Long years are a better judge of our beliefs than a statement of faith, for the years are the statement spelled out in blood, sweat, and tears. I am less impressed with flashy theological knowledge than I have ever been. What I look for now—what I long for!—is a life seasoned by God's grace over the long haul. It is to me the true marvel of theology.
The author of Hebrews puts it for us like this: "You have need of endurance" (10:36). Who has need of endurance? We do. Every saint on this side of glory has need of endurance. I would like to answer our question—How can we persevere in the faith?—by putting two or three questions to our text:
What kind of endurance is this?
We might say it is endurance in obedience, for he immediately says, "so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised." We must carry out the will of God, which is our walking with him unto the end. This may come to the new saint with joy, because they are just perhaps finding their legs in the great race. Glory to God! The marathon to them is yet swift. But to the weathered saint, it is perhaps heard more as it should be: as a weighty and intimidating task, even an impossible one. This is the endurance we seek, and every true saint has felt their need of it.
What fuels this endurance?
Faith. It is faith that drives this impossible race. In fact, if we look more closely at the passage we will find that faith is the actual endurance. The obedience will take care of itself. It is a byproduct and fruit of saving faith.
The author says, "Do not throw away your confidence, which has great reward." (v. 35). Confidence is synonymous with faith here, and so we see that it is faith that brings the reward. "The will of God" that promises reward in our verse then appears as it really is, faith, or, confidence. You see, it is faith. He quotes Habakkuk, through whom God says, "my righteous one shall live by faith" (v. 38). He again says, "We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve theirs souls." (v. 39). This is the perseverance that counts.
Have the promises of God lost your confidence? Has your heart begun, ever so slightly though it may be, to doubt that God's word is exactly as he says? The exhilaration of conversion is far behind, and you have settled into what is likely an outwardly very normal life. Perhaps the towering mountain of countless days that stand between you and the finish line have begun to shake your confidence in the God who has promised to get you through to the end. You see, we have great need of endurance.
How to strengthen our confidence in God
The inspired author of Hebrews knows how to strength our confidence in God. He proceeds immediately to one of the most beloved chapters in the Bible: what has been called The Hall of Faith. Saint after ancient saint is placed before us for the consideration of our souls. And their lives all bear one commonality: they were declared righteous by faith in the coming promise of God, who is Christ, and they endured in this faith. They only saw his coming from afar, but they saluted him nonetheless, and went down with their nose to the east.
You may stoke the smoldering flame of your weakening confidence with the lightened coals of Abel and Noah and Abraham. Sarah is there to teach you a thing or two about real faith in the midst of doubt. Moses did great feats, slaying the dragon of worldly pleasure for the treasure of suffering with Christ, for he believed. All of these, and an Old Testament more, are here to encourage us. Did God let any of them down?
And not only this, but we have all the New Testament saints to consider as well. Visit Paul and Silas in their dark dungeon and stand in amazement as they sing mighty praises. What fueled this wonder? For the more adventurous types, go sailing with Luke and suffer shipwreck in a world without satellite or radio. Serve the saints with Lydia and walk on water with Peter. You see, there are worlds of faith in which to spark our weakening faith to flame.
And not only this, but we have each other. Talk to believers and ask them about God's fulfilled promises. Talk to old saints about the long years of faithfulness; ask them if they've ever seen the righteous begging for bread. Talk to the brand new believer about the powerful promises of God to forgive sin and embrace all who flee to Christ as his own children. I challenge you to come out of these strange encounters of the faith kind discouraged.