Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful. And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
This passage in Hebrews compares the sacrifices the temple priests used to make (literal sacrifices of lambs, doves, etc) to the sacrifice Christ made for us on the cross, making the point that because Jesus sacrificed for our sins once and all, these other sacrifices are no longer necessary. Because of Christ we can approach the throne of God with confidence, knowing that we are fully forgiven. I love the way The Message interpretation of the Bible presents the last few verses:
"So let's do it - full of belief, confident that we're presentable inside and out. Let's keep a firm grip going on the promises that keep us going. He always keeps his word. Let's see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching."
Let's do it! A new take on the Nike slogan perhaps, an encouragement to run a different kind of race, one not measured by distance and time, but one measured by what we do with our lives. In Hebrews 12 we are told "let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God."
If our lives are a race, they are a marathon, not a sprint. If we are to set out on this journey of living like Christ, we would do best not to do it alone. I've never run a marathon, but I imagine one of the things that makes it easier is the people on the sidelines cheering you on, holding signs of encouragement, passing out water to drink. Just as a marathon runner would struggle to get through the race without this support, likewise we are unlikely to get through the marathon of life without the support and encouragement of those around us. Wherever you find your people who provoke you to love and good deeds, hold on to them, accept their support, and offer some of your own.
God of support and encouragement, help us to do it - to enter your courts with thanksgiving, to accept your full mercy and forgiveness, and to live our lives accordingly. We pray that we might run this race of life with perseverance, and provoke each other to love and good deeds. In the name of Christ, the ultimate provoker, we pray. Amen.