Hebrews 10:39 – We Are Not of Those Who Shrink Back

Since they have suffered, the writer encourages his readers not to throw away what they have done thus far.   Compared to their suffering, their reward is great!  To continue the athletic metaphor, only the one who competes to the end of the race wins the prize.  There is no “participation” award for those who quit the race early.

There are  many examples of great endurance under extreme persecution. This is the point of chapter 11 – all of the individuals listed are examples of people who suffered for their faith in God.  Even though they did not fully understand at that point in history what God was doing in his overall plan, they understood that they possessed something that was greater than life.  In fact, most of the people listed in chapter 11 of Hebrews suffered greatly for their convictions and in some cases lost their lives.  They were looking forward to something greater and were willing to give their lives up for what they believed.

The readers have “great confidence.” This is the same word he used in the previous section to describe our access to the Throne of God.  If that is the level of confidence we have there is every reason to believe that we will overcome whatever suffering we may presently face.

Therefore, the readers ought not “shrink back and are destroyed.”  The noun  ὑποστολή only appears here in the New Testament and has the idea of being timid, shy, hesitant.  This is the opposite of the confidence which we have before God.  According to the argument of Hebrews, the salvation we have in Jesus is so great that we can “boldly enter the throne room of grace.” Imagine the boldness it would take to enter into the Holy of Holies in order to worship God!

If we have confidence before the throne of almighty God, why are we timid in a public trial? Why are we so timid even when we are not in a public trial?

27 thoughts on “Hebrews 10:39 – We Are Not of Those Who Shrink Back

  1. Salutation from H-Town,
    My life Guard Walks on Water!!!! and through God our Fathers Gift of Grâce, and Jésus Divine Vesil of love fills My cup with his teachings & stirring so “I” will persevere swimming next to Him! and wé must keep thé course! and bring all delegated Fish Home.
    Amaizing Grace!!!
    God bless all of you.
    Mary Margaret

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  2. When I was reading the first part of this posting it made me think about the athletic statement. I like how it talks about “there is no participation award for quitting early.” And then it seeing the section where it talks about how people would die for what they believe in. I think that if you quit early you really are not standing up for what you believe in. You have to stand firm in your faith and stand up for what you believe in. I think that when we enter the throne of the Lord that we have to be bold to face the man who saved us from our sins. We will be humbled.

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  3. The reason people are timid and shy in public trail is that they are scared. They are nervous for what is about to happen. They don’t know what to expect and people are always scared of what they don’t know. Their fear of not knowing comes from sin; the fall of Adam. The knowledge that God is with us should give us confidence to enter the Holy place. As Christians we suffer for Christ and it is through Christ that we fight on and gain confidence. The book of Titus gives people an understanding that God gives us confidence through the Salvation of Christ. Titus 1:2 says, “This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began.” It goes on in Titus 3:7 saying that “Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” I believe the reason God gives this confidence is to show is power when we do meet Him. Even the most confident person will become humble before the presence of God and that is the power and authority He wants us to know.

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  4. It seems to me that society creates this “fear” in us to be afraid of being christian. This confidance we have to go and be in the throne room of God is shaken by our sinfull humanity. We fall so far into the shame of our sin and this shame we feel makes us feel unworthy of God’s throne room. When in reality we are free of our sin and should feel no shame in the coming into of Gods throne room. We have been invited and given the cofidance to go in therefore we should have nothing at all to fear. The only thing I can think that would bring about this big fear is our humanity. Our humanity is absolutely crippleing in our realtionship and confidance in Christ.

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    • I love how the author of Hebrews gives a mini history lesson on the Old Testament “greats”, who ‘by faith’ endured and accomplished many great works before God. “They were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Heb. 11:39-40). I wonder if the chapter is focused on something other than their suffering alone. Sure, by faith, they all endured many trials, temptations and persecutions but in the end the author points out that none of them had been given the promise due to their faith. This to me seems more like a point to the eternal value of serving God and acting in faith, to receive the reward in heaven. Especially as the next section of verses encourages them to run with perseverance the race; with the underlying focus being the finish line! I read this and I am encouraged to run the race with every intention of receiving my reward in heaven, or in the next life. This makes the previous stories contain more value as they no longer were persecuted in vain, but for their future blessings.

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  5. I like the statement, “they were looking forward to something greater and were willing to give their lives up for what they believed in.” I have often wondered how I would react in a situation where I was forced to either deny my faith or die. In my head, I always profess my faith, but that’s the ideal that we all hold. In reality, I would probably crumble. I have gone to public school my whole life and I find it difficult to just tell my friends that I believe in God. I always think that, maybe if God put me in a situation where I was faced with death, I would be more bold. I would profess my faith proudly. But, in all reality, if I can’t even tell my friends that I believe in God, how am I supposed to tell someone who is threatening me with death? All of the people listed in Hebrews 11 have suffered more greatly than I have ever suffered. The statement about looking forward to something greater really hit me. There is something greater than anything on this earth that I can look forward to. Hebrews 11 is a great reminder to stop focusing on the sufferings of today, and look forward to the rewards of tomorrow.

