By Donald P. Ames
In Hebrews 6:18, the writer speaks of Christians as those “who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.” As we look at the world around us, the news is full of accounts of refugees who are fleeing from one country to another, often at great risk of life and limb. Maybe we can learn some important lessons from these people that can help us in our role as refugees as well.
Refugees do not regard their material possessions as their greatest treasures. They are willing to leave home, land, and nearly everything else behind, because they are after something far more important be it political or religious freedom, or safety from dangers in their old country. Material things can only deter them and hinder their movement to achieve those goals. We need to beware that we do not “set our mind on earthly things” (Phil. 3:19). Instead, like some of the other refugees before us, we need to desire a better, heavenly country a city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10, 16). Attachment to things of this world will only cause us to perish rather than commence our journey (1 John 2:15-17). Or, in pausing to dwell on those memories, cause us to fail to achieve what we sought (cf. Gen. 19:26).
Refugees will also take note of others who have made the journey before. They seek to profit by their success, and to learn by their mistakes. Hebrews 11 is set forth as an example of some of the refugees who have successfully made the journey. We are encouraged! It can be done! Don’t give up (Heb. 3:12)! And hopefully, we can also profit from the mistakes of others (1 Cor. 10:1-11). Such information, how-ever, can only help us if we take the time, learn, and apply it (Phil. 4:9; Heb. 13:7).
Refugees realize the journey is fraught with danger and discouragement, yet they set upon it with the hopes of achieving their destination. They know it will require great perseverance if they are to be successful. Living a Christian life is not an easy task nor always a pleasant one. Paul warns us we will face persecutions (2 Tim. 3:12), and Peter says to expect mistreatment even from some of our former country-men (1 Pet. 4:4). Jesus also warns some of them will turn against us (Matt. 10:35-37). It may require overcoming many obstacles (Jas. 1:12; 1 Cor. 10:13), and even cost some of us our lives (Rev. 2:10; Acts 7). It will also re-quire great perseverance on our part as well (Rom. 5:3-5; 2 Pet. 1:6; Rom. 12:12). We cannot give up at every set back or stumbling point, but must “set our mind on things above” (Col. 3:2). And thus we pursue our destination, because the goal is worth it all (2 Tim. 4:7-8; Phil. 1:23)!
Refugees also learn they have to choose friends care-fully. All cannot be trusted, and some cannot be trusted at all. If someone is weak, ready to betray their efforts or even eager to do so for material gain, they may have to part company to achieve their destination. Some would readily betray us for their own purposes (2 Pet. 2:18-20; 1 Cor. 15:33). Some have no intentions of helping us, but are bent on our destruction (Rom. 16:17; 2 Tim. 3:1-4). We must identify these and avoid them, or our journey will have no hope of success!
Yet there is also a comradeship amongst those who flee as refugees. They pull together, trying to help each other, and know their success partly depends on their joint efforts. As Christians, we are to help the weak (1 Thess. 5:14), en-courage and admonish one another (Heb. 10:24-25); and to pull together, each doing what he can, as we strive for our goal (1 Cor. 1:10-13; 12:120. We should want all of us to get there, if possible (Gal. 6:1-2), knowing our own efforts are also helped by the efforts of others as well (Rom. 1:11-12; Phil. 4:3, 16). Failure to have such comradeship may lead to our own downfall on this journey (1 John 3:16-20).
And, finally, when they reach their goal, there is much rejoicing even if they don’t know everything that yet lies ahead of them. As Christians, we may not know all the glories of heaven, or the details of what we will be doing there. But we are excited, because we do know it is well worth the effort! And when we achieve our goal, there is rejoicing in heaven by those who hear of it (Luke 15:7). Those waiting for us will rejoice (Phil. 2:16). And we will also have great rejoicing (Matt. 25:21). Let us never lose sight of that goal, but as struggling refugees, press on that we may achieve our destination, even though the cost at times may appear to be great. Remember, we are seeking a better country and will be blessed for it (Rev. 14:13)!
Guardian of Truth XLI: 11 p. 8-9
June 5, 1997