Keep Your Eyes On the Prize
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering.
Sticking with anything that requires discipline is hard. That’s why diets and exercise programs are short-lived. Prolonged ordeals that are painful, uncomfortable, or unpleasant produce fatigue causing us to wonder, “Is it worth it?” I once foolishly observed I’d rather be fat and happy than skinny and miserable.
The writer of Hebrews is concerned about the spiritual zeal of his Christian brethren. He calls upon them to recall the zeal of new faith when they first “received the light.”
In the verses that follow (Hebrews 10:33-35) we’re told about the trials they faced in the early days. The list includes: Public insult and persecution, and standing by those who were so treated. (v33) Suffering with those in prison and joyful confiscation of their property. (v34)
They lived in a time and a place where Christianity was subject to public ridicule. You and I may receive an occasional insult for our faith, but for them acknowledgement of their relationship to Christ led to humiliating ridicule, scorn, and even imprisonment. And their prisons weren’t the humane institutions of our day. It was, as the scripture emphasizes, a place of “suffering.”
Can you imagine how it would feel to have your home confiscated? Not because you didn’t pay your taxes or make your mortgage payments, but because you are a Christian. We’re also told they surrendered their property “joyfully.” Wow! Even at the beginning of your faith did you have such zeal?
It’s important to note that zeal for those new to the faith is not always a sign they are truly saved. Anyone is capable of excitement over something new. In the Parable of the Seeds, Jesus addressed this concern:
The seed falling on rocky ground refers to someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Matthew 13:20-21
In the churches where I served as pastor we used revivals, witnessing programs, and Vacation Bible School to emphasize our evangelistic concerns. We took advantage of every opportunity to proclaim the gospel, which we should. In those concerted efforts, we saw many profess faith in Christ. Some were very enthusiastic and even emotional in their response to the good news. They jumped right into Christian service and appeared hungry for the word. But like Jesus predicted, some quickly fell away. Why? Their acceptance of Christ wasn’t rooted in good soil. (Matthew 13:23) Their commitment was not genuine.
But even those whose faith is rooted in good soil can become fatigued from serving and standing in the midst of turmoil and difficulty. The writer of Hebrews calls upon believers to not only remember what they’ve been through as Christians, but also recall their motivation. In verse 34 of our focus text the Hebrew believers were reminded, “you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.” Better than earthly treasures were their riches in Christ.
Then they’re given this important admonition. “So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”
Hard times do not mean that serving Christ is a waste of time or a fruitless endeavor. Don’t allow fatigue from life’s problems shake your faith or destroy your hope.
We’re called upon to finish the race. We already know we will win. God doesn’t expect you to be the fastest runner on the track, He just wants you to keep moving forward. And if you stumble, He’ll pick you up, and if necessary, carry you to the finish line.
As you look back over your life with Christ, consider all He’s brought you through and enabled you to endure. You did it before. You can do it again. Keep your eyes on the prize.
For more on this topic, check out this article: Don’t Let Anything Keep You from Eternal Life with Jesus
Reprinted from The Forever Notebook, Book 4 (October – December) Get your copy here: Paperback and eBook/Kindle formats.