Summary: In our Christian life there are many issues that test us and cause us to stumble. Sometimes they even have the ability to make us lose our confidence in God. In this passage we are shown how to keep our confidence in difficult circumstances.
Having Confidence Always
Congregation in the Lord Jesus Christ,
Have you ever been involved in a “remember the good old days” discussion? That is one of those discussions where you sit with your parents or grandparents and talk about how everything was so much better in the past. In the good-old-days life was so not complicated. In the good-old-days families would be together and do things together. In the good-old-day the church was the centre of the village and everyone went there. Everyone was nicer, and more patient, and a better neighbour in the good-old-days. Sure life was hard – but people were tough and they did what needed to be done.
In our text the author of Hebrews is also having a good-old-days discussion. But he is not focussing on how great the good-old-days were; he is focussing on how hard the good-old-days were. When the people to whom this letter was written first came to faith they were facing tough times.
• public exposure to insult and persecution.
• sympathising with those who were in prison.
• watching your property being confiscated.
It was all part of their daily lives. And the author of Hebrews wants them to remember those days because something has changed. And it is a change for the worse.
Have a look at verse 32:-
“Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering”.
“Those were the good-old-days. The days when you really knew your hope was in Jesus. The days when your relationship to God was precious and above all else. The days when you trusted only in the power of God and not in your own strength. Do you remember those days? Well you need to because your faith is starting to get a little soft. And you are becoming spiritually weak. And you are lacking confidence”.
There is a saying which talks about the fact that people can be so heavenly minded that they are of no earthly value. The opposite is happening here. These people are so earthly minded they are putting their own faith into dangerous waters. We can become so earthly minded that we can fall into the danger of neglecting the grace of Jesus and, as a result, not have confidence to move forward with Christian enthusiasm. That is the danger and it is a danger we must avoid. The question is, “How do we do it?”.
The answer can be found in our text. The answer starts in verses 32-34 where the author shows us how those with Christian enthusiasm live.
Those with Christian enthusiasm stand their ground when it comes to facing suffering. Those with Christian enthusiasm are like the WW1 infantry men who stood unflinching, and who went forward bravely, as they made their way towards the enemy lines. Christian enthusiasm causes people to have endurance – spiritual endurance – as we run the race marked out for us by Jesus. That is a great picture of a Christian, isn’t it? We are able to stand in the face of opposition. We go headlong into adversity trusting in the training and support we have been given. We carry our cross, just as Christ carried His cross. When it comes to suffering Christian enthusiasm gives us the extra ability to stand tall.
Those with Christian enthusiasm do not hide from public exposure to insult and persecution. The early Christians were often very much misunderstood. They were described as people who were against Rome. Their ideas and teachings were often falsely portrayed. For example when celebrating the Lord’s Supper they would repeat the words of Jesus, “Take and eat, this is my body”. These words were turned around to the point where Christians were accused of cannibalism. Yet, despite these false accusations - silly as they were - the early believers held their tongue and were willing to accept the ridicule for the sake of Christ. Side by side they endured this sort of nonsense as they stuck together when all was going well. And they stuck together when all looked like it was falling apart at the seams.
Those with Christian enthusiasm joyfully accept the confiscation of their property. In the past the readers of the Hebrew letter had willingly allowed this to occur. Many times the Romans and the Jews evicted the Christians from their homes. It would happen illegally. The illegalities were overlooked by the authorities. There was no real justice. But they would just walk away, with the clothes on their back and a few things hastily packed in a bag. For the eviction also meant leaving most of their possessions behind as well.
They stood their ground. They did not hide from public insult. They joyfully accepted the confiscation of their property. Isn’t that a powerful picture of Christianity in action?