Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So, do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.
You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For,
“In just a little while,
he who is coming will come
and will not delay.”
“But my righteous one will live by faith.
And I take no pleasure
in the one who shrinks back.”
But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. (New International Version)
Confidence is necessary for the Christian life. It’s not optional. One can only persevere through trouble with some confident hope.
It’s one thing to bear up under a hard circumstance for a few days or weeks. It’s altogether another thing for that same hardship to continue for months, even years.
Living with such adversity everyday makes one tired… really tired. Feelings of hopelessness slowly creep within. And, after a while, the person or group of people just want the madness to end. So, they simply give up, being lost in their troubles, feeling alone and bereft of options.
Without the confident expectation of better days ahead, while in the throes of difficulty, a failure of faith can too easily happen.
To realize better days, it’s important to remember the earlier days. I’m not talking about living in the past and wishing it were the 1950s again with Beaver Cleaver across the street. This is not about believing that the past was the good old days, and that the present is bad.
Instead, we can recall and remember the ways we endured and persevered with joy in past experiences.
The original Christian recipients of the message of Hebrews needed to recall the various ways they stood firm and tall in their faith, despite the adversity.
In earlier times, they were insulted and persecuted. Yet, they showed solidarity with others in similar situations. The believers were attentive to prisoners and sought to meet their needs. And they responded to the confiscation of their property with joy because they knew there was so much more than this present life and it’s possessions.
But the persecution and the insults continued… day after day… with no apparent end….
The Christians began to lose their grip on faith. They needed to reconnect with their purpose, with why they were Christians to begin with.
Originally, the reason they had such incredible attitudes while enduring hard things is because they were pursuing heavenly treasure. Their earthly possessions were merely temporary things, not of eternal value. They understood that people have eternal value, not stuff, so the believers willingly focused their efforts in helping others.
However, over time, the band of believers lost their focus. All they could see was the pain and the difficulty. They became disconnected with their purpose. And so, they were in danger of losing their faith and becoming utterly hopeless.
What to do? Give up? Renege on faith? Adopt a “whatever will be, will be,” sort of philosophy?
Remember what God has done for you.
Affirm what is right, just, and true.
Embrace faith and patience.
That’s what the prophet Habakkuk did. And his resilience helped to bring proper perspective to present troubles.
Habakkuk was distressed over the corruption of his fellow Israelites. Things were askew and not right. So, he complained to God about it.
God responded by informing Habakkuk that judgment was coming to Israel through the Babylonians. This was neither what Habakkuk expected nor wanted. The prophet grumbled even more because the Babylonians were more corrupt than the Israelites.
The prophet was having a hard time, and it seemed God was only making things worse, not better.
Habakkuk struggled to come to terms with what God was doing, and not doing. Finally, he concluded the matter by reconnecting with his faith:
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!
The Sovereign Lord is my strength!
He makes me as surefooted as a deer,
able to tread upon the heights. (Habakkuk 3:17-19, NLT)
Perhaps the most significant faith experience we can have, is to come to the point of complete trust in God so that our happiness is not dependent upon good circumstances.
The truth we all must eventually come around to is that joy and security is independent of what’s going on around us.
Even though we face difficulty, and even evil, confidence can still exist and thrive within us. We can still rejoice because we don’t need everything to go our way in order to be happy.
Faith, patience, and joy are neither cheap, nor easy. For them to remain rooted within us, we must affirm our commitment to Christ daily. And that requires remembering.
What’s more, there is a reward ahead if we persevere to the end.
We can remain patient, express faith, kindle hope, and remember necessary things whenever we stop doing unimportant things which do not add value to our ultimate goals.
So, be mindful of the things which are most important to you; and move through life at a pace of hope, not anxiety. Don’t throw away your spiritual confidence, just because things are continually hard.
God, give us grace to accept with serenity
the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things
which should be changed,
and the Wisdom to distinguish
the one from the other.
Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as a pathway to peace,
Taking, as Jesus did,
This sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it,
Trusting that You will make all things right,
If I surrender to Your will,
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen. – The Serenity Prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr