Sermons & Sunday Schools

Encouragement with an Appeal to Persevere (Part 1)

Full Transcript:

Let us take our Bibles this morning and turn to Hebrews 10. Most likely we will be looking at Hebrews 10:32-35. We are looking in Scripture at an encouragement with an appeal to persevere. In our text, there is sandwiched between an exhortation to believers to worship God. And last week I looked at the warning intending to provoke fear, and then there is an appeal to believers this morning in Hebrews 10:36 which says:

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

Now the three things that I have already mentioned that need to be included in our approach to God are first, that followers of God need to enter the Holy place with confidence. The challenge was for prayer, that it would be the highest expression of a believer’s lifestyle of faith.

The second thing is that a Christian should draw near with sincerity, an honest and cleansed heart.

The third thing is that followers of Jesus Christ should hold fast the confession of faith together. That includes the responsibilities to hold fast yourself, and also to mutually encourage others to hold fast in the body of believers, in the gathered assembly.

These responsibilities are also included in the exhortation in Hebrews 10:25:

Not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.

This is an admonition that is given very strongly. The failure of some to continue attending the gatherings of the community is cast not just in the realm of neglect but also wrongful abandonment. That is the first step in which people are letting go of truth, doctrine, profession and moving away from God’s program to sanctify His people and to make them like Himself.

No matter what the condition may be, believers are to stick with Christ’s local church. We should also exhort others to continue attending faithfully, especially in the light of the Lord’s soon return. The Lord is coming and we know that, just not when. Part of being ready is being faithful to the gathered assembly and to constantly be growing in truth. It is going to benefit you and be a reward to you!

This brings me to the fourth and fifth things that needs to accompany our approach to God. The fourth thing is that followers of Jesus Christ are to keep near with confidence. In Hebrews 10:32, it says this:

But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings.

Then also look down to Hebrews 10:35:

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

There comes a message of encouragement after the strong warning passage, coupled with an appeal to persevere. I want you to notice back in verse 32 what he is saying to believers, the gathered assembly who are to carry out his appeal, which is packaged here as an imperative. Now an imperative is a command. Here is the command that he gives them. In Hebrews 10:32, it says:

But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings.

Remember is the command. It points to something that happened in the past. The author wants them to call to mind something. The word actually means “to weigh something.” We would use it to say that something is heavy. Whatever is being said has weight to it. When we are talking about the glory of God, we are actually talking about the weightiness of the awesomeness and greatness of the God who has created Heaven and Earth. Anything that has great weight to it must be considered in our minds seriously. That means that it will benefit us to think about what he is telling them.

He is basically saying, “Remember well and weigh the period of persecution that you went through not long after you received the light.” Right after they received the light, Christ, they were baptized and persecution quickly followed. Why is the author of Hebrews with his pastoral spirit asking them to seriously review their past, cruel circumstances. He is asking them to review their past, painful circumstances. Usually we do not want to think about things that are painful or hard. But he specifically asks them to go back and review what happened because it is going to give the confidence to persevere in the faith. The reason why he asks them because if they look closely enough to the times of trouble and suffering and humiliation after becoming a believer, we will discover things and learn what we can learn no where else in our Christian walk. He is asking them to look closely because there are two important facts that come to light when they look closely at their persecution.

The first thing is that it proves their confession of faith to be genuine. Hebrews 10:23 says:

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.

They did not waver but held fast. These are brand new believers and they are holding fast. A second thing shows that they had gained much more because of the persecution than they could ever lose here on Earth. They had gained a proven character in persecution. Persecution matured them spiritually. It is very similar to what Paul taught the Romans in Romans 5:3-5, when he says:

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

We find out that God really loves us while we are going through trouble and in the pressure cooker, after conversion. They are called to think about what we gain in Christ and what we must lose if we shrink away. To think about this correctly, there is a call to consider the great paradox of the Christian life. The Lord’s children can be in the midst of trials, in the middle of tribulations and under great humiliation, be weighed down and depressed in their spirits, and at the same time have hearts that greatly rejoice. It is in these circumstances that we grow spiritually and grow in the faith more than anything else.

