But 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, 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. 37 For,
“Yet a little while,
and the coming one will come and will not delay;
38 but my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.”
39 But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.
I got to thinking about that little phrase that I emphasized [bold] while taking a bath this afternoon [don’t ask]. Why did the writer of Hebrews say we need endurance in this context, rather than say, joy?
The Greek word means literally “to bear up under.” Picture a camel carrying a great cargo on its back across the desert. He has to bear up under the weight of all that cargo to accomplish his mission [“We need to sell our bloomin’ stuff, Einstein! “That’s the camel’s name, Einstein]. Endurance presumes that we are carrying a weight under which we must persevere. The context demonstrates this. The readers of this letter had endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction; they were helping those in prison; and even joyfully accepted the plundering of your property. Think those were weights on the backs of their lives? Me too.
We all have weights under which, as Christians, we are called to endure: ill health, financial difficulties, persecution for proclaiming one’s faith, ridicule for espousing what just a few years ago was considered good and moral [tell me the slippery slope doesn’t pick up speed as we proceed on our jolly way down it], and expect worse to come because what we’ve experienced is nothing compared to what the readers of Hebrew had experienced. Endurance will help us live successfully under these inevitable weights. We do not want to shrink back do we?