By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
Sometimes as Christians, we begin to struggle and have periods of spiritual distress.
What do we do when this happens?
I would like for us to consider four things that Paul reminds Christians to remember when they are struggling. Let’s notice the text and then carefully analyze it.
Hebrews 10:19-39-19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. 26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. 32 But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings: 33 partly while you were made a spectacle both by reproaches and tribulations, and partly while you became companions of those who were so treated; 34 for you had compassion on me in my chains, and joyfully accepted the plundering of your goods, knowing that you have a better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven. 35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37 “FOR YET A LITTLE WHILE, AND HE WHO IS COMING WILL COME AND WILL NOT TARRY. 38 NOW THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH; BUT IF ANYONE DRAWS BACK, MY SOUL HAS NO PLEASURE IN HIM.” 39 But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul.
Struggling Christians Need Fellowship
The first thing Oaul reminds us that we need to remember us our fellowship. He reminds us of the fellowship that we have with the Godhead:
Hebrews 10:19-23-19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
Notice that our fellowship with God is dependent on at least two things.
First, the priesthood of Jesus makes our fellowship with God possible. Without what Jesus has accomplished as the High Priest of God’s people, there could be no salvation and friendship with God!
Hebrews 2:17-18-17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.
Hebrews 4:14-16-14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Second, our fellowship with God is dependent upon our bodies have been washed with pure waters as believers. Notice the imagery here to baptism, and how the early Christians so understood this passage:
Cyril of Jerusalem: For since a person’s nature is twofold, compounded of soul and body, the purification is also twofold, incorporeal for the incorporeal part, bodily for the body. For as the water purifies the body, so the Spirit seals the soul, that having our hearts sprinkled and our bodies washed with clean water, we may draw near to God. Therefore, when about to enter the water, do not regard it as mere water, but look for its saving power by the efficacy of the Holy Spirit, for without both you cannot be made perfect. It is not I who say this, but the Lord Jesus, who has the power in this matter, says, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” [Joh 3:5.] Neither does he who is baptized but has not been deemed worthy of the Spirit possess perfect grace; nor will one who acts virtuously, but does not receive the seal by water, enter into the kingdom of heaven. This may appear a bold saying, but it is not mine, for it was Jesus who pronounced it. Catechetical Lectures 3.4. [FC 61:110.])
Despite what the religious world of our day and age proclaims, baptism is a part of God’s plan of salvation (cf. Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:26-27; 1 Peter 3:20-21).
Notice also that Paul discusses the need for Christians to remember the fellowship of the saints. Christians need to be in church service! Scripture warns us against the evil of forsaking the assembly of the saints.
There is a difference between forsaking the assembly and missing an assembly. Sometimes Christians have to miss a service for familial responsibilities (1 Samuel 1:21-22; 1 Timothy 5:8), and during times of bereavement or work (Leviticus 10:19-20; Numbers 9:9-11), This is not forsaking an assembly, and here is a difference between these.
However, forsaking the assembly is a serious matter. So much so that Laul tells us it will lead to eternal separation from God (Hebrews 10:26-31).
When we are struggling as Christians, we need to be reminded of our fellowship with God and His people.
Struggling Christians Need Focus
There is in the Book of Hebrews a very important theme that the Christians need to be made aware of: the danger of drifting. Look back at Hebrews 2.
Hebrews 2:1-Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.
The text here is very emphatic. William Barclay tells us:
“In the first verse, there may be an even more vivid picture than there is in the translation which we have used. The two key words are prosechein and pararrein. We have taken prosechein to mean to pay attention to, which is one of its most common meanings. Pararrein is a word of many meanings. It is used of something flowing or slipping past; it can be used of a ring that has slipped off the finger, of a particle of food that has slipped down the wrong way, of a topic that has slipped into the conversation, of a point which has escaped someone in the course of an argument, of some fact that has slipped out of the mind, of something that has ebbed or leaked away. It is regularly used of something which has carelessly or thoughtlessly been allowed to become lost. But both these words also have a nautical sense. Prosechein can mean to moor a ship; and pararrein can be used of a ship which has been carelessly allowed to slip past a harbour or a haven because the captain has forgotten to allow for the wind or the current or the tide. So, this first verse could be very vividly translated: ‘Therefore, we must the more eagerly anchor our lives to the things that we have been taught in case the ship of life should drift past the harbour and be wrecked.’ It is a vivid picture of a ship drifting to destruction because the pilot is asleep. For most of us, the threat of life is not so much that we should plunge into disaster but that we should drift into sin. There are few people who, deliberately and in a moment, turn their backs on God; there are many who day by day drift further and further away from him. There are not many who in one moment of time commit some disastrous sin; there are many who almost imperceptibly involve themselves in some situation and suddenly awake to find that they have ruined life for themselves and broken someone else’s heart. We must be continually on the alert against the peril of drifting in life.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letter To The Hebrews, 25-26 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press)
Christians are in constant need of drifting away from God. Before we know it, we are not careful, we can find ourselves in dangerous waters. This is one of the reasons why we must maintain careful focus on where we are going.
