. Does that mean that he no longer helps you in your current temptations to return to that devious addiction? No. God is still working to make the power of that past forgiveness a lived reality in your life today. Are you tempted to care more about how your friends, family, and coworkers view you than the way your heavenly Father views you? Are you tempted to make people big in your life, and in turn make God small? God is willing and able to help you with that. Ask yourself, what sin am I harboring in my heart and life? And know that God can help you in Christ to overcome that temptation.
Here’s the principle. God helps sinners. He has helped you in the past. He helps you in the present. And he will help you in the future. This is not the enablement of unfaithful living but in fact the very recipe for faithfulness to God—constant dependence on him for help over the sin that so easily entangles. God in Christ helps sinners.
Richard Sibbes says, “There is more mercy in Christ than sin in us.” Do you believe that to be true? Do your current entanglements in sin drive you to the one who shows helping mercy to those who call on him?
God Helps Sufferers
In the context of Hebrews, those being tempted are those tempted to quit on Jesus. There were many opportunities for these relatively new Christians to throw in the towel of their faith in Christ. Following Jesus was hard in the first century—really hard. And spoiler alert—following Jesus in the 21st century is hard, even really hard. That much remains the same. Though there are particularities in each generation that present different challenges to following Jesus, there are also timeless challenges that appear annually. I don’t know anyone who says that denying themselves for the sake of the gospel is inherently easy. I don’t know anyone who says that picking up their cross (an instrument for grotesque execution) daily is inherently easy. I don’t know anyone who says that following Jesus daily is an easy task.
But as you deny yourself and take up your cross and follow Jesus, God helps you every step of the way. The servants are not greater than the master, and if he suffered, then surely, it’s not surprising that you’re suffering to some extent for being his disciple right now.
How are you suffering? What pain are you experiencing based on your allegiance to Jesus? God knows how. He is with you in the suffering. He is a God who has suffered in the flesh in his son the Lord Jesus, and his suffering love was faithful to the end in order to have you back and to get you to glory. So, isn’t it fitting that you shouldn’t quit on him? It’s hard, but he is a precious and strong helper for sufferers. And we know that because of the cross of Christ, that ultimate moment of suffering—the suffering of suffering—that he is able and willing to provide the strength needed to keep your affection and heart set on himself.
I once heard someone offhandedly say, “We don’t get to choose the chisel God uses to conform us to his Son.” And it stopped me dead in my tracks. They’re spot on. If God is building a mansion for us to live in with him forever, then we don’t get to choose the way he goes about building and hand constructing that mansion. We don’t get to choose the different tools that he uses to build the house. And if you need to be conformed to the image of his Son to live there, then neither do we get to choose the chisel he uses to accomplish that great work of conformity. God’s in the building business and the tools he uses are unusual, but always effective. They are sometimes perplexing, but always effective. Sometimes they are even heart-wrenching and even life-costing, but always effective.
How are you suffering today? I’ve lost relationships because of my allegiance to Jesus. I have been mistreated for my faith in him. It wouldn’t be uncommon if you too could affirm that you’ve experienced these tragedies, and even more.
Your sin and suffering are the platforms by which God is bringing you to glory. Not because sin and suffering are an end in themselves, but they are the reminders that pop up on your cell phone nagging you to do the one thing you’re created to do—depend on God for all your needs—body and soul. For one day we will stand before him in glory, and he will get the glory for the way he got us there. He will get the glory for the help that he is giving you right now, a sinner and a sufferer. Our Savior helps and supports sinners and sufferers.
Have you yet called on him for help today?