Grace For The Journey
True believers, however,
Do not fall away from Christ.
If a person stops following Jesus
It is evidence that he or she
Was never a true believer
In the first place.
The Apostle John writes in 1 John 2:19: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.” True believers continue following Christ, continue serving Him, and living for Him.
The writer of Hebrews, unable to know the precise spiritual condition of every single person who reads his letter warns all of them. He warns of the danger of rejecting Christ. We studied that last time and talked about the calamity of rejecting Christ, the severity of rejecting Christ, and the finality of rejecting Christ – it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. That was verse 31. We pick up now at verse 32 with some encouraging words for true believers, true followers of Christ.
From verse 32 to the end of the chapter is section, in a word, is about endurance, about enduring to the end, moving forward, and keeping our eyes on Jesus no matter what struggles we face in this word.
This whole section – verses 32 to the end of chapter 10 – is about thinking forward. In fact, contextually, the section continues into chapter 11, as we read about many people of God over the years who endured by “thinking forward,” living by faith, “looking ahead,” keeping their eyes fixed on Jesus, looking to Him and the final salvation that comes through Him.
This passage provides three benefits of thinking forward . . .
1) Looking Forward Gets You Through Persecution – Verses 32-33.
The writer reminds his hearers how they used to “look forward” back when they were first saved, when they experienced true conversion. Verse 32 states, “But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings.” The word “illuminated” in this context describes those who are truly converted, having both received the light and living as the light of the world. They began shining in the darkness. They shined because they gloried in their salvation in Christ. They kept their eyes on Jesus. They were captured and captivated by Christ. They knew – as verse 34 says – that they had “a better and enduring possession” in heaven that far surpassed whatever struggles they endured through persecution for their faith now.
They did not allow their present
Problems to pull them down;
They endeavored to think forward.
The word for “struggle” there is a Greek word from which we get the English: “athletics.” The writer is using the word metaphorically, describing persecution as a full-contact sport, as an action-packed struggle. He says . . .
Remember your former days,
Not long after you were illuminated,
Converted, and how through God’s grace
And power you got through difficulties then?”
How about you? Do you recall how you were right after you were “illuminated?” Remember the early days of your Christian walk, right after you got saved? Remember how you felt? How evangelistic you were! You were so glad just to be saved. Whatever trials you faced as a believer in Christ, it was like, “Thank the Lord for His goodness and this opportunity to live for Him! I know I’m saved! I know I am going to heaven! This world is short, but I have eternal life!” You were so fired up. The writer is saying, “Get back to that. Get back to how you were, howe you felt. Get back to thinking forward.” Because of their “first love” (Revelation 2:4-5) they endured a great struggle.
Verse 33 declares, “Partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated.”
That phrase “made a spectacle” connotes the idea of being made a public target for persecution; persecution because of their faith in Jesus. We must remember . . .
That persecution and suffering
Is a natural byproduct of being
A Christian, living in a world that
Goes against the things of Jesus.
Recall that Jesus said in John 16:33: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
I trust you did not miss that word “reproaches” there in verse 33? That word is also used by the writer in Hebrews 11:26 to describe the abuse Moses endured as he regarded his suffering for the Lord as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. And the writer adds, “for he looked to the reward.” He looked ahead to the reward. Looking forward gets you through persecution.
The writer commends his readers in verse 33 for their “(becoming) companions of those who were so treated.” In other words . . .
When someone else was persecuted
For their Christian faith, Their fellow
Brothers and sisters stood with them.
For us it would be like, if we see a friend at school taking heat for loving Jesus, standing for Jesus, and talking about his or her faith openly; our friend is teased for this and reproached for his or her faith. Rather than our remaining silent or walking away to avoid confrontation, we go up and stand next to him or her, and we let them know, if they are going to mock, ridicule, or make fun of him or her, they are going to have to do the same to us. That is a part of believing in and following Jesus.
This is what Donald Guthrie
“Fellowship on the deepest level.”
Thinking forward gets you through persecution. Next . . .
2) Looking Forward Gives You The Right Perspective – Verse 34.
By this the writer means, keep your focused on things that matter, the true and lasting riches in Christ Jesus. Look at verse 34, “For you had compassion on me in my chains.” The writer is talking those, like himself, who were being put in jail because of their faith in Jesus Christ. The believers unashamedly identified with those who were being persecuted by imprisonment; locked-up for being Christians. These were fellow brothers and sisters who visited them in jail and brought food to them and so forth, not minding at all that their being so public about their faith meant that they too would suffer reproach and insult.
Verse 34 continues, “And joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods [or possessions], knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven.” The “plundering of your goods” was the result of their identifying with fellow believers. It was the persecution they faced for standing with their persecuted brothers and sisters. Roman authorities ransacked their houses as if to say, “You are going to stand with these Christians in jail? Well, there is a price to pay for that!” They were willing to lose their possessions, their houses, clothing, etc. That would require genuine faith in Christ, wouldn’t it? That would require great strength.
The Bible says that it is not
Just that they endured this,
But the writer notes the way
In which they endured this –
He says that they “joyfully”
Accepted the plundering
Of their goods.
If the authorities broke into their homes and took every last item and then burned the house down, they could just smile. How could they do that?! Because of the truth of God’s Word, “knowing that they had a better and enduring possession for themselves,” their real treasure in heaven.
