You Have Need of Endurance
Sermon Passage: Hebrews 10:19–39 | Preached to SGF | 1-3-2021
By Peder Kling
Today, we are going to talk about endurance in the Christian life. That’s generally the overarching goal that drives this passage forward. You see that in verse 36, which says it fairly climactically for us— “for you have need of endurance”—or, some translations might say the word “perseverance” (ESV), or “patience” (KJV). Those words are all getting at the same thing: a patient (not anxious), enduring, perseverance.
And, Hebrews tells us we need it—it’s not a choice. You need to endure, and everything Hebrews has been saying up to this point is giving you reasons to endure, and ways you can pursue that endurance.
But let’s be real with ourselves. Endurance is not something we find everyone to be good at. Let’s just take New Years resolutions as a prime example, since were at that time of the year. You have probably heard or seen statistics about how lasting new year’s resolutions are. My quick google search told me that “80% of New Years resolutions fail by the second week of February”. Sound about right, in my experience. And, those are simply resolutions for better health, or better reading habits. So, let’s bounce this matter back to ourselves as Christians. If 80% of the resolutions made around this time of the year don’t last for a more than 2 months, how can I have any confidence that I, as a Christian, will keep my resolve to Christ for a lifetime?
Christian Endurance: What it is, Why we need it, and How we pursue it.
So first, today, we’ll just look at that very matter—(1) that we need to endure, with a particular kind of gritty, Christian endurance. Then, (2) we’ll see in this passage why we need to endure. And finally, (3) we’ll close with four necessary ways to puruse endurance.
And, I'll just note here that I’ll be walking backwards through this passage. The third (and last) paragraph of the passage gives us a specific, concrete example of what Christian endurance looks like. The second paragraph explains one reason why we need to endure. And, the first paragraph gives us those four necessary ways to pursue Christian endurance.
1. Seeing That we need to Endure (with a particular kind of Christian endurance)
Look at passage. Let me just read to you the sort of endurance, or perseverance, we Christians need to be striving after. Verses 32–35
Heb 10:32 Recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison [there’s a labor of love to persevere in], and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 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 is promised.”
So, first, when thinking about any kind of endurance, you always want to know the end goal. What reward, or destination, am I enduring to? Here, we’re talking about rewards with eternal significance. Rewards like walking and rejoicing with Christ for a lifetime. Or in the words of verse 34, receiving a “better and an abiding possession” to enjoy forever. A possession in glory, where you will share in Christ’s inheritance. Jesus says “I am going to prepare a place for you”. Or get this, in Paul’s words, “do you not know that the saints will judge the world?” So, you will be in a position to judge the world with Christ—meaning, you have with Christ possessed the world, to judge it and reign over it with Christ. Or, verse 36 of our passage—"you have need of endurance…so that… you may receive what is promised”.
So there, we’re talking about all those promises God has made to his people in Christ. That’s what our endurance is after.
But this is a hard-pressed endurance. Consider the way our passage describes the endurance of the early Hebrew Christians. Verse 32—“Recall those former days when… you endured a hard struggle with suffering… publicly exposed to reproach and affliction”. That’s why we’re talking about endurance, here, not simply patience like the patience you need in a waiting room. We’re talking about enduring through serious opposition. God’s people have always been subject to slander, gossip, false accusations. Remember Jesus’s words? “A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” And then verse 34—“you … accepted the plundering of your property”. So, these Christians had their things taken away from them. Perhaps their homes, their businesses and jobs—we can’t be sure.
Now, this particular passage is telling us we need to endure because of worldly oppression. But, let’s not get too short-sighted. Elsewhere in the NT we are reminded that we have two other enemies working against us.
“abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” Peter, 1 Pet 2:11
“Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him, firm in your faith” Peter, 1 Pet 5:8
So—there it is. Serious, soul-destroying opposition from the flesh and the devil—not just the world.
But think again about how the Hebrew Christian’s endurance was described in our passage. They didn’t simply endure these hardships. They endured these hardships joyfully. Again, verse 34—“You joyfully accepted the plundering of your property”. That’s jarring. That’s not gritting your teeth and hoping for the best. It’s rejoicing upon a sure platform of victory and grace—without any allegiance to this world and its fleeting possessions, but every allegiance to Christ and his certain blessings in heaven. Peter reminds a very persecuted church of this in 1 Peter 1 when he reminds Christians that they have been born again “to a living hope [to Jesus whose alive]…and to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you”.
So, our endurance is endurance with an aim to eternal rewards. It’s an endurance through serious trials of the world, the flesh, and the devil. It’s an endurance characterized by joy in the certain blessings of Christ.
But it’s also an endurance characterized by patience. If you have the KJV, you might notice that verse 36 doesn’t say “ye have need of endurance”, but that “ye have need of patience”. Now why is that? How does one translation get the word “patience”, and others the word “endurance” or “perseverance”? What does endurance have to do with patience? Well, in a literal sense, the greek word here is ὑπομονή—a word which can mean either patience or endurance. And the reason I think many translate this word “endurance” rather than “patience” is because our English word “patience” often carries with it a connotation of waiting-room patience, like your just sitting there. Endurance, on the other hand, is patience—but it’s patience with grit.
So, let’s just take this trial of the pandemic, for an example, as our culture has been calling us to be patient and endure through this for “15 more days”. Have you felt secure and restful through this, or has this pandemic been a cause of anxiety, uncertainty and impatience? You might say “well Peder this isn’t a trial targeted against me as a Christian”. Really? I have no doubt that the devil is using this pandemic against Christians, to cause them to be impatient and full of anxiety—to not endure through trials with God-honoring joy and patience and contentment. James 1 calls us to rejoice through trials of various kinds. Every trial is from the Lord, and I imagine our flesh and the devil tries to use every trial against us. As this pandemic is taking a toll on your life, your freedoms, and things of that sort, remember that the enduring early Christians “joyfully accepted the plundering of their property” not because it was persecution targeted at them because they were Christians, but because “they knew they had a better possession”. That possession should motivate you to endure through all kinds of trials in this world. Rest easy Christian. You’ll get an eternity free of COVID and governmental turmoil someday. Live like it.
So, we’ve seen that we need to endure. And now we know exactly what kind of endurance we’re talking about. We’re talking about an endurance that is heaven-focused, not focused on the things of this world. We’re talking about an endurance through the trials of this world, the flesh, and the devil, which wage war against your soul. And, we’re talking about an endurance that has a particular quality to it—joy, and patience. Contentment, security and restfulness. These Hebrews were commended for “joyfully accepting the plundering of their property”. That’s what we should strive after.
Now, let’s take a moment to consider why we need to endure with that kind of endurance.
2. The Reason Why We Need to Endure (vv 26–31)
The reason why we need to endure to the end with this sort of God-honoring endurance is really quite simple. If you persevere, you get the promises. If you don’t persevere, you get the punishment. This is a matter of eternal life, or eternal death.
“You have need of endurance”, Hebrews says in verse 36, “so that you may receive what is promised”. And we have spoken of those promises already. But just to make this more clear to you, Jesus tells us very clearly in Matthew 24:13 that “The one who endures to the end will be saved”. Paul tells us, “if we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Tim 2:12). So, if you persevere, you get the promises.
But let’s let our passage drive our focus, here. In the middle paragraph of our passage, verses 26–31, we receive a terrifying warning that those who don’t preserve get the punishment.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
Ok, so that’s terrifying. This is talking about a person who persists in sin “after receiving the knowledge of truth”—or, after “being enlightened”. And what that persistence in sin does to you is that it removes you from the only sacrifice for sins that can protect you from God’s wrath against your sins. You don’t want to be in that situation.
Then the author explains God’s wrath with a lesser-to-greater argument. Verses 28 and 29 state essentially that, if under the covenant made with Moses, a person was stoned without mercy by the people of Israel, how much worse punishment will be deserved by someone who profanes not the covenant made with the blood of animals, but with the very blood of Christ”? And that’s where we read verse 31, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” God will not permit his son’s sacrifice to be treated as common, or to be used by presumptuous people who love their sin.
So, the point is this—anyone who profanes Jesus’s blood will fall into the fearful judgment and wrath of God. Now, this sounds like we’re all toast. This is a passage that has concerned many Christians, and driven them to despair. Have you ever sinned deliberately in a weak moment, since you became a Christian? What does this passage tell you, then?
But at the same time, if you think about it, you have this frightening paragraph cushioned between two verses that are all about assurance of salvation. So, verses 19–25 reminds us “since we have confidence [in Christ]… let us draw near… in full assurance of faith”. Then we have this frightening paragraph, only to be followed again by “remember the former days when you were faithful?". So which is it—should I have confidence, our fear?
