"But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved." [Hebrews 10:39]
We're moving into a new phase of life in Sydney, and around the world. It is now clear that we are having to live with a virus that has seriously disrupted our way of life since early 2020. How do we move forward well?
A passage in Hebrews comes to mind and I am drawing upon it as starting point of a new blog series titled, "by faith." We need to look ahead, and move forward into this year and beyond by faith.
But what does this mean? What is faith, biblically speaking? How does faith work in our lives? How do we express faith in a wise but equally bold way?
We're going to look to the scriptures together on this vital topic in order to understand what biblical faith is such that we can be sure to express it fully and well in the season ahead.
Let's not shrink back
Written to a group of believers who were finding themselves increasingly discouraged because of sufferings, the author of Hebrews writes his letter so that God's people would:
"...not throw away [their] confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37 For, “In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.” 38 And, “But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.” 39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved." (Heb 10:35–39)
The writer is quoting the Old Testament prophet Habbakuk 2:3-4 in verse 37 and 38, calling this group of Christian believers to live by faith rather than shrinking back. The call that the author sounds is to faithful perseverance, with the promise of rich future reward. This future reward is connected to the promise of God coming without delay to usher in eternity - something we have been considering in our Sunday "Made for More" series.
Clearly, the major contrast in this passage is between having faith and shrinking back.
I don't know about you, but as my world has been reduced in freedoms over the last few months, there has been a literal shrinking of my world of normal activities. It has been hard to not shrink back emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, as well. I have at times. But God has not let remain in this state, and I have no doubt it is because He wants us to be ready for serving Him in what comes next for our church and our city. There will be much need, challenge, and opportunity ahead. And we need to step into all of this with confidence in Jesus.
What faith is not...
Let's expand on the word "shrink", in order to understand what this passage is getting at. Synonyms for shrink include: huddle, cower, dwindle, recoil, refrain. Now whilst we've had to take care to observe government restrictions and guidance, and take care to not endanger others, God's word to us is - make sure that you heart hasn't shrunk. It's powerful to note that this "shrinking back" is what faith is not.
Instead faith in our hearts is that courage, that readiness, that boldness in Christ that is prepared to serve Him in whatever He calls us to - trusting in His goodness and guidance and wisdom and care the whole way.
Antonyms for the word shrink include expand, open, outspread, outstretch, unfold, enlarge. In other words, faith grows stronger, wiser, bolder, and more willing. This is the call given to a group of believers in the midst of suffering. And it is God's call to us today.
How do we "open up"?
A key lies in Hebrews 10:36 - "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised." In short - we open up by ensuring we are doing the will of God. We've been doing the will of God in this season in various ways as a church:
Gathering together online to worship and encourage one another, Sunday by Sunday.
Gathering together in Life Groups for prayer and encouragement in the word week by week.
Respecting the governing authorities and working with them.
Loving our neighbour in the ways that we can - respectfully and safely.
However, there has been much that we have not been able to do, to see, to notice, and to act upon as a result under our strong and appropriate health and safety restrictions. As things around us open up, we will do, see, notice, and discern how to act in serving Jesus in new ways. We will need to discern God's will in these days - and His will is dynamic, for God is always moving and working and leading us on. So we need to be ready to hear what He's got for us next, and walk accordingly.
Hence, why we need to be ready to faithfully persevere in His will in the season ahead. So we shall study faith, and be building ourselves up to be ready and willing for the will of the Lord.
Not shrinking back with you this week!
Written by Ps. Rob Waugh