That is why we are to examine more closely the times the Lord has and will again bring us to and through times of suffering, tribulation, and humiliation. It is there that we begin to see with the eyes of faith and learn what we have gained by being in Christ. It is not just a profession of faith. It is a relationship with God that goes on every single day.

If we are to know anything in our lives, we are to look in suffering and trouble, when the bottom drops out. It is when you are faced with something way bigger than you and you realize that that tribulation and suffering and humiliation is doing something. It is challenging your profession of faith in Christ.

When those past sufferings are looked at more closely, six things in this passage become more evident regarding what they have gained. Look at Hebrews 10:32 for the first thing that we gained, which is light. It says:

But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened.

This word means to be enlightened spiritually and to be instilled with the saving knowledge of the gospel. He is saying that before they came to know Christ, they were all in darkness. They were dead with no spiritual hunger, no desire for the bread of life, or for the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. There was no thirst for righteousness. Everything with regard to God’s grace and all spiritual things were dead, leaving them spiritually unresponsive.

Then they were born again and the light of the gospel shown brightly in their hearts. Eyes were open to condemnation before a holy God. The only One who could save them is Jesus Christ. They were born again in God’s family and made alive to the things of God. There was spiritual movement in spiritual life. The proof is that they knew something they did not know before. The Word of God becomes alive and they know that they passed from death unto life. This is evident because they love the brethren, as we can see in 1 John. They were pulled from darkness into , ekklesia, which is the gathered assembly. This word means to come out of something into something else. That is what the church is in essence!

I like to point people to the fact that once someone gets saved, becomes a believer, a follower of Jesus Christ, they also walk into a spiritual realm in which they will experience spiritual conflict. Different things in this realm will challenge their faith, profession, what they believe and how they are living their lives. When Jesus gave the parable of the Sower, He said in Matthew 13:20-21:

The one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away.

It is the persecution and affliction that is going to test your profession, whether or not you are a believer. He says further in Matthew 13:22:

And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world and the deceitfulness of wealth choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful.

At every step, our profession in Christ Jesus is going to be challenged. For this challenge, believers will need endurance which is different from willpower or having a stiff upper lip. This is spiritual power to live your life because in tribulation and suffering, something will be experienced. It is the ability to supernaturally persevere and live for God in the middle of suffering and trouble. It is not giving any thought to give up the profession of faith because the troubles did not exist before. We need endurance because the Christian walk, if you have not discovered yet, is a struggle and a battle and a fight for the faith. Paul said, “He ran the race and fought for the faith.” It is going to be a struggle.

The first thing that is gained in Christ is the light to see. But the second thing under that light is being in that spiritual realm and needing endurance. The second thing that the writer of Hebrews wants people to see is that they were given this endurance. Look at what it says in Hebrews 10:32:

You endured a great conflict of sufferings.

The second thing gained was endurance. They gained endurance as to a struggling athlete that is striving to reach the goal. His motive and desire is to reach the goal, not to sit down on the bench. It is like a soldier in battle. His desire is to win the battle, take the hill, and be victorious in the war. That is the sense given here.

It is the ability to endure great conflicts of suffering. It is the word which means to remain or tarry under ill treatment. This ill treatment came upon these believers as a direct consequence of embracing the Christian faith when they become followers of Jesus Christ. The Epistle of James also gives the sense of trials and endurance, and what these things play in our Christian pilgrimage. James says in James 1:2:

Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials; knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.

There is a third thing they gained in their endurance. They realized that they cannot endure alone. It is not just the Spirit of God upon them, but they realized that they cannot endure without the Church body. These believers became involved in spiritual combat. It says in Hebrews 10:33:

Partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated.

In both cases, the church body became the place of strength and encouragement. The phrase to become sharers, means to share in the conflict of someone else in the body. The Greek word is a very familiar one, it is the one we have heard often, koinonia, which means fellowship. Here it is in the plural sense. It means that you are to be sharers together in this suffering.

