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God Equips And Empowers Us To Please Him

Hebrews 13:20-21
Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (NIVUK)

Of the twenty-eight benedictions and doxologies of the New Testament, these verses possibly present the most remarkable doctrinal statement of the gospel and discipleship. God is described as the 'God of peace'. The holy God has made it possible for rebellious people to be at peace with Him through the death of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23). He disposed of the covenant of law and instituted a new covenant of grace for both Jews and Gentiles – so that they could be at peace, equally welcomed as children of God through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:14-18).

The covenant is eternal (Hebrews 9:15). It guarantees a place in God's kingdom for all His people, for ever. Leading us forwards is the Lord Jesus, described as a Shepherd - the appointed guardian and guide for the sheep (John 10:11-14). He gives us all that we need in order to please Him – information about what pleases Him, a desire to please Him and the power to please Him. As we please Him we will be serving Him and working with Him to achieve His purpose in the world. The astonishing thing is that although He wants us to do what is right, He will also equip us to do it and also work inside of us so that we have the desire, the motivation and the ability (Philippians 1:16).

The writer effectively summed up the whole letter by saying that the Christian life is not about making us big, but in bringing glory to the Lord. He is the great One, not us. That was Jesus' ambition and must be ours too (John 17:4). It is a vast, eternal goal but the only one that is worth having. Therefore the writer not only wrote these good words (benediction) and praise to God (doxology) to encourage his readers, but they are also a prayer expressing his heart's desire that the Lord will be at work in their lives, and that they will want to cooperate with Him (Colossians 3:15-17).

There is no doubt that the Lord will work in people's lives to enable them to work with Him and glorify Him. But, do they want Him to do that? The little word 'may' does not imply any weakness or reluctance on God's part, but that God will work in us and through us when we welcome His intervention. To the Christians who first read this letter, under pressure and probably under persecution, the challenge was to trust that God would work in power if they trusted Him to do so. It is our challenge too. At work and in the community God has chosen us to work with Him. We are weak but He is strong (2 Corinthians 13:9). So let Him bring peace to your heart and through you to others; then let Him change your desires and motivation so that you can work together with Him for His glory.

Gracious God. Thank You for wanting to be at work in my life. I am sorry for the times I have wanted to pursue my own ambitions and not cared about Your kingdom, nor desired that You should change my heart. Please give me a new ambition to see Your kingdom and Your righteousness, and please work in and through and with me. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams