The book of Hebrews was written to a resilient group of Jewish Christians—persecuted believers who demonstrated Christlike endurance. The writer uses strong terms to describe their plight. For most of us, these descriptors are painful words rather than painful experiences. But for those who first read this message—and for millions of Christians across the world today—these words have the sting of the lash and the slap of hate about them.
The writer described in chapter 10 “a hard struggle with sufferings . . . publicly exposed to reproach and affliction . . . the plundering of your property” (vv. 32–34). Remarkably, their response to living as lambs among wolves was that of endurance, compassion, and joy. And yet, it is not surprising that these blows were taking a toll on these believers. They were weary, and a creeping fear shadowed their days and lengthened their nights. Their confidence was slipping, and increasingly whispered unanswered questions gave voice to their fear and exhaustion: “Is it worth it?” “Where is God in all this?”
But like a good coach shouting encouragement to his runners to finish strong, the Word of the Lord to them—and to us—is this: “You have need of endurance” (v. 36). Endurance is a characteristic, a mark, of saving faith. Faith is the confident expectation that God will keep His promises. And the enduring quality of saving faith is tested in adversity. The reminder that “you have need of endurance” is followed by a gallery of examples of those who “endured as seeing him who is invisible” (11:27) and confidently held that He would ultimately and lastingly keep His promise to save His people. His promises were held on to by these faithful ones, even when they faced flood and fire and the walls of their world crashed down. His promises are true and worth holding on to when the walls of our world come crashing down too—when we lose our job or our dreams or the doctor says, “It’s cancer.”
God’s choices to illustrate enduring faith in Hebrews 11 make up an uneven and unlikely assortment that ranges from Abraham the patriarch to Rahab the prostitute, but that’s because the chapter is not a hall of fame for displaying human greatness but rather one for displaying God’s grace. It’s as if everyone in Hebrews 11 is pointing to the next chapter. They’re all saying, “Look ‘to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith’ ” (12:2), whose endurance and suffering on the cross secured our salvation and whose resurrection proved His promises are all true in this life and the next.
So take heart, sister and brother. We have need of endurance, but Jesus is with us—always. Charles Spurgeon said this: “As for His failing you, never dream of it—hate the thought of it. The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end.”