Dear Radio Friends,
Reading the book of Hebrews is like driving across the Midwest of the United States: rich, fertile, fruitful plains stretching as far as the eye can see, and then suddenly seeing the majestic snow-capped peaks of the Rocky Mountains. We have in the book of Hebrews rich, deep, fertile promises of God in Jesus Christ. And then we come suddenly to peaks of exhortation to a godly and holy life—to endure, to continue to live a life that demonstrates these promises.
Or we can put it this way. Hebrews sets forth the precious and great promises of God given to us in Jesus Christ, and then calls us to the kind of life and behavior that rises up from those promises. For example, Hebrews 10:34: “For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling [or confiscation] of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” In other words, standing upon the promises—the deep, broad, and fertile promises, of a better and an eternal possession—gave rise to the peak of love that accepted the loss of property and did so joyfully for the cause of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
And so also in the text that we have chosen for our portion today, Hebrews 13:5, 6. Spread before us is a deep and rich promise of God: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee”—calling us to the peak of a Christian life. “Be free,” we read, “from covetousness. Be content with such things as ye have,” calling us to be free from anxiety.
God is saying, “Live your life on the promises of God’s presence and power, and then rise up to a life radically different from that of the world, a life of contentment in every circumstance and moment.” That is the Word of God to us today. What the future holds for us we do not know. While we pray for every kind of blessings, we do not know what the future will bring, except that our heavenly Father will cause us to pass through many a fiery trial—in the words of Hebrews 10:32, “A great fight of afflictions.” The life of Christ has been given to us. And God’s purpose is to mold and to shape and to prepare each one of His children for the perfection of that life. We must live in the power of the promises of God. “I will never leave you, nor will I forsake you.”
We pray today that this promise may grip our hearts; that it may sink down into the bottom of our being and govern all of our spiritual life; that, by this promise, we may be transformed into the most radically different people on the earth. Free, free from covetousness, from the love of money, and perfectly assured in God as our security and happiness. We are to live on the powerful promises of God.
The text that we have chosen (Heb. 13:5, 6) places the promises of God’s unfailing presence and protection as the foundation of our life. We read, “Let your conversation be [free] without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.”
In the expression, “let your conversation be without covetousness,” the word “conversation” refers to our life. It is not talk or chit-chat, but it is our daily walk of life—a word frequently found in the New Testament. The word means, literally, accustomed practice, or the path one normally talks. So the apostle Paul could say to Timothy in II Timothy 3:10, “You have fully known my doctrine, my manner of life, my accustomed practice of life.” Again, we read in Philippians 1:27, “Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ,” that is, let your life, the way you live, adorn the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The idea of our conversation is our life as others see it. It is our life as we live it from the heart. And it is our life as it speaks to others. That is why the King James translation likes the word conversation, for your life and my life are always saying something. Your life says something about you, about God, about Christ, about your treasure. Very often we will say to each other: “I can’t hear what you are saying because what you are doing is so loud.”
The apostle says that there are only two possible conversations, two possible ways of life. There is, first of all, covetousness vs. contentment. We read: “Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have.”
The one way of life is covetousness. That is the love of money. The Lord spoke of it as what the heart treasures. It is the setting of the heart on the things of this life: money, another person, honor, another mate, looks, popularity, pleasure, sex, and, ultimately, self. The Bible says that this is idolatry. Covetousness (Col. 3:5) is idolatry. To be covetous is a rejection of God in His all-sufficiency. It is to live without God. It is to make something other than God the source of satisfaction for life. It is exactly what our sinful flesh wants. And the Word of God tells us that covetousness will be a snare, that we will fall into many foolish and hurtful lusts that drown men in destruction and perdition and that will pierce us through with many sorrows (I Tim. 6:9, 10). So that is one way of life: covetousness.
Antithetical to this covetousness is contentment. The apostle says, “Be content with such things as ye have.” It refers to having God in your heart. It is the persuasion of faith that God is enough, more than enough. Contentment is rest in every conceivable circumstance.
