SUFFERING SAINTS SHALL SURELY SURVIVE
I. SUFFERINGS: Hebrews 10:32-34
II. SELFLESSNESS: Hebrews 10:34-37
III. SUMMATION: Hebrews 10:38-39
The writer to the Hebrews continues his comparisons between the Old Law and the Better Way. He has written on various parts of the Old Covenant showing how that the former way of serving and worshiping God have passed and a new day has dawned with the Advent of Jesus.
Now, he draws the reader’s attention to something that was very familiar with his readers then and to a degree is familiar with millions of Christians around the world in our day-suffering for the sake of Jesus. In this chapter he has little to say about the former way of worshipping God; instead, he brings everything into perspective by reminding his readers of what many of them knew all to well-persecution for the name of Christ.
I think it is necessary for every Christian in the Free World to stop and think about this simple truth from time to time. We who live in so much freedom must remember our brothers and sisters in Christ who are not as fortunate as we are and who suffer such terrible persecution for the name and the sake of our Lord and Saviour.
Yet, the writer to the Hebrews does not dwell on the bad, but instead turns the terrible plight that many of them suffered for Christ into something that is indeed positive and noble. Along the way, he reminds his readers that this same One for whom they have suffered so much is well aware of their plight and He has not forgotten them in their hour of need. Far from that sad predicament, He reminds his readers that Jesus is well aware of what they have suffered for Him and that He will make it all up to them in the future by preparing something that is far better than what this world has to offer. Indeed, what they have suffered and what they have lost pales in comparison to that which He will give to them in His time.
As I study these verses of Scripture, I see three things regarding these dear people and he reminds them that Suffering Saints Shall Surely Survive. He does this in three parts. The first part deals with the SUFFERINGS that the saints endured for Jesus. The next part has to do with their SELFLESSNESS. Then, I note the SOLILOQUY he delivers on their behalf.
I. SUFFERINGS: Oh the price some people pay for their allegiance to our Lord. The writer to the Hebrews reviews a bit of history for them-something that they already knew-that to become a Christian in that day meant more than just giving one’s acceptance to the Lord. It meant more than simply bowing the head and asking Christ into one’s heart. In the days of this writing, to accept Jesus meant much, much more. It often meant severe suffering, losing one’s family/friends, and often, it mean death for the new convert. This prompted the writer to remind these new Christians that by exchanging the old Covenant for the new, it meant a great deal of pain and anguish. Yet, his purpose was not to dwell on this, but to point to what lay ahead for those that suffered so much for Christ.
The first part of their SUFFERINGS had to do with the sufferings of the body, the flesh, the Severity of that suffering. These early saints were beaten, stoned, thrown to wild beasts in amphitheaters, plus a whole lot more.
History has recorded that some of the Christians were beheaded; others were made to run through a gauntlet of whips and then given to wild beasts. Rome boasted of and displayed severed heads and limbs of martyred Christians. Other saints were held in stocks and chains; some were whipped; some were starved and all suffered for claiming the name of Jesus.
In verse 32, the writer reminded his readers to think back on the time they accepted Jesus as their Saviour and then remember the Severity of their persecution for becoming believers in Him. He also reminded his readers that even though they suffered great tribulations in their faith, others suffered taunts and disgraceful snide remarks from some as they passed wicked people in the market places and in their daily living. Others had their possessions confiscated and many were turned out of houses and homes just for their belief in Jesus.
Yet, even though they suffered beyond endurance, the writer reminded his readers that through their common element of suffering severely, the very pain they endured did something that nothing else could ever do-it made them to become closer to God and to one another. He reminded them that even though the persecution was severe, yet they banned together and began to help one another. This togetherness brought about a great coming together, a Solidifying of the saints that drew them closer together rather than tearing them apart. In their commonality, they were able to grow together as a body of believers everywhere the gospel story was told and accepted. Persecution always does that. It does not disperse the Body of Christ, it brings it together in a way that nothing else ever can.
