"A Call to Continuance"
We are living in difficult times. They are difficult economically. For the first time ever Americans have been paying over $4 per gallon for gasoline, foods prices have shot through the roof and the dream of home ownership has become a nightmare for thousands of families. It is difficult socially. What we believe is being attacked on every hand. We've lived to see the day when faith, family, marriage, life, and Biblical values are being attacked and eroded and in times like these there is the temptation to give up and return to a lifestyle that seems "easier" than the Christian life. Paul writes to these believers and challenges them to patient continue in the faith. He makes this appeal based on three very important truths.
I. An appeal to the past.
a. Recall your conversion -- v. 32 enlightened is the same as chapter 6:4 and refers to the time of their salvation, probably about 15 years earlier in Rome during the reign of Nero who was especially cruel in his persecution of these Jewish believers.
b. Recall your conflict -- v. 32b-33a Endured (GK- "to stay under") speaks of a successful completion of a time of persecution. Fight is a GK word from which we get our athlete and describes a fight or a struggle. Great speaks of the intensity of the struggle. Afflictions are sufferings. They suffered in two different ways. First, there was public exposure. They were like the apostles in that they were "made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men" 1 Cor. 4:9. This experience occurred over a long period of time (present tense). This public exposure was "by reproaches and afflictions." The former speaks of "verbal abuse, mocking, reviling whereas the latter speaks of abuse of the physical sort like beatings and imprisonment. Second, they were companions with others who had suffered. The language indicates an instantaneous decision to become not just sympathetic with them but to participate with them in suffering.
d. Recall your courage -- v. 33b-34 It takes great courage to publically identify with those who were awaiting execution. They had come to the aid of those who were in prison, they had suffered the "spoiling" of their possessions and the amazing thing was that they had done so "joyfully." They could do this with joy knowing that there was something better waiting on them in heaven, ("a better and enduring substance." Dr. Stanley Outlaw writes in the FWB Commentary on Hebrews, "The best of what we have on this earth wears out, but what we have in heaven will last forever." These believers could take comfort from our Lord's Beatitude:
"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven, blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake." Mt. 5:10-11
II. An appeal for perseverance.
a. Be positive about the promises of Christ. ("Cast not away," means to abandon like a garment considered worthless, no longer useful.") Don't abandon the assurance that you already manifested in the promises of Christ.