Those Christians who were most likely not part of their local congregation, and even the Jews who were followers of Christ, are all to enter into fellowship with those who for their sake of faith, were reviled and abused and sent to death. Even so, they all willingly practiced koinonia, and entered into their suffering while they were outcasts and down trodden. Their confidence is building because in their suffering, they did something supernatural and something they never would have done before.

They could have looked the other way when seeing someone else who is suffering. But they did not. They not only looked at their suffering, but entered into their suffering with them. Their whole world view is holistic and includes everything they did not have before they received the light. They were self-centered and selfish. They avoid trouble and persecutions at the highest cost, so they manifested their real and vital appreciation of the unity of the body, and these Hebrew Christians had been given proof that the unity of the church must be gained by acting together and by the power of the Spirit.

It is just like what Paul said to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 12:25-26:

So that there may be no divisions in the body, but that the members may have the same care one for another and if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.

Only God’s Spirit can do that and that proves that God did something in your heart. That proves in your normal and abnormal circumstances, that God is doing something and He is keeping you. He is making you mature in the faith, because that is not something any one of likes to do, enter into someone else’s suffering. They did it as a church because one of the members of the body was hurting and the whole church felt that pain and suffering. So they pursued it and did something about it, and that is supernatural. It is not just my profession, God is working in me and He is doing something in me to make me new! All things have passed away and have become new! This is part of the new me in Christ Jesus.

There is a fourth thing that goes along with this that they gained. It is sympathy. Look at what it says in Hebrews 10:34:

For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.

Remember what it says in Hebrews 4:15:

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.

God meets our weaknesses through the body of believers. He gives us, by the Spirit of God, the ability to have compassion on people.

We talked about compassion this morning. One of the first things for real evangelism is to really care that someone out there living in darkness is heading for hell, if they do not come to Christ or receive Him. So you should be moved with compassion on their souls! We have the answer, the Truth, the Word of God, and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to tell them! There is a sense that the affections are inwardly moved, that others are more important than yourself. With the in-flow of the love of God in your heart, it cures your self-centeredness and selfishness. There is grace to gladly share the burdens and trials of others, though you know that it will cost you.

Any time you enter into the burdens of others, it will cost you your time, money, and your sense of peace. But you realize that it is worth it and you are actually being moved by the Spirit of God. Turn to Hebrews 13:3, where the author says this:

Remember the prisoners, as though in prison with them, and those who are ill-treated, since you yourselves also are in the body.

He is talking about the people who have an appreciation for the gathered assembly of believers because there is strength there to go out and help those people who are hurting and being persecuted and imprisoned. He says to them to remember these prisoners as though they were in prison with them. It is easy to forget about someone who is locked away, out of sight and out of mind. The Holy Spirit is not going to allow you to do that, and that proves that you are converted. God is doing something supernatural in your life.

A fifth thing that is gained is found in Hebrews 10:34, it says:

For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.

If someone came to you and knocked on your door and had the authority to take everything you had, would you endure that joyfully? In the flesh, no. In the Spirit, yes. Your worldview has changed and you do not think anymore just about your own material things.

In other words, there is joy unspeakable and inexpressible going on within you when they come to take away your earthly possessions. That joy is there because you have calculated that what you gained by being in Christ could not measure up to any materialistic gain or temporal pleasure that anyone could take away from you.

Basically he is saying that if you do not renounce and reject Christ, you can have your home. But if you do not do that, everything will be taken away. Anyone can look around and say that they do not know if they can handle that.

But the whole of life is different in Christ Jesus! That life is short in light of eternity. The things we have are only temporal and only for this world. We should not be living for them or storing up treasures on Earth. Rather, we should be storing treasures in Heaven!

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says in Matthew 5:12:

Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Peter also says in 1 Peter 1:6-7:

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.

The way we think about life has changed. Life is short and eternity is long. We can see the truth and what is going on in the world with the light. We can pour our lives out to make a lot of money, but we see that it all falls away. So I conclude that it is not worth giving up Christ for temporal things, possessions, money, prestige, or power. All those things are temporal and are going to pass away with the Earth. But God’s Word will never pass away! Our salvation and faith are eternal in Christ Jesus! This is what gives us confidence! Here is the question, what got you through this time of conflict and suffering without losing your confidence, confession, and joyful demeanor. He explains it in Hebrews 10:34 in the last part of the verse:

You have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.

