Day 21: May 23, 2018: Christian Endurance
Hebrews 10:32-39: But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. 37 For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; 38 but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” 39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
All athletes – runners, swimmers, tennis players, basketball players, and others – need great endurance. Endurance is “the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions.” Athletes need endurance for the sake of competition in their sport. Christians need endurance for the sake of following Jesus faithfully until the end of life on this earth.
As part of an overall exhortation for disciples to endure in Christian faithfulness the book of Hebrews contains several passages which warn believers about the dangers of falling away from faith. This text (10:32-39) is part of one of these warning sections (10:26-39). The first section of this passage (10:26-39) warns believers not to continue deliberately sinning after receiving knowledge of the truth and reminds believers that “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (v. 31). The second section (10:32-39) is then an encouragement for believers to persevere in their faith through trials and sufferings.
This encouragement to endure in faith has three aspects:
- First, the author reminded the believers of how they endured sufferings with joy in the past [10:32-34]. Just as athletes’ bodies grow stronger and more durable through constant exercise and practice, so the “muscles” of our faith get stronger through constant use and perseverance. Once we have walked with the Lord for a while, we will be able to look back and see those times when we made it through hardship. We will be able to recognize how God’s grace was active in our troubles, and we will see how our faith developed depth and resiliency as a result. This building up of the “muscles” of our faith gives us strength and confidence to continue to persevere in following Jesus through the trials of life.
- Second, the author reminded the believers of the reward awaiting them after their sufferings [10:34-36]. Athletes endure for the sake of winning. The crown of victory which they achieve will fade away. But the Christian’s reward is eternal. The apostle Paul reflected very personally on this in his final letter to his “son in the faith” Timothy: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8). Paul endured a multitude of sufferings for the sake of the gospel (2 Corinthians 11:16-31). He kept going through it all because of the “joy set before him” – the promised reward of eternal life with God. This same hope is ours in Christ Jesus, and therefore we can persevere through trials because we know that the “crown of righteousness” awaits us in God’s presence.
- Third, the author quotes from Habakkuk 2:3-4 to call the believers to continue to wait on the fulfillment of God’s promise [10:36-39, and this OT quotation prepares the way for the author’s great list of those who have lived by faith and finished the race in anticipation of God’s promise in Hebrews 11]. It is noteworthy that here the author quotes this passage from Habakkuk which is the same text that was so pivotal for the apostle Paul [Romans 1:16-17, Galatians 3:11]. In its original context the words of Hab. 2:3-4 are God’s words to the prophet who is bewildered by God’s inaction in the face of unrighteousness and injustice (Hab. 1:2-4, 12-2:1). The Lord tells the prophet that he must remain faithful as he waits for the Lord to make good his word. Believers who suffer persecution and difficulty may, with Habakkuk, cry out to God and wonder “O Lord, how long?” (Revelation 6:10). And believers who suffer persecution and difficulty today will receive the same word as the prophet received because it has been re-issued to the church: “Do not shrink back or throw away your confidence. Persevere in faith, do the will of God, and you will receive what has been promised.” Many of God’s people through the centuries have been “faithful to the end.” We can find encouragement to endure in our faith by looking to their examples (Heb. 11).
Let us then persevere in our faith. Let us set aside the sins which distract and entangle us – greed, lust, selfish-ambition, fear – and let us run the race of faith by fixing our eyes on Jesus. When we endure hardships and trials let us find strength in God’s promise and in the example of all those who have gone before us in faithfulness.
Take time now to seek God. This brief prayer can help you get started. “Heavenly Father, may your Spirit give me strength to endure in faithfulness to you. Help me to remember how you have been with me in previous sufferings and help me to know that you will continue to be with me no matter what. Help me to have patience as I wait on your promise. And help me to keep my eyes fixed on the reward of eternal life so that I might continue to run toward that goal. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”