The word of the day is “cast.” There are things that can be taken from us. There are things that only we can give up. And there are things can neither be taken from us or given away. Today, in our reading of Hebrews 10:32-38, the apostle urges us “Do not, cast away your confidence which has a great reward” (OSB Vs. 33). This verse prompts us to reflect on the things that are in our control to keep, the things that require our endurance to preserve.
In today’s reading, the apostle encourages his flock to persevere in endurance. The Greek word derives from the idea of “remaining” or “persisting.” Especially the term means to bear trials patiently (Strong’s #5281, 259). The faithful to whom the apostle writes have suffered persecution before. Soon after they were “illumined” by Holy Baptism, they had endured “reproaches and tribulations” along with the “plundering of their goods” (OSB 33-34). Those who were not subject to such abuse had stood alongside of those who were harassed (OSB vs. 33).
The Danger After a Spiritual Victory
After this time of tribulation, the readers of the letter needed constancy. There were still trials ahead, at least for a “little while” (OSB vs. 37) and the flock needed forewarning. Often the most dangerous time of temptation is after a spiritual victory. The Hebrews could thank God that they had passed through the fiery trial of persecution. But now, the apostle is concerned that they must not relax in their rejoicing. The devil had a second squadron of demons in reserve for just this moment.
Hence, the apostle urges that his readers bolster their confidence. The Greek word means to “throw off” as one might take off a coat or sweater (Strong’s #577, 34). The apostle cautions that the Hebrews must not cast off the boldness of their trust in Christ. They have had their bold reliance on God since their baptism. But the writer insists that they must renew it now lest they “shrink back” from the trials that are sure to come.
Things Taken from Us and Things Given Away
There are things others can take away from us: wealth, property, possessions, reputation, potential, and even our freedom. And there are things that no one can take from us. But we can still lose them. We can cast them aside like a toy that we have outgrown. Among these things that only we can relinquish are: integrity, honesty, virtue, peace of mind, obedience, compassion, hope, and especially the firm confidence of faith.
The Outcome of Persistent Faith
These things of the Spirit that are ours to keep or give away are great blessings in themselves. They are the qualities of godliness and goodness as we are discovering in our study of Proverbs. Yet they also bring a “reward.” The Greek word would suggest that the “reward” is “payment due” (Strong’s #3405, 165). But note that here the “recompense” that the apostle refers is the “saving our soul” (OSB 39). The redemption of souls is something given by grace and cannot be earned. Rather the apostle in 1 Peter expresses the theme of grace more clearly: “Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls (NKJV 1 Peter 1:9). To throw away our firm conviction in God, is to fail to realize this outcome. It is to give up the “good fight of faith” before the battle is over.
Eroding vs. Strengthening of Faith
How do we cast aside these our most precious personal possessions? No one wakes up and decides, “Today I will abandon my faith and forfeit all the qualities of the spiritual life that go with it.” Yes, fear and duress may induce us to give up our faith. But typically, we lose our grasp of them through neglect. It is more a matter of erosion than of sudden collapse. Gradually as we face the little challenges of life without turning to God our unused faith becomes weak. But if we face whatever comes to us throughout the day with firm confidence in God, then our faith becomes stronger day by day. And by treating the minor troubles in life with trust in God, we prepare ourselves for the major ordeals when they come.
We have surveyed what others can take from us and what only we can give up. Yet there is a third category. There are things which cannot be taken from us nor can we give them up. Chief among these is the love of God in Christ. God’s love for us is steadfast, everlasting, and never failing. The Love of God is the one constant among all the visible and invisible realms of creation. Not even the devil can take it away from us. And though we reject Him, God still waits for us to return to Him as the father waited for His son to come back home in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.