I’ve felt myself drawn to this prayer written by Scotty Smith, a prayer that asks God to help our friends finish well in the gospel—to help us all remain faithful until Today becomes the Day. It begins with this passage of Scripture:
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. Hebrews 3:12-14
Dear Jesus, this portion of your Word is both sobering and encouraging. It leads me to think about friendship this morning and the gospel-posse you've given me. I'm so very grateful for the friends you've woven into my life. Being an introvert, the journey of investing my heart in long term relationships has required, and still requires the work of the gospel in my heart--a grace work you've been faithful to provide.
I've already gripped the handle of a couple of friend's caskets and they'll do the same for me one day. More than ever, I want us to finish well together in the gospel. What does look like and what will it require, Jesus?
My temptation is to treat my easiest friendships like a broken-in pair of Birkenstocks--I just enjoy these relationships without much thought or effort. It's a great gift to have a few friends who can finish each other's sentences, endure one another's jokes, appreciate each other's quirks and accept one another's weaknesses. Surely, this is a gospel-gift.
Yet, Jesus, we're still foolish men--capable of acting out in very destructive ways, prone to wander, easy targets for temptation. Sin is exceedingly deceitful. With all of my heart, I believe in the "final perseverance of the saints," but I equally believe that it's the saints who will finally persevere. Your Word is very clear--continuance in the gospel is a sign of being rooted in the gospel. That doesn't scare me, but it does humble me.
Help us know how to hold each other accountable for believing the gospel. Help us to take each other's heart-struggles seriously. Don't let us confuse flattery with encouragement. Help us never to minimize nor marginalize the hardening power of sin. Help us know how to preach the gospel to our own hearts daily and to each all the time, until Today gives way to the Day. So very Amen, I pray, in your all glorious name.