But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
(New American Standard Version, 1995)
This is definitely the “now” generation! People, today, are all about just “living for the moment,” “living for today.” Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for living “in” the moment, but never simply “for” the moment. But what everybody really needs today is some perspective, don’t you think?
People need to know they have a heritage. We need to have anchors to our past, little mental reminders here and there reminding us of who we are, where our roots lie, where we’ve come from, and even how far we’ve already come.
People also need an inheritance. We need something to focus us toward the future, so that we can have a sense of “true north,” (if you will) and know where we’re heading. Wouldn’t you like to have some idea of how the world has been made a little better because you’ve lived in it? One of my associates on the Linked-In platform recently shared this little mantra with me: “Aspire to Inspire before you Expire!”—a quote attributed originally to Eugene Bell, Jr. I think that’s great thinking, but to live that way requires an appreciable measure of perspective.
Well, in this passage of scripture, the Hebrew writer offers his readers precisely that—a life perspective. He wants them to remember not only everything that God has done for them through the gift of His Son—His sacrificial death, His high priesthood, and the position that He has made possible for us within the very dwelling place of God—but also all that they themselves have already sacrificed for the sake of the cause of Christ. He says that they have already “endured a great conflict of sufferings.” He says that they have been made “a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations.” He even mentions how that they “accepted joyfully the seizure of your property.” Can you imagine? What if the powers that be—the government or whoever—came to confiscate all your guns, or your vehicle, or your electronic equipment, or maybe even kicked you out of your house? I’m not so sure I could accept that joyfully! But they did so because of the reason for which they were being persecuted. They were convinced of the fact that they had “a better possession and a lasting one.” Like Jesus Himself said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-11).
The writer of Hebrews wants his readers to remember what God has promised to us and what our future holds. So, He tells us, “Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.” He also admonishes us saying, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Then he sternly warns us with this message from the Lord, “But my righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him” And then he offers great encouragement saying, “But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.”
Wow, wow, wow… what a message for God’s suffering, persecuted people. Notice how that the writer does not seem to feel sorry for the people who whom he was initially writing, despite the suffering that they were having to endure. He doesn’t seek to coddle them, or pamper them, or humor them in any way. He doesn’t feel sorry for them or offer them any sympathy. These are the kinds of things that the silly, little, liberal “snowflakes” of today’s “now generation” have come to expect, and even demand—lest they throw their little temper tantrums. But no, the writer of the book of Hebrews offers none of that sort of thing. Instead, he says, “You have need of endurance!” And he encourages God’s children to remember that it’s not all about this world. There is a better world coming. Our Lord is coming back and He’s bringing His reward with Him. So, stand up, be strong, rise above, be faithful and, no matter what this world throws at you, don’t “shrink back to destruction!”
Oh Lord God, Creator of the heavens and the earth, Giver and Sustainer of life, all life, my life… I humbly come before You now confessing that I stand convicted by the sacrifices that Your children, my brothers and sisters in Christ, have made and are still making in order to truly live out their authentic faith. I am amazed that You have allowed them, and even required of them, such sacrifice; while I, today, living in this modern world, seem to have had it so easy. I’ve not been made a public spectacle or suffered reproaches for the name of Christ… not yet anyway. I’ve not had my possessions confiscated or suffered the loss of my home or my livelihood because of my faith… not yet anyway. I’ve never risked life or limb for You at any point along the way and, if I have, I’m not aware of it, anyway. My life seems so easy compared to those I read about in Your written word. Yet, still, I seem not to be able to see the forest for the trees. I get lost in a maze of daily busyness. I sometimes feel like I’ve been cast adrift on the churning waters of life’s tempestuous seas. And, at times, I even lose my way and forget who, and Whose, I am. Forgive me, Oh Lord, for sometimes being a “shrinker,” rather than boldly living and professing my faith without fear of worldly consequences. What do I need from You, Oh Lord? For what should I ask? I need, and I ask, for an anchor to the past—Your word to help me remember all that You’ve already done for me, and Your Holy Spirit working in my heart to remind me of how far your Son, Jesus, and I have already come together. And Lord, I need, I ask for a transcendent vision for the future. Help me, through the eyes of faith, to ever dream of the endless possibilities—what You can and will do in me, and with me, and through me as I seek to serve You in this present world, as well as all that You have in store for me in that eternal world to come. Lord God, I know that I need a healthy, holistic, spiritual perspective keep me walking by faith, regardless of the difficulties or circumstances. Don’t let me become a whiner, Oh Lord. And if I have been, I repent. Don’t let me become a whiney little snowflake of a creature with no backbone who “shrinks back to destruction.” Rather, I ask Lord, that Your Holy Spirit who dwells within me will strengthen my weaknesses, grow me in all the fruit of the Spirit, grant me power, love, and discipline, and give me the endurance that I need to fight the good fight of faith and finish the race with glory to Your holy name. By the authority, and with the permission, of my High Priest and Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, I offer these pleadings unto You today, Oh Lord my God… Amen!
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