Covetousness is never satisfied. It is always hungry. Contentment is a satisfaction in God. We read in Psalm 63:3 that the lovingkindness of my God is more than life to me. With the word contentment, you should think of the arms of God. You should think of the embrace of God. You should think of the qualities and graces of submitting to and trusting in God. Psalm 131: contented as a little child upon its mother’s breast. The peace of being taken up into the arms of God. Or, Philippians 4:11, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” The apostle learned to put his trust solely in God.
Now the exhortation is: Let your life, your conversation, as it speaks of who you are, be a life of godly contentment. Resist the sin of covetousness. And do so by standing upon this promise: For He has said, I will never leave thee; nor will I forsake thee. With the power of the promises of God comes the possibility of a life of contentment in God.
Let us look at this promise. Notice first how it is introduced. “For he has said.” Who has said? Well, the one who has said this needs no introduction as far as the apostle is concerned. God said this. And He needs no introduction. The point being made by the Holy Spirit is that the power and certainty and reliability of the promise rests upon the One who said it. He said it. Who is He? He is the I AM THAT I AM. He is the eternal, glorious, great, faithful, true God, the almighty Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God said this! Rest on Him. If the promise fails, God must fail.
When did God say this? God said this in the Bible in moments of great stress, in moments when God’s children stood before assuming responsibilities; when they were faced with fears, dangers, and impossible trials; when they stood before a tunnel of darkness and as they were flooded with the waters of tears. David spoke this promise to Solomon his son at Solomon’s coronation. David said to Solomon his son (I Chron. 28:20): “Be strong and of good courage, and do it: fear not, nor be dismayed: for the LORD God, even my God, will be with thee.” Isaiah spoke these words to the people of Judah when, to Judah, it seemed that God had forgotten them. Isaiah 41:10, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee.” And God said this to Joshua when Joshua was about to assume control and leadership of the people of Israeland to bring them into the promised land of rest. God said to him, in Joshua 1:5: “As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” The promise is this: nothing will ever take away the presence and the protection of God from us in Jesus Christ. “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.”
It is vehement. Nothing can alter this. Every circumstance and every moment, be what it may in the will of God—injury, death, tears, hopelessness, persecution, poverty, sickness, distress of every type—at no moment and in no circumstance, God says, will I ever leave or forsake you.
The promise is God’s presence. Nothing can drive Him away. Nothing can take Him from us. He that watches over Israel slumbers not and never sleeps ( Ps. 121). And the promise is God’s protection. To forsake one is to leave him in the lurch, to abandon him to his foes. God says, I will not do that. I will protect you and keep you and shelter you and carry you and grant sufficient minute-by-minute grace to keep you.
Where did God say this? I cited a number of instances in the history of the Bible, but God said this ultimately at the cross. This promise was sealed to us at the cross of Jesus Christ. For, we read in the Bible (II Cor. 1:20 and 21), that all the promises of God are in Christ and are yea and amen to the glory of the Father in Him. The absolute certainty of God’s presence and protection has been ratified in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And to whom has God said this? “I’ll never leave you nor will I forsake you.” Did He say it to Solomon? Yes. Joshua? Yes. But He says that to you as a child of God born of His grace. The danger that Joshua and Solomon faced was no bigger than the ones that we face. The promise is suited exactly for us. It is intended for us. Romans 15:4, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning…and comfort.” This promise is given to you, as a child of God. I will never leave you, nor will I forsake you.
You see how the promises of God, when by faith, through grace, we believe them, transform all of life. God’s promises are transforming. The strength of the Christian life is to be found in the promises of God in Christ. What will free us from the love of money? What will deliver us from the grip of anxiety? What will take us out of the teeth of lust? What will give us a shield against the darts of Apollyan? The promises of God.
The strength of the Christian life is not the law. The strength of the Christian life is not our staunchness. The strength of the Christian life is not the consideration of the eye of man. The strength of the Christian life is God’s promises.