What we need to realize is that Hebrews is dancing between giving unbelievable doctrines for your full assurance of Christ’s salvation, and unbearable warnings to people who take advantage of Christ’s salvation to live the way they want. There are genuine Christians who abhor sin, repent regularly, and draw near to God with a restful faith in Christ. If they sin deliberately, they don’t “go on sinning deliberately”. They stop, repent, confess their sins and draw near to God. Those are the Christians who can have confidence.
Then there are people who are Christian in name only, and live the way they want because “god’s grace abounds”. They go one sinning deliberately because they think Christ’s sacrifice covers them. The last time we saw a warning like this in Hebrews, I called these Christians “nominal Christians”—they don’t abhor their sins, they cuddle up to them. They don’t draw near to God with a true assurance that Christ’s blood covers the sins they hate; they draw near to God with a false assurance that Christ’s blood abounds to the sins they love. Nominal Christianity is false Christianity, it profanes Jesus’s blood as something common and to be used rather than revered. And it’s all over America. The “Sunday Christian” is to God a nominal Christian who profanes Jesus’s blood.
And lest we miss it—the warning is serious. If people were stoned when they profaned the OT blood of the covenant, the blood of bulls and goats, how much worse punishment will they receive when they profane Jesus’s blood in this way? Thomas Watson says of the nominal, hypocritical Christian that “if heathens should be damned, hypocrites should be double-damned”. I think that’s generally true—that there is a special place reserved in hell for people who treated Christ’s name and blood as a means of selfish gain. Jesus seemed to reserve his greatest threats and judgments for the hypocritical pharisees, rather than for the heathen gentiles.
So, the take-away here is hate your sin. The reason why you should endure in your struggle against sin is because if you don’t endure in this struggle—if you backslide and willingly let your sin fly without any restraint—you’re in grave danger.
So, we’ve seen that we need to endure with a heavenward goal, with joy and patience rather than anxiety and impatience. We’ve seen why we need to endure. If we endure, we get the promises, if we don’t endure, we profane Jesus’s blood and get the punishment.
Then, the big question—how can we endure? This is clearly a very weighty matter. And, if we are looking to ourselves and our own ability to endure, we are going to be filled with anxiety. People can’t even keep new years resolutions for 2 months. How can I be sure that I will endure with faithfulness to Christ, through a lifetime of opposition from the world, flesh, and devil? I’ve met so many Christians who are really fearful that they won’t persevere—and they get fixated on this question. And the answer why they get all anxious and fixated on the question is because they’re looking in themselves, not to Christ, for their confidence in this matter.
The answer of Christian endurance is not in yourself. It’s not “5 steps to find your inner confidence”. The endurance come from outside of you—that’s why you receive it by faith. Endurance and perseverance is a gift, it’s part of your salvation—you are saved from your slothfulness and your unfaithfulness to God, and from your laziness and inattentiveness to him. God gives you attentiveness, he gives you an interest in him. If I knew how many times Christ, by his Spirit, has moved me to divert my eyes away from the world, I would fall flat on my face in awe right now. I love how 1 Peter says it. In 1 Peter 1:5, Christians are described as those who “are by God’s power guarded [protected] through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”. God is protecting and guarding you—not just from the world and the devil, but also from yourself and your sinful tendencies to stray from him.
Your endurance is Christ’s work. He keeps you, preserves you, and satisfies you with his supreme power and goodness. That’s what the book of Hebrews is all about—packing you with a “full assurance” in Christ’s supremacy and goodness to you.
So, look at the first paragraph in our passage to see how this works.
3. Four Necessary Ways We Pursue Endurance (vv 19–25, cf. vv 32–39)
This passage lists four necessary ways to pursue endurance through trials. And, these are all described in the first paragraph of our passage.
I. The First Way to Pursue Endurance: Faith and Confidence
First, we must pursue endurance by pursuing a full assurance of our faith—or, a fully assured faith. Another way to speak of this is “a confident” faith. If you are fully assured that your favorite team is going to win the game, you are confident they will win. That’s two ways to talk about a sort of faith that is restful and secure. And, this is described as the fundamental takeaway, or desire, in this first paragraph.