John Piper proposes this scenario: “Imagine after the worship service we all go out to the parking lot to get into our cars and find them all vandalized, smashed in, windows broken; someone has taken a can of spray paint and painted: Christians are bigots. How would you handle that?” That is a good question. I would like to think that after an initial and profound disappointment, that we would be free enough . . .
To carry on in joy knowing that our hearts
Are not bound up with our stuff,
But that Jesus Christ –
And our glorious
Inheritance in Him –
Is far better than
Anyone or anything.
Our Lord spoke about this in Matthew 5:10-12, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven …”
One of the reasons many Christians
Struggle to live a meaningful
Christ-Centered life is
Because they seek
Their reward here,
Instead of in heaven.
They clutch to their material wealth here, holding on to it as though life were found in money, stocks, bonds, investments, retirement homes, lake houses, and so on. We are all susceptible to allowing money and material things to be life for us – whether we consider ourselves rich or poor. Some of us may say, “Well, this is not a problem for me. I do not have hardly anything.” But possessions can pull us away from our “better and enduring possession” whether we have little or much.
Think about the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, whose net worth is estimated to be over 500 billion dollars. Someone broke that amount down and figured that he is earning $231,000 a minute. Imagine earning $231,000 a minute! It seems unfathomable, doesn’t it? But what if it all goes away? It could. What if all your stuff goes away? It could. Who really owns their stuff? I read about a Christian who was away from home and someone came running to him, saying, “Your house has burned down! Your house has burned down!” He calmly replied, “No, it has not, because I do not own a house. The one I have been living in belongs to the Lord, so if it has burned down, then that is one less responsibility for me to worry about.” Now, that is peace!
The word “enduring” there in verse 34, “you have a better and an enduring possession in heaven” reminds us that this possession in heaven lasts forever! It abides and endures for all time. Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Looking forward gives you the right perspective.
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.
Martin Luther, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.”
Looking forward gets you through persecution. Looking forward gives you the right perspective. Finally . . .
3) Looking Forward Grants You What God Has Promised – Verses 35-39.
This is the fulness of our reward in Christ Jesus,
Our glorious eternal inheritance in heaven!
Verse 35 says, “Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward.” Do not miss structure of his sentence. The word “has” is present tense. As we live by faith then we actually experience something of your reward even now, though the fulness of the reward is still in the future.
True life is in Jesus Christ!!
Verse 36 states, “For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise.” The next chapter is all about those who had faith to endure, those who lived to do “the will of God,” looking forward so that they would receive the promise of their glorious inheritance in Christ.
Sometimes it is the will of God for us to suffer and go through times of persecution. It is good for Christians to know this; to have a healthy theology of suffering. You have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God – which often includes times of difficulty and challenge and suffering – you may receive the promise. Look forward. Do not focus on the problems and the suffering. Keep your eyes on the prize. Looking forward grants you what God has promised.
Verse 37 says, “For yet a little while(this is a quote from Habakkuk), and He who [or that which] is coming will come and will not tarry [or delay].” Looking forward to Christ’s return encourages us in the present.
Verses 38 and 39 declare, “Now the just shall live by faith; but if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition [or destruction], but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.”
There is nothing more
Precious or valuable
Than Jesus Christ.
Be captivated by Christ!
Keep your eyes
Fixed on Jesus,
The author and
Finisher of your faith.
Do not allow your present problems, struggles, and difficulties to pull you away from Jesus. Do not draw back, but go on believing “to the saving of your soul.”
Verse 39 is a powerful way to end chapter 10! Keep your eyes on the promise He grants you in Christ, your glorious eternal inheritance, “a better and enduring possession.” Look forward!
Have you heard about the Flying Wallendas? Do you know them? They are a famous tight-rope walking family who have performed of the high wire since the 1940s. They are known for not using a safety net and several of the Wallenda family are still performing today. Kent Hughes writes about the tragic death of their leader, Karl Wallenda, who died in 1978, again tragically as he fell 75 feet to his death in an attempted high-wire walk in downtown San Juan, Puerto Rico. Not long after his death, Wallenda’s wife was interviewed and she talked about the events leading up to that day:
She recalled: “All Karl thought about for three straight months prior to it was falling. It was the first time he’d ever thought about that, and it seemed to me that he put all his energies into not falling rather than walking the tightrope.” Mrs. Wallenda added that her husband “even went so far as to personally supervise the installation of the tightrope, making certain the guy-wires were secure, something he had never even thought of doing before.”
Focusing on the challenge of the difficulties, he lost his focus and confidence. The writer of Hebrews says, “Do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward (verse 35).” Do not be overwhelmed by all the problems and challenges which you face. Do not allow the struggles and difficulties of this present world concern you, engulf you, and pull you down. Stay focused on what lies ahead. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Be captivated by Christ. Look forward.
Some of you need to repent of the sin of clutching onto material things, money, stuff; the things that cause a failure to see that God is the true owner of your stuff. Others of you need to repent of looking at your problems instead of looking at Jesus, repent of your failing to stand for Him while facing persecution. Turn to Jesus today for forgiveness.
Some of you need to trust Christ as your Lord and Savior while there is time. You may need to admit that you are a sinner, that you cannot saved yourself, accept what Jesus has done on the cross and the empty, and ask Him to be your Savior and Lord. Do it now so you can start looking forward to today and the future.
This is God’s Word …
This is Grace for your Journey …
Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!
Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”
Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”