December 17, 2021

December 17, 2021

December 17, 2021

Michael Somers
Cameron / Ross Camp Ground UMC
Appalachian District

Hebrews 10:32 - 39, New American Standard Bible

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 insults and distress, and partly by becoming companions 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 and lasting possession. 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 will live by faith;
And if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.
39 But we are not among those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith for the safekeeping of the soul.

Challenges and Rewards in Christ

The majority of Christians will thankfully never experience true persecution like that suffered by the audience to which the book of Hebrews is addressed. Yet all of us know, or have known, significant difficulties in life.
The author reminds us that, sometimes, added troubles come as a direct result of being Christian. These may come from outside ourselves, such as when friends mock us or challenge us regarding our faith in Christ. Some difficulties arise from the internal tension between an evil we desire and the good thing we know to be the will of God.
Whether external or internal, problems can arise from our faith. As a result, we can be uniquely prepared to help others facing the same challenges, just like the writer reminds us in the scripture reading. We endure difficulties with faith and hope and receive the rewards of a deeper appreciation for the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and a more profound love for Christ in our hearts.
Verse 32 highlights the gift of memory by invoking us to “remember the former days…” As far as anthropologists can discover, humans are the only species on Earth capable of actual thoughtful memory. Other animals have an instinctual memory in that they can recall or “remember” what causes them pain or pleasure, and are able to connect that with persons or situations responsible. Humans, on the other hand, can actively recall and mentally “replay” situations mentally and emotionally. 
This can be a mixed blessing. The writer is aware of this when he asks the reader to recall painful situations. This can dredge up any number of painful and embarrassing memories and cause distress. Yet, the author urges us to recall these things in order that we might be reminded how God has worked in our past to make our present better. This process of making present good from a bitter past is that which God can do again in this moment.
Just as we have found grace in difficult circumstances and have shown grace to others facing the same circumstances, the writer says we can do so again in present difficulties. And while helping others as God helps us, we find ourselves actively preparing for the coming of Christ. The confidence we have, the writer tells us, is in knowing that we have a better confidence in a greater reward. That reward is the very same as our hope: the Person of Jesus Christ. Our hope, our confidence and our reward is knowing Christ in what ancient writers called “a salvific way,” or what we know today as a “saving” way. It is trusting all we are to all that He is, trusting Him to keep us and bring us through the current difficulty with victory.
This is, at the very heart of it, what the Advent season is all about: looking and longing for the coming of Christ. The writer here reminds us of the words of the prophet Habakkuk (Habakkuk 2:3) when he states the Advent promise: “for yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay.” 
And the author reminds us of our part: “but my righteous one will live by faith (verse 38).” If we would be righteous (this means to do the right thing at the right time in the right way), we simply place our trust in Christ (living by faith). We are, the writer assures us, members of “those who have faith for the safe-keeping of the soul.” What a glorious and hopeful promise for those who trust in Christ, even in the worst circumstances life can throw our way! Glory to the living Christ who is soon to come!


Gracious God, we pray that you will remind us of your continued presence with us.  Carry us forward in hope, knowing that in all things you prepare the way.  Open our hearts this Advent and may we look with anticipation towards the coming of Christ our Lord!  Amen.