To help us remember that persecution is very real in the early church the writer lets us know that Timothy has just been released from prison. The writer closes with a prayer and I think it is important to note what is not requested. There is no mention of persecution or request to remove it. There is no mention of illness or request for healing. Here’s the request: “may the God of peace … equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:20,21 ESV).
The request is that we as readers of this letter would be equipped to obey. I need this prayer. I tend to play the comparison game. When I compare myself with the world around me I look good. Comparison gets a little more questionable if I compare myself with those closest to me. Suddenly, my flaws begin to show. Ultimately, there is only one comparison that matters and that is to compare myself with Jesus. He is the perfect son and totally obedient servant. Now my flaws, especially my reluctance to obey in every aspect of my life, are glaring.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. Fortunately, there is practical help at the beginning and end of this passage. It begins with “obey your leaders and submit to them”. I’m not alone. I have help from men who love God and care about me. They can see my weaknesses and desire to encourage me to do God’s will. They are not perfect, but their perspective on me is clearer than my own. I am fortunate that I also have a wife who deeply loves God and me. I don’t find it easy to listen and submit to her, but I know her desire is for what’s best for me, and that would be for me to do God’s will. These relationships are helpful, but without the final ingredient I might become discouraged and give up.
The passage ends with this short verse:
Grace be with all of you. (Hebrews 13:25 ESV)
All this emphasis on obedience would be discouraging if not for grace. The blood of Jesus covers all my sin and failure. I can try and fail over and over because Jesus sacrifice has made me right before God. God’s desire is to equip me, to give me his own Spirit to dwell within me, so I can do his will. I can’t do God’s will on my own. I can only do my own will on my own and that has never worked out very well. That’s what this letter has been about. Under the old covenant it was clear what obedience looked like and failure was often and obvious. The law was not gracious or forgiving.
Jesus brought a better way. Obedience is still a challenge, but we have someone in Jesus who is both gracious and forgiving. May we keep our eyes on Jesus and pray the writer’s prayer often.
Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21 ESV)