Why do the persecuted saints in China, India, North Korea, and in other lands endure the loss of freedom and possessions and family? Because God has promised them an inheritance. Hebrews, chapter 11: They were sawn in half; they were cast into bonds and imprisonments; they were tortured; they lived in caves and dens of the earth; they did not accept deliverance. Why? Verse 13 of Hebrews 11: “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them.” The Word of God says that the Old Testament believers who were persecuted to death caught, by grace, a glimpse of the promises fulfilled in Jesus Christ. And when they saw those promises, there was no turning back. God’s promises are superior to the world. The promises of money, the promises of the world, the promises of the flesh—empty and vain. The transforming power of God’s promise changes life. It grants us freedom from the bondage of covetousness.
Let your conversation be free from covetousness. Covetousness is slavery. It is cruel bondage. It is sadistic.
An example. A state governor, one with wife and children, asked his wife for permission to see, for one last time, the woman with whom he was having an affair.
More to home: You are in church. Collection is taken. An offering iss called for. You open your wallet and there is a twenty-dollar bill and two single dollar bills. Which ones did you put in the plate?
There were friends. There was a certain way of behavior that was expected—jokes and attitudes towards authority. And certainly it was impressed that interest in spiritual things would not be appreciated. Did you go against it? Or did you follow it?
Covetousness weakens our knees and makes our hearts indecisive.
But the power of God’s promises frees us. Trusting in this promise of God (I will never leave thee nor will I forsake thee) liberates us from the love of money and from the idol of selfishness and from the eye of man. Believing the promises of God in Jesus Christ breaks the bondage of lust and of fear. The power of the promises transforms us from anxiety to contentment.
You see, the promises of God do not lead to passivity. A gracious gift of God is worked within us whereby we say, “I will be active in my Christian life.” The promises of God not only remove envy and complaint, but they give us a peace in the way of God. They transform us. They give us strength at the moment of trial.
When you wait for an operation of your loved one to be concluded; when the diagnosis of cancer is given to you; when the moment comes into your life sent by God that forever changes your life; when the most great sorrow is cast upon you, the death of your dear one—then the promises of God guard you. And the promises of God protect you.
God’s promises transform our lives day by day, from despair to hope, from fear to trust, from lust to godly contentment. God’s promises make us go out and do something that we thought we could never do—on the promises of God.
Hold these promises before your eyes. “Standing on the promises that cannot fail, when the howling storms of doubt and fear assail, by the living Word of God I shall prevail, standing on the promises of God.” The howling storms of life, the temptations of Satan—we stand on the promises of God.
To do so, you must hold fast to the church where the promises of God are preached. When the church questions the accuracy of God’s Word and denies the full inspiration of Holy Scripture, she commits a horrible sin. She removes the promises of God from under the people of God. The promise is only as good as the word of him who gave it.
Behind God’s promises stand this truth: Every word that He speaks in the Bible is true. And if every word is not true, you cannot believe Him. You cannot trust Him. His promises come up short.
You need the promises of God in your life. And, therefore, you need desperately membership in a church where the Word of God is preached and the Word of God is confessed as the only, absolutely infallible, inspired truth of God.
You are going to need friends who believe these promises and point you to these promises. God does not intend individual heroism as the remedy to life’s storms and the devil’s temptations. But God intends a group of steadfast believers pointing each other to God’s promises. And you must immerse yourself in the Bible. You must feed upon the promises of God each day.
For the promise is sure: I will never leave you, nor will I forsake you; so that we may boldly say, “The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man can do unto me” (v. 6 of Hebrews 13).
What can man do to me? Well, he can sue you and ridicule you and evict you and take away your job and imprison you and steal from you and beat you and tell lies about you and kill you. That is about it. That is all. You say, “All”? Yes. For none of it can compare to the promises of God. “I will be with you; I will be your strength; I will uphold you.” The promises of God are better. Man can do nothing to separate us from the love of God. Yes, he may kill; he may imprison. But man cannot take away these precious promises of God.
Man can only serve God’s purpose. And His purpose, through the afflictions of this present life is to seal the promises—to sink the promises deeper into our souls. Believe the promise: “I will never leave you, nor will I forsake you.” And let it transform your life.
Let us pray.
Father in heaven, we thank Thee for Thy Word. And we pray for its blessing upon our souls in this day. We come to thee in this prayer through the name of Thy Son Jesus Christ, in whom all the promises of God are Yea and Amen, to the glory of God the Father. Amen.