When you decide to devote your life to Jesus for the first time, there’s a raw excitement. Coming to believe that all things were created by Him, recognizing the problem we all know, feel, and observe that lingers in this world is a result of our decided separation from God, and embracing faith in this crazy miracle written about in the Bible (the death and resurrection of Jesus) as a reality that saves souls and provides restoration… That gives optimism, joy, and passion. But life does not just magically get perfect, right? Struggles still come, temptations can pester and give you a hard time, and our natural human selves can unfortunately be fickle. As life goes on, even the most excited faith can be susceptible to temptation to throw in the towel and give up. How do you continue on and endure the whole way in our faith, through the downs? How do you win in your faith when you just want to give up?
The book of Hebrews was written to early Christians. Jesus had lived, died, resurrected and the Christian church had recently begun. These early believers had it pretty tough - their faith in Jesus made them different from society, which caused suspicions and discord, ultimately resulting in persecution and even martyrdom. Leading up to the verse we’re going to look at, Hebrews argues that Jesus is both sufficient and superior - He is greater than all heavenly beings, Moses, the Law and He is exactly enough to save anyone from sin. For a group of believers that must’ve been wavering in their faith and considering giving up to go back to their old ways (after all, life was just easier in the old days of past beliefs), to hear Jesus is enough and better would have been needed reassurance. And it’s here that we too can find helpful reassurance, starting with Hebrews 10:19-21:
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God…
Let's pause for a second here... There’s a lot of language in there that would’ve made total sense for early Christians, but leaves us thinking “What?! Huh?!” A little Old Testament background is needed to understand what’s being communicated here. Once every year, ancient Israel had a single high priest that would enter a place called the Holy of Holies - where the ark of the covenant was located, and where God promised His presence would be. On this day, called the Day of Atonement, the priest would pass through a massive curtain to this holy place, and sprinkle the blood of a sacrificed animal on the mercy seat (lid of the ark) to atone for the sins of Israel - to make things right. But now Hebrews 10:19-21 is saying that Jesus is a new high priest, and by His blood, gives any and everyone access to God’s presence. (Re-read those verses above, makes much more sense now, doesn’t it?)
Let’s continue, Hebrews 10:22-23:
…let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.
Now that we all have access to God, the author says to draw near to Him! What used to be a once a year ritual reserved for the single high priest, now accessing the presence of God is available to us all, so draw near to Him. And these early Christians experiencing persecution and wavering in their faith, they are told to unswervingly hold on to hope. Hope is an expectation for something good to happen, but Biblical hope is very different from our world’s perspective on hope. Worldly hope is optimism based on odds, and choosing to see how situations could turn out for the best… Biblical hope is waiting with expectation for God to move and prove His faithfulness. In Israel’s darkest moments, Isaiah hoped in the Lord. In the Psalms, the word “hope” is used over 40 times, almost exclusively in a context of waiting on God. The prophet Hosea lived in a dark, oppressive time, but he chose hope because he believed that God could turn a valley of trouble into a door of hope (Hosea 2:15). God’s past faithfulness motivates hope for the future - in order to look forward in hope, look back to the many times God proved to be faithful.
What does all of this mean for us? How does this help us continue in our faith when you want to give up? How do we endure the whole way, to win when you want to quit? Unswervingly hold on to the hope of Jesus. If that initial excitement for Jesus wanes, the anxieties of life and dark temptations seemingly become too much, remember the hope you originally put your faith in. In distant and low faith moments, we may look to all the wrong places for answers — but this is a reminder to look to the hope of Jesus. Remember what your eternal hope is in, recall the faithfulness of Jesus in His death and the power of His resurrection to save you and help you through anything we face in the future. This is not an empty optimism that things could potentially get better, but a hopeful expectation based off of the past faithfulness of Jesus. Life is legitimately hard, things can absolutely creep in to distract you, break you, and pull you away from Jesus — that’s why I love the word “unswervingly” — sometimes we may just need to hold on for dear life. But do not forget the hope that Jesus gives — access to an eternal relationship with your Maker, who loves you so personally and intensely.