In Stretch, our weekly Bible study, we have been going through the book of Hebrews. This is an incredible letter and one where you find yourself needing to take your time in order to process all that you're reading. In studying for these Bible studies, I've read ahead a little as we are currently only in the middle of chapter 4, and as I was doing so I came across some incredibly encouraging words.
Hebrews chapter 10:32-39 says:"Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering."
Life can sometimes feel like you're stood in the middle of a battlefield, the kind you see in the films Braveheart or Gladiator. You’re on high alert and thinking when is the next blow coming? It just seems like you’re under a lot of attack.
There are moments in the movie Gladiator where Maximus thinks back to where he is from; to his wife and child and to his home he left in the countryside a long time ago before he joined the Roman army. The moments when he does this seem to give him strength and build him up for enduring the next trial he will have to go through.
The writer of Hebrews tells his readers “Think back”. In other words, take strength from remembering how confident you were in God back then that you endured terrible suffering.
Think back to what God has done.
Think back to how He got you through that time of great distress.
Think back to how faithful He has always been to you.
Jumping to verse 35: "So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that He has promised. For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away. But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved."
Some lines that jumped off the page to me were:
• "So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord"
• "Patient endurance is what you need now"
• "But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction" or in the ESV: "But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls".
In our first Presence meeting this year I felt God wanted to remind us of how the Romans would gather in a formation called (I later read) testudo, which is Latin for tortoise – where they gathered with their shields held above and around each other so as to protect each other in times of bombardment.
Stuart Sharp, our Church Treasurer, then shared that although this was an incredibly effective defensive position there would be a time when the Captain would command those who had swords or spears to separate the shield wall and strike out offensively at the enemy. For me this was a crucial statement.
These scriptures above tell us to not throw away our confidence and trust in our Lord. I'm sure there would have been times that the soldiers encased by shields felt scared that the bombardment of arrows and attacks from left, right and centre was getting too much, but their commander would remind them to trust in the formation, to remember their training and most certainly never turn back!
I want to encourage you if you feel like you’re under that shield and are being bombarded, think back to God's faithfulness and to how you’ve endured difficult times in the past. God might be calling you to patiently endure now. Remember you are not alone and many are in this fight with you. Remember, we have a Great Commander, One who knows the battlefield and has equipped us with everything we need to keep fighting.