Besides the saints coming together and growing as a body of believers, they began to share with one another items of clothing, possessions of furniture and possessions of which they knew a fellow believer had need and it was taken from one. The Spoliation that happened by the authorities, only opened up the treasures of the Christians to give to one another needed items for sharing and use. Suddenly, in the light of so much pain and affliction vented upon the Christians, the things of this world did not seem to hold them by their allure. The Christians soon began to realize that in living under such pain and stress the love for earthly goods were not where the values of life should reside. The things they had were often confiscated and what the Christians had left to call their own, lost their allure and they began to let go and to share these things with their fellow Christians.
This was what the writer to the Hebrews wanted to write first before he moved on to the second part of his writing. He commended his readers for discovering through their sufferings of great severity and pain, that this world and the things one might value here below are not where the value of life lies. It lies in serving Christ, in enduring all for Him and for not possessing things that will perish some day. The real value of life lies in surrending all for Jesus. Why? Because as we shall see, there is something Better than what this world has to offer.
II. SELFLESSNESS: Moving from the past heartaches the followers of Christ endured, the writer moves on to remind and commend his readers for their Selflessness in helping him and no doubt others while they themselves were undergoing great tribulations.
The first part of their Selfless love for others had to do with the Succor that they offered the writer. We do not know just what was involved with what these Christians did but we know that they offered “compassion” to him and no doubt to others.
I find it ironic that in the midst of so much hate in which they were living, they looked deep into their hearts and gave out love to one another instead of hate and bitterness. Only the love of Jesus could effect the human heart to do that which is so contrary to human nature. Usually, when one suffers from maltreatment from outside sources, the tendency is to strike back at someone else just to relieve some inner pressure. Here, these Christians, enduring so much pain and affliction, offered help, love and kindness to the writer and no doubt to others. We do not know what form this compassion became, but what ever type it was, it greatly impressed the writer. The outside pressure of hate, punishment and persecution might have been given by the powers that were, but only love and kindness were given in return. What a testimony!!!
Not only did these saints come to the aid of the writer and to others with love, but they also served as a help to one another by their Steadfastness in serving Jesus. There was something good about seeing others who were enduring so much for their faith and yet remaining true to Jesus. The testimony they gave to one another was clear and powerful-“Stay true to your faith.” With so much vile and vituperative-ness being spewed upon these early saints for their new found faith, it would have been easy to simply throw everything overboard and walk away. No doubt some did according to the earlier part of this book. Yet, those that stayed the course, that kept the faith, that refused to bow their knees to Baal, stood as silent witnesses to others in the Christian circles that simply said, “I will not yield; I will not surrender; I have made up my mind and I an going through with Jesus.” As others watched, they caught the same spirit and they stood the test for their faith. Their Steadfastness in the midst of these trials showed a great deal of SELFLESSNESS, more than what they could ever imagine. Here, the writer commends them for doing just what Jesus wanted them to do.
Besides their faith being exemplary to all who would care to see, the writer then moves on to remind them that if they would stay the course just a few more days, their reward will be so much “Better” than anything they could ever desire here on this Earth.
He reminds his readers that just by staying true to Jesus, that soon He would reward them with things in Heaven that are so much Better than anything they forfeited and presently had here in this life. When one gets to the place where these tried and true saints were, one begins to realize that the song is correct, “This world is not my home.” Suddenly, Heaven begins to draw near and this world begins to recede. On old Swedish pastor lay a dying. The family gathered around him as he lay between life and death. His voice was silent now; his breathing was unsteady; his body was motionless. Suddenly his eyes opened, He sat up in bed, stretched his arm heaven ward and said, “This world is reseeding, Heaven is approaching; and, I want to go.” With those words faltering away into space, he slumped back on his bed and was Home with Jesus. He, like the saints of yesteryear and like the millions of other Christians, realized that this world is only a dressing room for our final heavenly wardrobe of a body free from sin, sickness and sorrow.
The writer reminded his readers that they suffered much yet they exhibited much for Jesus. They had compassion on all those with whom they knew. They lost much but shared with what was left. They endured the beatings, the torture, the agony of being ostracized by family and friends, yet they stood true. The writer encourages them to remember that this world will pass and someday they will be treated “Better.” Someday, they will inherit a “Better” life. Someday, they will lay down their mortal bodies and be clothed in Heaven’s best garments.
