But We Are Not of Those Who Shrink Back
We live in a different time and place from those early believers, at least in America and the West in general. I don’t worry so much about suffering for my faith, though I do wonder if my grandchildren will face hardships after I am gone. I confess that I fear those things. When I was a foolish teenager and heard people talking about the “Great Tribulation” that was soon to come, I would become excited as if to say, “Bring it on.” How stupid! When I became a husband and father and now grandfather…well, let’s just say that my tune has become tempered with wisdom. We are not to pray for persecution and suffering; but if it does come, we are called to endure it, and to do so for the glory of God and the witness of Christ—like our brothers and sisters do even now in other parts of the world.
So the Preacher has just issued a stern warning which we read yesterday: Don’t profane the blood of the covenant, spurn the Son of God, and outrage the Holy Spirit by sinning with a high hand. God will not be mocked (Galatians 6:7). But now the Preacher comes with a word of grace. Scripture has a way of doing this to us—warning us and then reassuring us, employing both law and grace to bend our wills. We need both. He reminds them of their former zeal, courage, and ability to endure even the worst hardships. And if they weren’t personally being maligned and beaten, their brethren were, and they would visit them in prison and walk with them to the executioner regardless of the cost, more than willing to suffer the deprivation of their own goods to be named with their brothers and sisters. Read the Church History of the ancient historian Eusebius (fourth century), Book five, to learn of the ghastly tortures our forebears endured for the sake of the Name. But they were happy and rejoiced through it all. Some sang hymns while being burned, fried, or cast to wild beasts. They were looking to a greater reward, an eternal one. And since they believed the One who had promised, they had great confidence before their tormentors.
But now, a few years after, they were struggling. Their confidence was gone. “Can we hold out again?” they wondered. Can we face down once again those who humiliated us and assaulted us—some of us even to death? The Preacher had warned, but now he reassures: “We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” That’s who we are. And the One who preserves us is the One who died and rose for us. He can do within us what we could never do on our own. Cling to Him in time of fear, and He will preserve you.