We live in interesting times. The worldly temptations around us are continually taunting us from every billboard, internet and TV screen, and also in the ever more brazen materialism and sensuality of our culture. On top of that is an increasing antagonism from our culture toward the narrow view of morality and truth in Christianity that seems to be so foreign to the relativity of our day. As Christians are continually more isolated in this country (and the world), we need to hear words to help us respond.
Some people want to hear the words that say, “stand up and fight.” Some others want to hear the false promises that say, “it’s ok, God won’t let you go through bad times. It’ll all be over soon.” Pastors are consistently tempted to preach what some people in their congregation may most want to hear. As a pastor in 2020, I have heard from many pastors who have felt this pressure. What are the best words for us to hear as we face the continual and rising antagonism against our precious Savior and Lord? I propose that the best words are always the biblical ones and for me to sum them up most succinctly would be to simply say, “Keep going!”
The book of Hebrews seems to have this message as its flavor in various ways. It seems that there is a continual need for the author of Hebrews to give arguments for his audience not to give in as they live as exiles in this world. The author of Hebrews therefore makes his case by reminding us that Jesus is supreme above everything else in this world and above every possible realm and sphere and power. He is the fulfillment of all that God has been preparing us for through the types and shadows of the Old Testament. From this base, he uses specific arguments to encourage the church to persevere in a difficult world with the hope of entering their rest. In other more simplified words, the author of Hebrews is saying, “Keep going!”
We all need encouragement to keep persevering in our faith because it is not only the world itself that can bring us down, but our own reactions to the world can distract us from living in the faith that God has brought us into. We can so easily take our eyes of the prize of Christ and fight battles that are not in line with us living toward our rest and helping others know that same hope. Our fight is to stay in line with loving and pleasing God as our prize, but it seems that so many Christians are easily distracted by fighting to win the world, rather than fighting to win Christ. The book of Hebrews keeps us in check.
One great example of this is found in Hebrews 3:14-19. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, "Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion." 16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.”
These verses are in the form of a warning. If you want to enter the promised land (your rest, or heaven) you need to persevere in the faith and not let go of your need for Jesus all the way until you get there. The writer of Hebrews tells us that a tragedy happened to a generation of Israelites from Egypt who lived in unbelief and did not enter into the promised land. This warning is used to help us see that the Christian who truly has saving faith is one that perseveres to the end and doesn’t give up faith in Christ no matter what. This doesn’t mean that one can lose their salvation, but it is a consistent message in Hebrews that tells us that saving faith is persevering faith. The message of Hebrews therefore is to say that no matter what the hardship is that we face in this world, keep your eyes on Christ, live in constant need of him for redemption, and never give up. “Keep going.”
When we are confronted by voices around us telling us to stand up and fight or that things are going to be alright, the author of Hebrews has something different to say. He says, you have something so much better than this world, so live consistently in and for Jesus and never give up living in and for him no matter the cost. “Keep going.”