Their SELFLESSNESS will be rewarded. Likewise, saints of today, so will your selfless deeds be rewarded in Heaven. Jesus said that giving a cup of cold water to a thirsty person in His name here on this Earth, will be rewarded in Heaven. Let us stay true to our Heavenly calling. There awaits for us a “Better” life just over the horizon. I cannot afford to miss it. I must stay true to Jesus.
III. SUMMATION: The writer to the Hebrews closes out his message of review and commendations by summing up what he has written to his readers.
The first part of his conclusion has to do with the Simplicity he gives in his assertion just how they and now we, are to live. That simple plan is short and to the point. The followers of Jesus were and are to live by faith. When all else has been reduced in life to nothing, the writer tells his readers that the only sure way of living and pleasing God is to do so by faith.
The faith to which he is referring is that which purifies and settles the soul. When all else has been taken away from a believer either by force or by sharing with one’s fellow Christian, there is not too much left upon which to live except living by faith in a just God and a righteous Saviour.
These Christians had lost just about everything there was to their lives. Many lost everything for their faith. Having no prospect for a better earthly future, the only recourse was to trust in a just God that He would supply their needs. It may seem trite and cliché for the writer to say what he did, but the bottom line is what every Christian must do and that is to live with the certainty that if all else evaporates today, the soul will still have peace with God and will make Heaven his own when he departs this world.
There is something inherently beautiful in one who follows the dictates of this command. The one who does live by faith that one’s sins are forgiven and realizes that Christ is one’s all in all, marks that one as someone who is truly above this world and is not of this Earth. That one’s home is beyond this vale of tears-it lies inside the Celestial City where there is no night and the tears of the past are wiped away by the mercies of a loving God. The writer sought to strengthen the believers by telling them to keep the faith, stay true to Jesus and to live with an active faith in Him. Soon, their faith would become a reality for all of them.
Just as quickly as he writes to encourage the believers, he adds that should one toss overboard one’s faith and withdraw from the Fold of salvation, he has no more dealings with that one. This may sound stringent but there is a definite philosophy behind this drive of his for complete Separateness. The rejection of Christ by a once dedicated Christian has ripple effects among those who suffer for the name of Christ. To see one who has undergone suffering for that Name and to see that one loose so much of this Earth’s worldly goods and family and then to see everything restored to that one who renounces Christ in order to gain some of this world‘s goods-has a terrible haunting effect upon those who desire to stay true. The temptations grows in the eyes of the beholder to follow suit and reject Christ for the lessening of the pain of suffering for Jesus. The writer said that he would head off that temptation to weaken his faith if he encountered a brother or a sister who once stood with him and then finally rejected the very Christ that one once embraced. The writer said he would separate himself as soon as he discovered the Judas. The old saying is still true, “Bad manners corrupt good conversations.” Or, “A little leaven leavens the whole loaf.” All it takes is for one to stop, listen, rationalize and the enemy of one’s soul has an entrance into the mind of the strongest follower of Jesus. Not this writer-no way, no how. He was determined that he would sever relationships with the turncoat for his own soul’s sake. That was good advice then-it still is.
Finally, the writer concluded his SUMMATION of this part of his writing by stating in no uncertain terms that to follow Christ in spite of all things, meant that one would be a Survivor. Every saint that makes the landing is a survivor. Regardless of the age of the believer; regardless of the place in which the believer lives; regardless of the might of the persecution or the lack of it; every one who makes it to Heaven is one who has run the race, fought the fight, and kept the faith. That one is a true Survivor.
Every one who completes the race realizes just how much “better” it was to follow Christ rather than to give up the faith. Every one who completes the race to Heaven endures and wins the Crown of Life. The writer started out by reminding his readers of something they already knew-they suffered for Jesus. He also reminded them of their kindness to him and to others in the midst of such terrible circumstances. Yet, he also encouraged them to keep the faith, to live by that faith, to stay true and soon
“Better” things and circumstances will prevail and they will make it home to be with Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of their faith.
Are we as committed to Christ as these Early Saints were who lost so much for their faith in Christ? If not, we can be just as committed to Christ as they were by asking him for the “faith once delivered to the saints.”