Public insults. Conflict. Persecution. Prison. Confiscated Property. The readers of the the New Testament letter of Hebrews experienced all this in the early days of their walk with Jesus. While I cannot attest to this kind of suffering, I do know trial—wrecked car, bureaucracy headaches, ant infestation, health issues, the passing of loved ones. Like the early Christians, I too need the author’s counsel for facing trying times:
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.Hebrews 10:35–11:1 niv
Four applications challenge us from his text:
Hang in there. We can endure by holding on to our confidence—the boldness with which we can enter God’s presence (10:19, 3:6, 4:16). Don’t chuck the assurance we have that Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf gives us eternal life. Don’t give up in defeat and walk away from Jesus. He is worth it because he will fulfill his promises and reward our obedience with an eternal inheritance (9:15).
Wait for it
The writer of Hebrews quotes the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk:
For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. “See, the enemy is puffed up; his desires are not upright—but the righteous person will live by his faithfulness.Habakkuk 2:3–4 niv
Wait for it. Wait for it. My counselor husband espouses this mantra as a rule for listening. Whether debriefing global workers or just being with a friend, we’ll discover the real issues if we wait (without interjecting) long enough to hear the full story.
God says, “I am here for you. I will come and will not delay.” So we wait for him to come in power to meet our need, defend our cause, and right all wrong. We wait for Jesus’s coming.
Live by faith
But sometimes God seems slow. Waiting is hard. How do we wait? By faith—the certainty that what we hope for and do not see will come to pass. We believe God will help us in our suffering (2:18), avenge us (10:30), and fulfill his promises (10:23). And we trust that we will be rewarded (9:15) and receive better possessions in heaven (10:34).
Don’t shrink back
This response is the opposite of living by faith. We shrink back when we timidly hesitate to declare what we believe, conceal our faith, or turn to anything other than Jesus.1 Instead, we are strengthened by grace (13:9) and kept firm until we take our last breath (3:14).
The writer to the Hebrews’ point is clear: you can make it through this present time of discouragement also. Draw on your past experience to gain strength to endure for the future … The toughest and most discouraging trials are when we are called to obey God’s will when the fulfillment of His promise seems so far away. This is why we need endurance … We will be those who endure on and gain the promise of God. We will not draw back into old traditions or into an Old Covenant relationship with God – or any other replacement for Jesus.David Guzik
Therefore, this is how we face our particular set of trials and suffering, this is how we live: We remember what God has done in the past and we keep going. We exercise faith and don’t retreat to old ways. And we wait for him.
Which of these four exhortations do you need to heed today? Why?
Lord Jesus, I know my troubles are small in comparison to the early believers. But I also know you don’t dismiss what I am experiencing. Enable me to persevere and wait for you. To not let the trials of life discourage me to the point of giving up, or thinking you aren’t worth it and so deny you. Increase my faith, Jesus, and do not delay.