Near the end of his life, John Calvin suffered from tuberculosis. In his weakened condition his doctors urged him to rest and adopt a slower pace in his work. He refused, saying, “Bear with me, that God will find me watching and busy at His work until my last sigh.” So the doctors and his friends gave up their exhortations and instead carried him into the pulpit for his daily messages until he could no longer preach.
That was a man who learned the value of perseverance.
Today, we are prone to prioritizing ease over labor. If it is hard, we think, something must be wrong. So we look for an easier way.
We look for an easier way though God may well have purposely planned us to go down a hard path for the purpose of building spiritual strength and endurance in us.
That was the message of the writer to the Hebrews. These believers were facing genuine persecution and suffering. In the heaviness of their afflictions, they found a way out — a repudiation of Christ’s work and a submission back to the sacrificial system and attempts at self-justification. The letter was not only sent to reject and correct that thinking, but it was also penned so that they would cultivate joyful endurance.
So in Hebrews 10:32ff, the readers are reminded that previously they had “endured a great conflict of sufferings.” Those sufferings included things like imprisonment, unlawful seizure of their property, and apparently public beatings and physical suffering. They are reminded that they not only endured those sins against them, but they endured joyfully (10:34).
Then he reminds them, “Do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward” (10:35). That confidence was their objective faith in Christ that would produce infinite, eternal reward (cf. 3:6). And following that he says, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (v. 36).
They didn’t need out of their circumstances. They need to stay in their circumstances and persist in believing God. They needed to continue. They needed to not only hang on to Christ, but they needed to continue with Christ and keep moving toward Christ.
How could they endure when life was so hard for them? (We might be asking the same question about our own circumstances.) The writer gave them several truths to meditate on in their sufferings:
- When they complete God’s will for their lives (in their situation, His will was endurance), He would give them what He promised in salvation (v. 36).
- Christ is coming back — and will do so soon. His return for His people was not delayed by their circumstances (v. 37). That is still true. He is not impeded by any situation from accomplishing final redemption. He will come. Soon.
- The believer’s task (then, and now) was simply to have faith and believe in the promises of God (v. 38). The life of God’s righteous ones (those who have been justified by faith) is to always live by faith. In every difficulty.
- Their identity (and ours also) is not to pull back from Christ to be destroyed for lack of faith, but to continue and to persist, giving evidence of the reality of our faith, and then to enjoy final salvation and the preservation of the soul (v. 38b). The body may be destroyed by enemies, but the soul and life will be saved by Christ.
If you and I will persist in endurance, we must think similar kinds of thoughts. We must look past the trials to the One who saved us and the promise of what He will give us. This life is hard. Really hard at times. There is loss. Tremendous loss at times. Our hearts ache for our suffering. But we must remember that Christ is good in our hardships, and He is good to us in all that He does and will do.
You are likely suffering in some way. How will you persevere? By actively remembering Christ and His promises. As Thomas Watson noted, “Christians do not arrive at perseverance when they sit still and do nothing.” So join the Hebrew believers in persevering by remembering the anchor of our lives (6:19).