Look at verse 19, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places… [then, verse 22] let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” You see that? Since we have confidence, let us therefore draw near with confidence, with full assurance. And as we have seen in the previous weeks, that’s what the previous 4 chapters was all about: 4 chapters jam packed with teachings about Christ’s priesthood, all designed to pack you with confidence that Christ, your priest, is able to save you and cleanse you from your sins. He is able to persevere you as he is now in heaven at God’s side, praying for you—or, interceding for you. That was chapter 7 verse 25, “he is able to save to the uttermost [that is, completely, fully, to the end] those who draw near to God through him [why?] because he always lives to pray for them.”
If you know that, and keep that at the forefront of your mind, do you think your assurance might be strengthened as you look to Christ’s faithfulness to you, rather than your fleeting faithfulness to him? And I pray we have seen lots of things like that in chapters 6–10, a section which begins with the statement in 6:11, “we desire … you to show … earnestness to have full assurance of hope to the end”.
The more you are convinced of Jesus’s work to purchase you from this world, and give you a better possession glory, the more you will resist temptations to engage in sinful indulgences of this world. The more you are convinced that Jesus’s blood really does wash your sins away, the quicker you will be to repent of your sins and draw near to God, rather than to draw away from God or other people in shame. The more you are convinced that Jesus Christ is at the right hand, interceding for you—praying for your protection and endurance—the more you will see fear and anxiety slip away from your soul, as you regard God to be your sure refuge and strength. And, of course, this will all assist you to endure faithfully through trials, to glory.
I love how the imagery of verses 34 and 35 in our passage support this with a very tangible example. “you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property [why?] because you knew” it. You knew, without a doubt, that “you have a better possession and an abiding one”. There’s the joyful, restful, content endurance in Christ that we’re looking for. “Take away my business, take away my home, take it all—I know that these things are fleeting anyway, and I have a better possession in heaven.”
And then verses 35 and 36 follow this up with a logic statement that supports everything I’m trying to say. “Therefore do not throw away your confidence"—that confidence, that assurance that enabled you to joyfully accept the plundering of your property. And, why don’t you want to throw away your confidence? verse 36, “for you have need of endurance”. Do you see the glaring relationship, there? “don’t throw away your confidence, because you need to endure”. A confident faith, a fully assured faith, is an enduring faith. Confidence fuels endurance. Confidence that your sins really are forgiven, and that Christ really is interceding for you. That’s the root of endurance.
So, the first necessity for endurance is a confident, assured faith. But, how do we grow in that? Well, our passage tells us. The next few ways of endurance that I will mention really are just ways to strengthen your confidence and your assurance, so that you will endure.
II. The Second Way to Pursue Endurance: Holding Fast our Confession
So, the second word of advise for endurance is in verse 23. Here, Hebrew exhorts us saying “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful”. Now, notice that this is a call for endurance. "Hold fast!" "Don’t waver in this!"—and specifically, hold fast in confessing your hope! Endure, or persevere, in confessing what the Bible teaches about Christ and God’s love for you.
And why do we not want to waver in our confession? Why do we want to hold fast to it? Quite simply, because what we confess is the Bible—and, the Bible tells us that God is faithful to us. It does not say that we are faithful to God. The Bible tells us that God saved us according to his faithfulness to us, not our faithfulness to him. Don’t you see how holding fast to that might free you to endure, as it draws you to trust in God’s faithfulness rather than your own? And, I think that’s exactly what Hebrews is telling us here. Think about the logic of this verse. “Hold fast to the confession… [why?] for he who promised is faithful”. Why would you want to hold fast to a Christian, Biblical confession rather than a false confession? Because a Biblical confession will draw you to God’s faithfulness to you, not vice versa. It will draw you to confidence in God rather than yourself. So, hold fast to your confession that God is faithful—because he who promised is faithful. Don’t waver from that confession.
Look at the ways this paragraph describes the confession of our hope. Verses 19 and 20—"We have confidence to draw near to the throne of God by the blood of Jesus”. Who put Jesus on the cross to make that available to you? God. Verse 21 “we have a great priest over the house of God”. Why was Jesus made a priest? Because Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, was faithful without one millisecond of sin. He was faithful to die on the cross. And God was faithful to appoint him as a priest forever, to be a minister on your behalf in the immediate presence of God in heaven. God did that, not you, and that’s a ministry that won’t fail. Verse 22, “let us draw near in full assurance of faith [where does that assurance come from?] with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water”. Did you sprinkle your heart clean? No, God does that. And, what that does to you is that it cleanses your conscience so that in the deepest part of your soul, where your conscience speaks to you, you can’t say “I’m evil and unacceptable before God”, but rather “I’m righteous and accepted before God”. Why? Because God did something amazing through his son.
