It seems we Southerners have an “old saying” for everything. When I was in Boston for seminary, a young man from another part of the country asked me “Barnabas, is there a book I can buy with all these Southern sayings in them?” I laughed and told him “No, son, we Southerners guard these sayings very closely!” Of course, there are tons of books out there that recount all our “old sayings.”
One of my favorites is an old warning: “Never buy a pig in a poke!” In other words, don’t buy anything sight unseen. Wise words that keep you from being in the sad situation of trading something valuable for something not so valuable. This is exactly the warning we have in today’s lesson.
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 10:32-38:
Brethren, recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised. “For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry; but my righteous one shall live by faith.”
The sad situation behind this passage is a group of Jews who had become Christians in the 1st century, and now they are feeling the heat of their choice to follow Christ. They are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus and some of them are thinking about abandoning their faith in Christ and returning to just a Jewish life.
And St. Paul is warning them that they are about to trade what is better for what is incomplete!
Here’s how St. Paul encourages them not to abandon their faith when times are tough.
First, he reminds them they have endured hard times before! When they first embraced the Way of Christ, they endured hard struggles. They faced opposition to their new Faith in Jesus with courage and hope because they knew what they had in Jesus was better than what they had before Jesus. And they even stood by other Christians who were in difficult times and encouraged those believers to not give up! Of course, that’s the temptation we all face when it’s hard being a faithful follower of Jesus. We all struggle with giving up living for Christ when it is hard to make the unpopular choice to hold to eternal values rather than go along with the chaos of the rest of society.
The best way to endure those hard times is to ask God to remind us of times when we made the hard choice to stay faithful before. And you’ve done that, dear one. You’ve made the hard choice before and you can again!
Next, Paul tells them the righteous live by faith. This isn’t some silly mind game we con ourselves into believing. But the sure confidence that because Jesus overcame mortality in His resurrection, my future is tied to Him because of our relationship in the Church. I am connected to Christ, and staying connected to Christ means my destiny is forever connected to His destiny! And that’s a wonderful reality that strengthens me when it would be easier to give up! If I will just not stumble into the temptation to “throw away” my confidence in His promise for me, I’ll be able, by His strength, to endure even the hardest of times!
Today, are you facing a difficult time in your life? Do you feel the tug of the situation to give up your faith and take what looks like an “easier” path? At this moment you have need of endurance. Look at the final part of your journey and realize it’s worth staying Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, it seems that my faith can slip away at times so slowly that I don’t even notice it slipping away. And then a difficult event happens and I’m surprised at how that moment knocks me down! It’s so hard to pay attention in this chaotic world sometimes. Please help me build into my daily life reminders of You and how my daily practice of the Faith is meant to keep me strong no matter what is happening in my life. Amen.
A Special Message from Fr. Barnabas: Just 5 more days till Christmas, then on to the 12 day Feast as we celebrate the Birth of Jesus! Please consider a special Christmas Gift to Faith Encouraged Ministries to help us have firm support to serve you in 2022. Go to www.FaithEncouraged.org or click here to give today!