After giving a steep warning of living righteously, the author points out that his audience has lived righteously and encourages them to continue doing so.
32 But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, 33 partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. 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. 35 Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
37 For yet in a very little while,
He who is coming will come, and will not delay.
38 But My righteous one shall live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul.
As I continue reading the scriptures, God’s Word is changing my preconception that we cannot fall out of faith. Indeed, we can and here again is another warning not to. Peter and Paul would tell us to “stand firm in the faith.” It is our being subject to persecution and our steadfastness through it by relying on the Holy Spirit to minister to us that we are able to grow in faith. Some of you already know that the next chapter of this book discusses faith in detail. The author is setting it up here with a transition.
There are two favorite passages of mine that discuss how persecution and trial works in us to increase our faith:
James 1:2-8 2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
2 Peter 1:5-9 5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, 6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, 7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.
Notice how both James and Peter point out that by not standing firm in our faith we would be like unwise and blind men? This is because we know better. We have the knowledge; we have the capacity. Yet, as we read yesterday, we can choose not to act upon what we have been enlightened to: the truth of God. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” It is in these times of trial, persecution, and utter despair in the world we see around us that we must hunger and thirst for righteousness all the more.
I was discussing with a friend the other night about what happens when although the scriptures clearly state otherwise, self-proclaimed Christians refuse to accept the truth. How hard do we stand behind our own theology and belief system instead of seeking out God’s truth in our lives? It seems a bit ironic that God opens our eyes to His existence and His Word as a resource to learn His Will and even gives us the desire to conform to His Will, but then our pride and fear prevent us from doing it. (I just realized that I started this post by mentioning how the scriptures are changing my preconceived ideas). I know the author addresses the audience’s great conflict of sufferings as physical ones, however let us not ignore emotional and spiritual sufferings. I think the physical sufferings are easy to deal with compared to the ones we cannot see.
Being naturally born sinners, we have a constant internal struggle against God. He has made it possible for us to win this battle, yet as we saw yesterday, we must choose to use what He has given us to fight it (if we choose to fight it at all). The author encourages us to not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. We must remain steadfast, regardless of what the world tells us. After the excerpt from Habakkuk (verses 37 & 38), the author reminds us that we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. Don’t forget who you are in Christ and because of Christ.
God has given us the power and the capacity to continually seek out His righteousness and conform to His will so that we may realize the fullness of why we were created. I don’t mean we as a race of people, rather you and I are individually and specifically created for a unique purpose in God’s plan. There is a reason you are still breathing today, don’t you want to know what it is?