You see, our confidence is first objective—an accomplished reality outside of ourselves, before it is an internal, subjective assurance that we feel in our hearts. That’s why you need to hold fast to this confession—swim int eh Bible, study it, and receive it by faith. When you do, your internal soul, your feeling of assurance and confidence, will be strengthened as you contemplate and receive Christ’s salvation by faith. We do this all the time with sports teams and other things we confide in—that is, that we find confidence in.
And then, you will be able to endure the trials and temptations of this world that much easier. Hold fast to your confession that God has worked a mighty thing on your behalf, and let it sink deep into your soul for a confident and assured faith.
III. The Third Way to Pursue Endurance: Draw Near to God
But don’t just study these things, as if holding fast to your confession was a matter of study and not wavering in your convictions. Draw near to God through them. That’s the third way to endure. Verse 22, “let us draw near” to God.
As you pursue a full assurance of faith, and hold fast to your confession that God is for you in Christ, make sure you are always drawing near to God through that confident faith, and with that confession of Christ. Many people confess Christ with all the right theology but never draw near to him through their confession. Their confession is just words that will send them to hell, because they are never moved to actually pursue fellowship with God. For a real, confident, enduring faith, you need both a true confession of Christ, and a prayerful drawing near to God through that Christ (that theology) you confess. It’s two legs you need in order to stand: a true confession, and earnest prayer and worship.
This is often the error of people in seminary, or people who love to parse out their theology. They study, but never pray and enjoy fellowship with God. To fix this, one of my seminary professors always read this quote on the first day of class. The quote is from a man named B. B. Warfield:
Recruiting officers do not dispute whether it is better for soldiers to have a right leg or a left leg: soldiers should have both legs. Sometimes we hear it said that ten minutes on your knees will give you a truer, deeper, more operative knowledge of God than ten hours over your books. “What!” is the appropriate response, “[why not] ten hours over your books, on your knees?” Why should you turn from God when you turn to your books, or feel that you must turn from your books in order to turn to God?
That’s right. If you confess rightly that God is the one who is faithful to you, and helps you and strengthens you, why would you not draw near to him in prayer every hour of the day? That’s a huge part of endurance through temptations and trials.
Now, the last way this passage commends us to endurance is through fellowship with God’s people.
4. The Fourth Way to Pursue Endurance: Fellowship
Look at verses 24 and 25,
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to met together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
God designed his people to be a blessing to one another. A vessel of encouragement, of “stirring up love and good works” within one another. In fact, the author of Hebrews reminds his audience of a concrete example when he says in verses 32 and 33, “recall the former days when [you were experiencing persecution], and sometimes you were partners of those so treated”. In other words, you came alongside a suffering Christian and encouraged them. You bore their burdens and prayed for them and wept with them and rejoiced with them as they were counted worthy to suffer in Christ’s name.
But notice that this is a call to “consider how” we might encourage one another to love and good works. This takes, at times, some creativity. It means you need to get to know one another, to know each other’s burdens and struggles so that you can “consider how to stir” one another up.
This reminds me of a certain pastor who has received a lot of opposition from his community for preaching Biblical truth and ethics. And, you know what his wife does when he receives a particularly rough allotment of persecution? She throws a massive feast—a feast of victory to the king, because our king promises us victory even as we suffer right now. There’s a good way to stir up love and good works into the heart of a suffering pastor.
But of course, as you think of how to encourage your fellow saints, ensure you use the two primary tools at the Christian's disposal: prayer and the Bible. These are the two primary vessels of God’s grace to his people. Encourage one another to be at worship where prayer and the word are celebrated. Encourage one another in mid-week prayers, and in reading or reciting the Bible to one another. As you do, you will be a vessel of endurance and encouragement to your fellow Christian.
So today, we have seen in this passage that we need to endure with heavenward focus, and with a certain contentment, patience, and joy. If we don’t endure, we will get punishment rather than the prize. And, four ways we must pursue that patient and joyful endurance is (1) with a confident and assured faith, (2) with a sound confession of God’s faithfulness to us in Christ, (3) with drawing near to God in prayer and worship, and (4) with mutual encouragement from one another.
Brothers and sisters, you have need of endurance. Pursue it through these means of grace that God has given you, and find your confidence to endure in his faithfulness to you, rather than your faithfulness to him.