“Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward...you need to persevere...we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” Hebrews 10:35, 39
By Jose Urbina
Hey, you gonna make it?
I’m sure you've been asked this question lately. In today's culture, this has become a common greeting.
It's a cross between a soft rebuke and some good, old, grandparently encouragement.
It helps us gain perspective, yet shows much love.
Our theme this year is like that. We are encouraged to be confident, and then to be steadfast in that confidence.
How do we get to that place? Through our faith.
Sounds good... till we think of the process as it relates to the end product, the salvation of our souls (v. 39).
The letter to the Hebrews was written in order to help Jewish believers trade the old Torah for a new Torah. To help them to transition from the Old Testament Law to finding a new and better way in the good news, the gospel.
To help them to realize that the old priesthood was just a shadow of Jesus, our High Priest.
Can people have confidence in a shadow rather than in the real thing? Sadly, some still do.
In times of severe testing, we tend to cling to what we used to know.
Embracing the dignity of the gospel was critical for these new believers in a time when Christians were literally dying for their faith.
Some of them were returning to the “beggarly elements” of their former belief system, and the plea here was for them not to throw away their confidence. It was a plea for them not to shrink back in fear.
But shrinking back in the face of fear is a very natural reaction.
Consider snakes. Even people who have never seen a live one fear them. These creatures stimulate our innate sense of self-preservation.
For my part, I have not only seen a live snake, but actually touched one – a harmless specimen, to be sure. — but just the memory of this experience creeps me out.
In her article “How Fear Works,” Julia Layton tells us that fear sets off a chain reaction inside you.
Your breathing speeds up. Your heart races. Your muscles tighten.
But this is a good thing, because it's a survival instinct.
“If we couldn't be afraid, we wouldn't survive for long,” Layton says. “We'd be walking into oncoming traffic, stepping off of rooftops and carelessly handling poisonous snakes.
“We'd be hanging out with people who have tuberculosis. In humans and in all animals, the purpose of fear is to promote survival.”
However, the kind of fear we find in these verses from the book of Hebrews was a fear that would actually work in reverse.
It was the very vehicle that would ultimately cause those fearful souls to perish, because they trusted in the wrong thing.
Their thinking was clouded, and clouded thinking can be fatal.
In his book Silent Warrior, The Marine Sniper’s Vietnam Story Continues, Sgt. Charles Henderson tells the story of a marine who was out on a routine mission when he suddenly came face to face with a bamboo viper, flicking black tongue and all.
Rather than react to his fear in that moment, he relied on his training and discipline, and that faith saved his life.
In actuality, the total count of fatalities in Vietnam from snake bite was quite small.
But the enemy knew of the American troops' fear of snakes, and used it to their tactical advantage.
Fear can also cause us to cast away our confidence in the very thing that may save us.
One of the most fascinating stories about exploration in modern times is that of the fanciful, near tragic expedition to the South Pole by the men on the Endurance.
After the beautifully built but ill-designed ship was caught and crushed by an island of ice, the crew was marooned.
Rations were almost gone when Captain Jim Templeton decided they would make the 800-mile trip back to civilization.
The rub came in that they only had three life boats in which to set out, and one navigator who was unsure of the way back based on his navigational charts.
The weather was inclement and the seas were rough.
The sky was overcast and even a slight error in navigation could strand them far from land.
Imagine, no GPS or other perks of modern technology. Yet they took that bold step and set out in the life boats and they did find help, and they did live to tell the story.
The confidence that these verses in Hebrews speak about is just like those life boats.
The crew could have broken them up for shelter and hunkered down under them until they died.
But instead, the boats served their ultimate purpose: they preserved life.
In Christ, we can come boldly before the throne of grace to find grace and help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
This is the new and living way that is the only way to come before the Father, that He may give us life.
Tossing this new way aside only leaves the old covenant of works without faith, which brings death. “I do not set aside the grace of God,” Paul says in Galatians 2:21, “For if righteousness comes by the Law, then Christ died in vain.”
Life comes from God’s gracealone. If we’re to experience it, we must draw near to Him in faith.
To shrink back is to lose out.
We must be like Enoch of old, walking close to the Father.
We must also hold fast to our profession (that is, the practice) of our faith. We practice our faith when we provoke one another to love, assembling together and exhorting each other to good works (Hebrews 10:24-25).
We do this because we are convinced that God is pleased that we trust in Him, and we are no longer trying to work in order to earn our own salvation.
So let us make this year count.
It is critical that we do not lose sight of the bigger picture and the signs that are before us in these last days.
The way is certainly treacherous, but our confidence and trust is that God will see us through.