Hebrews 4:2 – For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith. (NIV)
My brothers back in Scotland are ardent Partick Thistle supporters. They've supported that soccer team for most of their lives. I used to go to some of the soccer matches when I was in high school, but I didn't develop the fanaticism for the team that my siblings experienced.
One year, Partick Thistle managed to get to a Scottish Cup final. My brothers were ecstatic, but I wasn't impressed. Their team was up against Glasgow Celtic, who were world beaters at that time. Celtic had recently won the European Cup, so I told my brothers that Thistle would get slaughtered. Most of the Scottish sports newspapers were also predicting the same, but my brothers still believed their team would beat Celtic by an odd goal.
On the day of the Cup final, I went hiking in the hills above Glasgow. I just couldn't bring myself to watching the game and dealing with my brothers' disappointment. They, of course, all went to the game, sporting their red, yellow, and black Partick Thistle scarves.
As I predicted, it was a one-sided game. In fact, the winning team managed to score four goals in the first half. By the time the match was over, the losing side was absolutely gutted and humiliated.
My brothers were jubilant. Partick Thistle won the match, which has gone down in Scottish sporting history as one of the most glorious football games ever played. They still talk about it to me, and remind me that I just didn't have enough faith in the team when it came to the game of the century.
The writer of Hebrews expresses a similar idea. He talks about people hearing the good news, but not combining it with faith. The gospel is worth nothing to anyone, no matter how many times they read or hear it, if they do not make that essential connection of faith in Jesus Christ.
Perhaps we know of some people like that in our families and amongst our friends. We need to pray that they will not only hear the gospel, but that they will open their hearts and minds, their lives and souls to receiving the gospel. No amount of preaching at them or wishful thinking is ever going to get them into heaven. It's only when they make a personal connection to Christ that the gospel truly becomes priceless and invaluable. It's only when they combine it with faith that the gospel becomes eternally effective for their souls.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, without faith, all of our churchgoing, Bible reading, and gospel hearing is null and void. Without making a real, personal connection and commitment to You, we are doomed for all of eternity. Help us to reach out to our loved ones and express to them the danger of not combining their general beliefs about Christianity with a real and honest faith that You are their Saviour, that You are their Lord. In Your holy name, we pray. Amen.