Knowing this here is to know positively. We know that we are the owners of things that are permanent. We know that we have treasure far better than the best on this Earth, where moth cannot destroy, where rust cannot decay, and what a robber cannot take away. And that is my faith and relationship with Jesus Christ. Only believers can respond to the whole of life like this. That is because when this comes, if you are not a believer, you are going to high-tail it out of there! However, a believer perseveres, knowing that his good Lord has sovereignly chosen theses sufferings to mature him, make him strong, build in him a sympathy for other people, and show that there is a joy that nothing or no one can take away. Even though you are suffering outwardly.

It is just like when sailors realize that when two bodies come together, there is usually a very strong top current and underneath there is a very strong under current. One goes one way and the other goes the other way. The two currents do not collide but go on top and below each other.

It is like the Christian. Everything is wrong on the surface but underneath there is the under current of the joy of the Lord. There is rejoining in the Spirit and the great things given by God in salvation. This affliction, suffering, and humiliation is good for you! And it will only be for a time! The Lord will get you through it, build character in your soul, and give you endurance to continue to press on to your Heavenly calling.

The sixth thing that is gained is the promise of a Heavenly reality. Notice what it says at the end of Hebrews 10:34:

Knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one.

In other words, one that does not fade away, does not rust, and cannot be stolen from you. I recently read a short story by a local church pastor. It was about a young girl named Margaret who attended his church and truly bore witness to God’s grace. The pastor said she was confined to a wheel chair for most of her adult life, and that she lived in a body that was contorted and misshapen, ravaged by multiple sclerosis. She spoke softly and often slurred her words, with many audible grunts. She drooled constantly and was in pain for most of her waking hours. She loved Jesus and she never missed church. Sunday mornings and evenings, mid-week prayer meetings, and special gatherings, Margaret was always in attendance in a neatly pressed dress.

One night, the pastor was conducting a forum and facilitating a dialogue with about twenty people. He asked the people to tell their favorite Bible verse or passage that was personally meaningful to them. Several people offered verses and then Margaret let him know that she wanted to say something. Most of the people recited the verses from memory or opened up the Scriptures and read them. Since Margaret could not read or speak, the pastor looked up the verse that she wanted and read it for her. This was the passage in Psalm 119:71:

It is good for me that I was afflicted, That I may learn Your statutes.

Margaret smiled broadly and nodded her head. Her wheelchair and her life was a testimony to God’s grace and to someone who sees very clearly with the eyes of faith.

Hebrews 11 is all about faith. Do you think that you would ever grow in faith without being in the circumstances where you had to trust God? There is no such thing as faith without trusting God in a circumstance that looks to be impossible or something you have to endure and do not want to go through.

The very truth that is going to get you and I through every conflict, tribulation, suffering, and humiliation and bring us to Heaven is the promise that our great God who tells us the truth and cannot life. It says in Hebrews 9:15:

For this reason He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that, since a death has taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were committed under the first covenant, those who have been called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

And it says in Hebrews 11:16:

But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

Brethren, only believers can respond to the whole of life like this. Only those who have said this, which is from 2 Timothy 1:12:

I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

If you want to have assurance of salvation, it is not going to be apart from suffering or trouble. I want you to turn to another passage, 1 Peter 1:3-4. The Apostle mentions the grand comfort of the Christian while being sore, stricken, and depressed. It it so sweet to hope that whether living or dying, we can have joy. Look at what it says:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.

This is how a person who is in this state shakes off his heaviness and begins to sing, like from the hymn On Jordan’s Stormy Banks. “On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand, / And cast a wishful eye / To Canaan’s fair and happy land, / Where my possessions lie.”

