Resilience gets us past our hurdles. Soldiers receive training on improving thueir mental and emotional resilience. Resilience helps Soldiers endure ghastly experiences far away from home. It also helps them survive when they return home. Faith is an integral part of resilience. The book of Hebrews was written to Christians whose resilience was fading. Persecution, personal struggles, and a temptation to leave Christianity to return to previous religious experiences had assaulted their resistance. They had forgotten the reason for their baptism. Some had stopped attending worship assemblies. The writer (the apostle Paul, or perhaps Apollos or Luke) had reminded them of the role of Jesus Christ in life: Savior, Mediator, Priest, and builder of the house of the faithful (See the first ten chapters of Hebrews). He challenges them to recall past endurance of suffering, to reclaim their confidence, to live by faith (Hebrews 10:32-38).
In the rest of the book he will remind them of past heroes of faith (Hebrews 11) who endured great pain and suffering in hope of the salvation they possess. He will encourage them to focus on Jesus, “the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is now seated at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 12:3). Yes, the suffering they (and we, too) endure seems like punishment, but God, like all good fathers, disciplines those whom he loves (Hebrews 12:6). He calls them to holiness, for without it no one will see God.
Resilience works best when one imagines an end to the pain; Christians endure because they believe that Christ will return (Hebrews 10:37). Trials attack their faith, and ours. They should, and we must maintain our faith so that we may say “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:39).
The book of Hebrews reminds us that Christians have a support network that reaches back through the millennia and continues in the church today. He calls for disciples to practice brotherly love, to resist the love of money, to be faithful in marriage, to follow faithful leaders, to meet together regularly to encourage one another (Yes, that is why we “go to church”) in Hebrews 10 through 13. He urges readers to pray, and prays a prayer of blessing for the readers of the book:
“Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to who be glory forever and ever” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
Surviving seems hard to do sometimes. Attacks on our faith endanger our commitment. The message of Hebrews points us the source of life and truth, and calls us to faithful participation in a community of believers so that we may endure. If your faith is challenged, remember that the church is not for people who are already perfect, but for those who need spiritual healing from Christ, namely all of us. Pray hard, focus on the example of Jesus, and seek comfort from his people.
O God who reveals himself through Jesus, open our eyes so that we may see your revelation. Reinforce our faith that we may survive tests of our faith, that we may persevere however we are challenged. Remind us of your love when we fret under your discipline; restore our hope when we want to surrender to temptation. Help us to focus on Jesus, and help us to follow faithfully where he leads us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.