Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering Heb10:32
When the recipients of this letter became Christians it seems like the sky had fallen on their heads. The devil had come roaring in, trying to disrupt, discourage and destroy this new faith in God. I think this is so normal that warnings about it ought to be included in all courses exploring Christianity. It is part of counting the cost of following Jesus.
We can see some of the challenges that were thrown at them in these verses:
- sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution v33
- at other times you stood side by side with others who were v33
- some of the believers were imprisoned v34
- the recipients themselves had their property confiscated and accepted it joyfully because they knew they had a better treasure than any physical possessions v34
As so often happens with new Christians they have had a devastatingly up close and personal experience of God. He has come to them. He has drawn them. They know him. They have witnessed and experienced his transforming power in their lives. Therefore they were confident, and it is confidence in God that empowers believers in the face of these kinds of challenges. You don't joyfully accept the plunder of your property unless you have supreme confidence that your property isn't what really matters at the end of the day.
Now, however, some years later, the writer has to urge them "don't throw away your confidence" (v35). "You need to persevere if you want to get God's reward" (v36). The obvious question is what has happened in the meantime? Why were they full of empowering confidence before but are drained of confidence now? I think it has to do with two things:
- Previously the contest happened just after they had "received the light" - that is God's message of truth, the good news about Jesus Christ. It was a recent experience for them, undeniable and powerful. Nobody could refute the Holy Spirit was working imminently in their lives
- Now, however, there is a greater distance from that initial explosion. Instead there has been steady, harsh, unrelenting pressure to give up. This may throw some more light on the "unforgivable sin" of the previous verses. I guess that society was insisting that they utterly renounce Christ, and doing so with threat of prison and confiscation of property
Pressure that is kept up day after day, month in, month out. Pressure designed to deliberately destroy confidence in God and spiritual vitality. Some people reading this blog will know what that is like right now. What is the answer for you? It is in three parts:
- Remember (v32). Grasp hold of what God has done. Reckon on it just like you did when you resisted all that time ago. Bring it to mind. Pray for some more sense of God's closeness that you experienced then
- Look forward (v37). In a little while the saviour is coming. The darkness and pressure is not unending for you. Your confidence which seems to be bringing you pain in this world is going to be richly rewarded. God has promised it. So hang on! With Christian friends around you, with the depth of fellowship they knew before when people would gladly go and stand with those in prison
- Therefore live by faith because God has declared you righteous (v38). The world tries to challenge our righteousness. It hates the fact that we have clean consciences. God has declared believers perfect forever (10:14). Believe it
A little while ago I visited a very remote part of the world. In this place were two people groups that hated each other. Among one group there were Christians but not among the other. Since my visit I have heard that people have become Christians from out of that second people group and have been imprisoned for their new faith. And, wonderfully, believers in the first group have been going and standing with those in prison at significant costs to themselves and their possession. Hebrews 10 all over.
I conclude that it is no good relying on the blessing of a previous year if we want to keep standing our ground. No good to say "I knew God closely then, but not now." We won't endure. We need to know him today. We want to experience the Holy Spirit working in our lives this week. If I am going to get persecuted I don't want an absentee father, I want one right there with me. Jesus prayed in the upper room for his disciples, not that they would get taken out of the fight, but that his Father would protect them from the evil one.
If this isn't your experience at the moment I suggest you need to pray. Ask God for more. Get others to pray with you and for you. Earnestly seek him. When the disciples were persecuted in Acts they prayed for boldness and God came in power. I get the feeling that the Hebrew recipients of this letter had forgotten to pray in the fire of persecution and have lost sight of Jesus' promise that whoever asks receives