I remember a very saintly lady, a gentle soul, who while loving Jesus, was weighted down with a sense of being unworthy. Perhaps all of us, to some degree, feel unworthy. But this was crippling to this dear old saint. She wrestled with it. She fretted over it. This worry came between her and God. She lacked confidence before God. It affected her prayer life and she could not quite believe God would listen to a woman like her.
Our confidence as Christians is not based in ourselves, but in Jesus and what he has done for us. The writer of Hebrews gradually reveals a picture of the greatness of Jesus to build up the confidence of those he is writing to. He underlines that Jesus, being supreme above all, has accomplished everything that is needed for their salvation and for our salvation.
The writer explains the reasons we can have such confidence. Firstly, the blood of Jesus shed for us. Secondly, a new and living way is opened giving us access to God. Thirdly, we have a great high priest at the throne of God to welcome us. Fourthly, He who promised is faithful. The result of all this means our hearts have been cleansed, removing guilt and we have been washed clean. Taken together, this gives us confidence to approach the throne of God.
But the readers of this letter had two problems – they were losing confidence and they were giving up. They had developed the bad habit of not meeting together. There is a negative spiral that Christians can fall into - when you begin to let go of your confidence you no longer feel you can meet together with other Christians; and when you feel you can no longer meet together with other Christians that eats away at your confidence in Christ. Are these also our problems? Do we lack the confidence to persevere? Are we drifting and attending church less than we used to? The writer encourages them (and us), “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (Hebrews 10:24–25)
Does it strike you as strange that faith and confidence go hand in hand? Surely if you were confident then you would not need faith! We read, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 11:1) Faith is confidence! Faith is not a floaty, wispy, vapour of an idea. The writer backs this up by pointing to the confident perseverance of some saints of the past. Noah was confident and persevered for over twenty years building an ark. Abraham went on a journey with God into the unknown with the promise of a son in his old age. David was so confident he took five stones and went to face the giant Goliath. Why didn’t these people just give up and leave when they faced difficulties? I think the perseverance of each of these people is linked to their confident faith, the strong assurance in the truth, promises and person of God. They are named to encourage us to persevere with confidence.
All this can make a significant difference to us, to the way we live and to the priorities we have. Perhaps you are facing difficult times coming out of lockdown with challenging circumstances. Take time to consider the greatness of Jesus, all he has done for us and promised to us, the strength he gives us by His Spirit and the encouragement he provides through the meeting of his people. I am confident as you do this you will find confidence to persevere.
In your experience, what has helped increase your confidence and given you strength to persevere?
How might that help you now?
How could you spur others on to love and good works?
Rev John Malcolm