The Coming One Shall Come and Not Tarry!
“It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Good advice to hear when you’re struggling with sticking to a discipline or trying to push through a difficult task. It’s even good advice for relationships. Usually, we humans give up too soon! And when we do, we usually regret it later. Or, sometimes, we stay too long, and we usually regret that later as well!
So, what’s the answer? The Faith invites us to the lifestyle of repentance and endurance. Especially at this time of year, we need to keep in mind both of these truths if we are going to really prepare to celebrate God entering His world as a Baby in Bethlehem.
Look at our lesson today in Hebrews 10:32-38:
Brethren, recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion on the prisoners, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised. “For yet a little while, and the coming one shall come and shall not tarry; but my righteous one shall live by faith.”
St. Paul is making the case to these Hebrew Christians to stick with Jesus and not return to their former lives without Christ. He spends the entire book of Hebrews making his case that Jesus is BETTER than what they had before. Toward the end of his work, he makes the above plea, and he gives them 3 keys to learning how to “endure.”
First, Remembrance. St. Paul gives us the first step in running this marathon of faith with endurance by asking us to remember. Remember the longing for God and then finally seeing Him among us. Remember the expectation of waiting for Him to come and then there He was! Remember the hardships you faced because you were so overjoyed that He was here. Remember the price you and your friends paid for believing in Him. The first step toward true endurance is to not forget what you’ve learned through your relationship with Christ regardless of the present pain and fear. Don’t forget. Keep being attentive. Make memory eternal! That is the first step in learning to endure.
Second, Enlightenment. If you are going to endure, you have to face the truth that you have faced the Truth! If you are going to make it out of this time of trouble and this time of doubt, you have to be willing to unpack the Treasure of your faith and be enlightened by Him. You have to face the reality that knowing the ultimate Truth in Christ is always true regardless of the circumstances you currently face. Jesus Christ is God in the Flesh. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Jesus Christ will come again. Jesus Christ is Lord. This Reality stands above every other temporary situation we may face. Everything else is passing away. Even our very earthly struggles will come to a close at the moment of our death. So none of your troubles that torment you are eternal UNLESS you make them eternal by holding on to them. You have been Enlightened. Don’t throw that away.
Finally, Joyful Acceptance. Nothing removes the sting of struggle like Joy. St. James says: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” (James 1:2) If you reorient your mind to say “Glory to God for all things” then absolutely nothing you face can ever destroy you. I had an old preacher tell me years ago “Boy, even if the devil kills you, he just puts a crown on your head!” What a hope! What joy. If you have the courage and the humility to face every moment with the joy of the eternal reality of Jesus Christ, as St. Isaiah says elsewhere, “no weapon formed against you shall prosper.” (Isaiah 54:17) Joy isn’t a giddy feeling as much as it is a strong confidence in the eternal reality as opposed to the temporary difficulty. Comparing the two, it is hard not to smile even in a struggle. You know the joy of an eternal peace.
So, St. Paul begs them and us: “Do not throw away your confidence.” If I am going to endure, be faithful, to not give up, I have to Remember. I have to be Enlighted. And I have to hold onto my Joy.
Today, as we move toward the celebration of The Moment when God took His flesh from one of us and stepped into His creation to restore us to what we were all made to be, don’t give up. Endure. Make the choice to stay faithful and see everything around you; the good; the bad; the scary; and the mysterious, as invitations to go deeper into your confidence in being Orthodox on Purpose!
P.S. Dear Lord, I have fallen. But I rise up to You. I have sinned. But I cry out to You for forgiveness. I have struggled with despair. But I see You standing by my side. There is still time for endurance, patience, healing, and change. You are my Hope. You are my Joy. You are my Savior, and I run to You when I feel my strength ebbing away! Thank You, Lord. Amen.
A Special Message from Fr. Barnabas: As we approach the end of the year, I’m asking you for help to endure one more ministry year. If this message has helped you, please consider helping us so we can keep sharing this message of hope with so many. Would you consider an end-of-the-year gift to Faith Encouraged Ministries? You can give online by clicking the image below! https://faithencouraged.org/make-a-donation/