The Bible is telling us that we live with the thought of Heaven and what is coming, what God has promised to us. We live this by faith! Someday our faith will turn to sight. Look at what it says in 1 Peter 1:5:

Who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

In other words, we are not kept by our own power, by the power of God. He is not leaving us to keep ourselves. We are kept by the most High God. What a comforting thought! When we are under the pressure of times like this, and even when know all the theology behind it, we still have trials, tribulations, and humiliations. These prove to us what we know and what we have and what we are. No one can take that from you.

That is why people can die for their faith. That is why people can suffer for their faith or go to a foreign country and leave all their possessions to go and serve Christ. They know there is a greater weight of glory for them. They know that without a shadow of a doubt.

Now turn back to Hebrews. If you seriously consider what you have gained by being in Christ, you will conclude that it would be utterly foolish to throw away so precious and valuable a gift as salvation. Here is the logical imperative in this Hebrews 10:35:

Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.

That is why he told them to consider the weight and the details of the sufferings they have been through so they know that is why they should not throw away their confidence or confession, and all of what the Lord has been doing in their lives. If anything gives you confidence, it will be Christ-likeness that you even can see in yourself. You may not have responded like that a year ago, but now you want to respond the way God wants you to and also please Him!

Brethren in Hebrews 10:36, where we will pick up again next week, it says:

For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.

I encourage you to search and look at this matter more seriously. Look into your own lives since you have received the light of the gospel. What family troubles, work troubles, or those in your own soul have you gone through since you have received Christ?

I say to people before I became a believer, I did not even know what depression was. I was a happy, go-lucky kid! But when I became a believer, I was hit with this deep valley and it made me think that I was not even a believer. God brought me back to Scripture and taught me that He was building me. Out of that deep time of depression came very serious decisions in my life. I know that for me depression is almost like a prophet. That is what Spurgeon said; God is always teaching us what sins should be out of our lives!

Spiritual depression is real! Because we have an enemy against our souls! We have the world and our own flesh against us. In the middle of suffering, there can still be rejoicing because God is doing the good work in you. He is going to perform it and finish it in Christ! He started your book and will write the last chapter. Jesus is the Author and Finisher of your faith! That is where we are headed in Hebrews. But there will not ever be a chapter that does not include suffering.

I am not going to ask you to say amen to that. But I want to say this to real believers. You are on this Earth and on this path that leads to the consummation of your salvation. Do not wander off and do not stop, keep going. Keep showing godly diligence in the hope that God will show His promises and preserve you until that final day. That is why when I get to this passage, the author says this in Hebrews 10:39:

But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.

This is what real believers are! Secondly, to those who do not know where you are at yet. I tell you to search to see whether you are right in your spirits and whether it is well with you to venture into an eternal state as you are right now, possibly doubting whether you are a believer and whether you have repented of your sin. I pray that God gives you grace, that you would feel the need for a Savior, and that you may see Christ and lay hold of Him and become a child of God today. If you have done that, then the next step is to follow the Lord in believer’s baptism, to make it public before the whole congregation that you have confessed Christ as your Lord and Savior and that you desire to follow Him your whole life. Then you will enter the body of believers. There are no secret disciples, only those who are functioning and growing in the body.

When that day comes when you may go through deep, troubling waters, you will not be alone. You will do it with the whole body behind you, and with people praying and sympathizing with you. Why? Because some of them have been there, but overall they understand in the Spirit and want to grow with you. This proves that our confession in Christ is real and true. We become strong and no one can take that away.

Let us pray. Lord, thank You this morning for Your great people. Thank You for Your great Word. I know Lord that if it was not for Your Word, we would not know what You really want. We would not know what to really experience. Especially Lord, we would not know how to deal with suffering or where to hang it. But because of Your Word, we understand clearly. We pray, Lord Jesus, that You would help us with every circumstance that we are going to come into contact with in our lives. I pray that we would get through it by the glory of God and that we would bear it like soldiers. You have a hold on us and You have given us the church body and promises for the future that we will not receive in their fullness until we are in Your presence. So Lord, we thank You for telling us these things so that we can live life with joy intact and with a strong testimony and perseverance that You are building into us by Your Spirit. We give You the praise, honor, and glory for all that You will accomplish for the greatness of Your Name. And I pray this in Christ’s Name, Amen.