First, Paul tells the Christians to focus on where they have been. There can be blessings found in remembering where we have been in life, and what God has brought us through. Notice that the Apostle reminds them of how in their first days as Christians, they had endured much suffering and hardship for the Lord and His Gospel.
I have often heard people talking about the zeal that they had when they first became Christians, and that is good. But with that zeal we also need to remember that there is conflict in the Christian life. We must be willing to face persecution and hardship for following the Lord. Among other things, these conflicts remind us of the purity of the Cause we serve. Throughout the Bible, we read of the need to continually remember where we have been and what God has brought us through:
Psalm 77:10-20-10 And I said, “This is my anguish; But I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High.” 11 I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old. 12 I will also meditate on all Your work, And talk of Your deeds. 13 Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary; Who is so great a God as our God? 14 You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples. 15 You have with Your arm redeemed Your people, The sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. 16 The waters saw You, O God; The waters saw You, they were afraid; The depths also trembled. 17 The clouds poured out water; The skies sent out a sound; Your arrows also flashed about. 18 The voice of Your thunder was in the whirlwind; The lightnings lit up the world; The earth trembled and shook. 19 Your way was in the sea, Your path in the great waters, And Your footsteps were not known. 20 You led Your people like a flock By the hand of Moses and Aaron.
Psalm 77:5-6-5 I have considered the days of old, The years of ancient times. 6 I call to remembrance my song in the night; I meditate within my heart, And my spirit makes diligent search.
Revelation 2:5-Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent.
Christians need to focus on the past in this regard.
We also need to focus on those who are suffering, especially those who are suffering for the cause of Christ and the Gospel. Throughout the New Testament, there is encouragement to remember those who are suffering for the Lord.
Hebrews 13:3-Remember the prisoners as if chained with them—those who are mistreated—since you yourselves are in the body also.
When we consider the many saints who suffer for the Gospel, it encourages us to also be faithful to the Lord and to imitate their courage and faith.
Christians need to focus on their reward. Notice that Paul mentions their reward five times in six verses (Hebrews 10:34-39). Our reward is in Heaven (Hebrews 10:34), it has great reward (Hebrews 10:35), is a promise that we will one day receive (Hebrews 10:36), when Jesus returns at the Second Coming (Hebrews 10:37), for those of us who will keep on believing to the saving of our souls (Hebrews 10:39).
Struggling Christians Need Fortitude
When we realize the focus that we are talking about, we see the importance of fortitude. Fortitude is the quality of endurance, of persevering in the midst of trials and hardships. Paul specifically points out that when we are struggling, we need this quality of endurance (Hebrews 10:36).
Sometimes I get tired of running the Christian race. There are times I become discouraged, and tired, even when I think, “Man, with all of this trouble, is it worth it to follow Christ?” It is during these times that I need to have this fortitude. I need to remind myself of this reward that is waiting, and of the promise that Christ remembers what we have sacrificed for Him. Paul writes:
Hebrews 6:10-For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.
We must not become weary friends. We must persevere.
Galatians 6:9-And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.
1 Corinthians 15:58-Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.
Struggling Christians Need Faith
Finally, Paul tells us that struggling Christians need to have faith.
Faith (as we learn in Hebrews 11) has three fundamental ideas. First, there is knowledge of God’s Word. Second, there is trust in God’s Word. Third, there is obedience to God’s Word.
With these things in mind, Paul points out some things we need to have faith in.
First, we need to have faith ultimately in the Godhead. Notice that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit are referred to contextually (Hebrews 10:26-31).
Second, we need to have faith in the goodness of God Who will remember our reward (cf. Colossians 1:5; 1 Peter 1:3-5).
Finally, we need to keep faith in the Second Coming. Paul quotes from Habakkuk 2:3-4 in Hebrews 10:37-38 to reenforce the point that he is making about the need to focus on the Second Coming of Christ.
When we are struggling as Christians, we have to remember our need for: Fellowship, Focus, Fortitude, and Faith.
As the people of God, our hope is tied up in the Lord Jesus and His victory:
Hebrews 7:25-Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
The Son Of God went to the Cross, “despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:1-2) and offered Himself for us (Hebrews 9:14). He was buried, and arose again the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).
Why not today believe in Jesus, repent of your sins, confess Him before men, and be baptized into Him to receive remission of sins (Acts 2:37-47; 8:35-38)?
If you are a child of God who needs to come back to the Lord and the church in repentance and prayer (1 John 1:8-2:2), why not return today?
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.