The word of the day is “cast.” There are things that others can take away from us. There are things that others cannot take away from us but that we can give away. And there are things that can neither be taken from us nor given away. Today, in our reading of Hebrews 10:32-38, the apostle urges us, “Do not cast away your confidence which has a great reward” (OSB Vs. 33). This verse prompts us to reflect on the things that are in our control to keep, the things that require our endurance to preserve.
In today’s reading, the apostle encourages his flock to persevere in endurance. The Greek word means “remaining” or “persisting.” The term especially refers to bearing trials patiently (Strong’s #5281, 259).
The faithful to whom the apostle writes had suffered persecution recently. Soon after they were “illumined” by Holy Baptism, they endured “reproaches and tribulations” along with the “plundering of their goods” (OSB 33-34). Those who were not subject to such abuse stood alongside those who were harassed (OSB vs. 33).
The Danger After a Spiritual Victory
After this time of tribulation, the apostle knew that the readers of his letter needed constancy. There were still trials ahead, at least for a “little while” (OSB vs. 37), and the flock needed forewarning. But now, the congregation faced another dangerous time, the time of temptation after a spiritual victory. The Hebrews could thank God that they had passed through the fiery trial of persecution. But now, the apostle was concerned that they would relax in their rejoicing. The apostle knew that the devil had a second squadron of demons in reserve for just this moment.
Hence, the apostle urged his readers to bolster their confidence. The Greek word means to “throw off” as one takes off a coat or sweater (Strong’s #577, 34). Thus, the apostle cautions that the Hebrews must not cast off the boldness of their trust in Christ. Since their baptism, they have had brave reliance on God. But the apostle advises that they must renew that daring confidence lest they “shrink back” from the trials to come.
Things Taken from Us and Things Given Away
There are things others can take away from us: wealth, property, possessions, reputation, potential, and even our freedom. And there are things that no one can take from us. But we can still lose these things. We can cast them aside like a toy that we have outgrown. Among these things are: integrity, honesty, virtue, peace of mind, obedience, compassion, hope, and especially the firm confidence of faith.
The Outcome of Persistent Faith
These things of the Spirit that are ours to keep or give away are great blessings in themselves. Yet if we keep and cherish them, they promise a “great reward.” The Greek word suggests that the “reward” is “payment due” (Strong’s #3405, 165). The apostle calls this recompense for persisting in faith “the promise” (vs. 36). That promise is the “better and an enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” for which the Hebrews willingly endured the “plundering” of their earthly possessions (vs. 34).
But the apostle Peter expresses this promise more clearly. He writes, “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls (NKJV 1 Peter 1:9). To throw away our firm conviction in God, is to fail to realize this outcome. It is to give up the “good fight of faith” before the battle is over.
Eroding vs. Strengthening of Faith
How do we cast aside these most precious personal possessions? No one wakes up and decides, “Today, I will abandon my faith and forfeit all the qualities of the spiritual life that go with it.” Yes, fear and duress may induce us to give up our faith. But typically, we lose our grasp of the gifts of the Spirit through neglect. It is more a matter of erosion than of sudden collapse. Gradually as we face the little challenges of life without turning to God, our unused faith becomes weak. On the other hand, if we face whatever comes to us throughout the day with firm confidence in God, our faith becomes stronger day by day. And by treating the minor troubles in life with trust in God, we prepare ourselves for the major ordeals when they come.
We have surveyed what others can take from us and what only we can give up. Yet there is a third category. There are things that cannot be taken from us, nor can we give them up. Chief among these is the love of God. The love of God is the one constant among all the visible and invisible realms of creation. God’s love for us is steadfast, everlasting, and never failing. Not even the devil can take it away from us. And though we reject Him, God still waits for us to return to Him as the father waited for His son to return home in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.