Verse 23 (I’ll give you the full verse at the end of today’s blog)
I can’t leave the book of Hebrews without sharing a very personal encounter I had with these scriptures a number of years ago. It was one of those moments when the significance of a biblical statement went beyond its original meaning, but connected into my own experience, confirming that the Lord was clearly directing.
I had been pastoring the church I’d grown up in for 23 years when I sensed the Lord calling me to move on. In effect, he was telling me (at age 47!) it was time to leave home. It was the late Fall of that year, and I began to watch for where he was leading next, my wife and I watching and praying together, seeking the Lord’s further direction.
A couple of months passed. At a regular meeting of our church’s leadership team, I was asked to give a fairly routine update on where the church was at and how I saw my own role over the next several years. I knew I needed to share what I was sensing from the Lord. So, I did. They were incredibly affirming, wanting to do anything necessary to encourage me to stay, but fully supportive of me following the Lord’s direction.
Afterwards, talking privately together, the Chair of our Board asked me what I’d heard the group say. I knew he had something specific in mind, so I asked what he himself had heard. Without pause he said, “I heard the word ‘release.’ They want to release you to follow the Lord.” Hugely encouraging.
Four months later, I was still watching and praying, but uncertain of the Lord’s direction for next steps. An old friend came to town. When he heard my story, he gave some wise counsel, and then said, “I think the Lord has released you.” Same word, same affirmation.
Still, I struggled, agonizing about what was next. Nearing the end of the summer (and the date by which I had agreed to give the church leaders my future plans), my wife and I were speaking at a Family Camp. On the final full day, a young couple asked if they could pray with us, knowing that we were struggling over future direction. They told us their own story of stepping out to trust the Lord, even when they didn’t quite know where they were going – they spoke of how the Lord had wonderfully provided for them everything they needed. It was inspiring and deeply encouraging. Then the young woman said, “I have a word for you, but I don’t know if it will mean anything. The word is ‘release.’” It was like a trumpet blast. The Lord had my attention.
It was just two days later, finalizing my sermon for Sunday morning, that the Lord spoke clearly through a scripture. The sermon was based in 1 Timothy 6 ("godliness with contentment is great gain"), and I found myself directed to Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6. He speaks of the lilies of the field being well cared for, and then concludes, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field … will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” I knew at that moment what was holding me back. It was purely and simply lack of faith. The Lord was calling me to move on. He’d spoken his release (three times over!). But I wasn’t moving till I made sure my family would be provided for financially. It was a lack of faith. Of course, the Lord would provide! If I was following him, I could trust. So, I told the church leaders I was moving on, even though I didn’t yet know where we were going. We announced it to the congregation two weeks later.
It was the following week, during our individual morning quiet times, that my wife let out a yelp (loud and clear!). She said, “I’ve got a scripture for you.” It came from this very portion of the book of Hebrews. I know it’s taken out of context. I know the verse was spoken about a very specific person with very specific circumstances in the first century. But the Lord used it at that moment to confirm that his eye was on me, that we were walking in his ways, and that he had us covered.
I’ve never forgotten the verse.
Here it is, directly from Hebrews 13:23 - “I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been released.”
O Lord, thank you that your eye is on me. Help me to trust you for each next step. Release me into all of your purposes. For your name’s sake.
Reflect: Think back to a moment when you clearly sensed the Lord’s direction (through scripture, an inner conviction, wise counsel from a friend, or however). Or, look back to a time in which you clearly knew the Lord's provision and care. Walk through the details. Remember well. Give thanks.