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  6. “… they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.” (Hebrews 11:16 ESV)

    One thing that sticks out to me in this passage of scripture are the first couple verses speaking about Abel. Verse 4 says this, “And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.” Actions speak louder than words, and what he did is known by any reading Genesis 4. I want to “speak” to people, though I am dead. Levi Francis, a young man who used to attend Grace Bible College a little over two years ago, got into a car accident and died. Yet his life and the way in which he lived spoke long after his death. Levi was a man of God. He lived a life striving to please his Lord and Savior. His testimony has been told to many, including one of the states the Grace Singers toured in. I speak of Levi as the writer of Hebrews speaks of the many followers of Jesus. They all, including Levi, lived in such a way that they kept their eyes on Jesus. They knew that this world and its trials would soon pass away, but our heavenly home is eternal.

    Hebrews 11 has always struck a chord with me; I have lived moments of this life in fear. But where are my eyes? Do I see somebody hurting, but because they are more popular than me, or superior to me I do not stop and see how I can help? Do I see a non-believer and think myself too uneducated to share the salvation story? Do I hide behind a mask because I am scared? Do I “just want to fit in”? We are called to live differently. We are called to be salt, and live in such a way, being “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:15). In order to live this way, I need to stop thinking about myself and how I will feel but instead, how will this make God feel. I want live a life so focused on Christ, living without fear, so that when I meet Jesus in Heaven, I might hear Him say, “well done, my good and faithful servant”.

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  7. We were just talking in my church history class about the difference in persecution of the ancient church and today. We do not suffer nearly as much persecution today as they did. While they suffered physical persecution, the only persecution we suffer is emotional. We might feel rejected or unaccepted and that is the extent of our persecution in America. So personally, I think we do not have a significant excuse to be timid in sharing the gospel. We are called to be bold when proclaiming the gospel.

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  8. After I finished reading the post the athletic statement was the most memorable part. I liked the quote Brad used that was “there is no participants award for quitting early.” I think that this statement applies to faith as much as it can apply to any other part of our lives aswell. There is an alarming amount of christians to are raised in the church and then fall away from there faith before they turn 18. When someone falls away from faith I do not believe that they are saying they know longer believe in God, I think most of those who fall away from God still have faith but they no longer have the strong desire to have a relationship with him, and to me that is a form of quitting. Throughout all aspects of life faith in God should be something we always strive to stay motivated for, God will never quit on us so we should never quit on him.

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  9. I wonder if the prize also includes our time now, on earth. What is the ultimate thing that we can receive in this life and the next? Isn’t it God? That is the only thing that truly satisfies. Knowing him and knowing him more and more and more and never stopping,because it can’t anyways. God is eternal, the beginning and the end. There is no end to what we can know about him(according to what he reveals about himself). I am not trying to take anything away from “treasures stored up” in Heaven, but think that many believers gladly gave up everything they had for the sake of Christ, because of the beauty of him, because they were in love with him. They knew that what he WAS, and what he DID is infinitely more valuable and precious and lasting, than their earthly posessions and even their own lives. And in comparison, they considered these things as nothing. “You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions…”(Hebrews 10:34)

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  10. After reading this i enjoyed the athletic statement, only the one who competes to the end of the race wins the prize. There is no “participation” award for those who quit the race early. This is extremely true in faith, but also in other aspects of life as well. Whether it is playing a sport, working a job, no one can “win” unless the compete till the end. On the other hand, Chapter 11 is a powerful chapter as it talks on the suffering of individuals who believe in God. I think at time faith can be hard for people because they say, if God is so good why are these bad things happening? I know times get hard and people fall away from God in tough times. But really that is when you need to stay faithful and believe. It sounds a bit corny and i am sure most everyone has heard it before, but everything happens for a reason. God has a plan.

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    • Jared,

      I completely agree with you that we must all compete to the end and that no one gets participation points for being true to your faith for a short time. I have seen this in people in my family and even close friends who have fallen away from God. They still believe but they do not do as much as they had done before because bad things were happening to them. But we all must look at the bigger picture, we are all going to suffer at some point in our lives but when we compete to the end the ultimate prize is the eternity we get to spend in Heaven! Hebrews 6:4-6 warns us about falling away from God and the consequences of it. However, people do fall away from God but I do not think they fully just give up on Him. I believe if we follow God’s plan for us we will be rewarded for not giving up on Him. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic Jared!

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  11. In all honesty, I decided to respond to this blog just because there was a picture of a cat. It is really easy to want to give up when we are faced with difficult situations, but when we quit we don’t get anything out of it like we would if we finished. I think that we become timid in a public trial because we are so worried we are going to say the wrong thing or do something that might affect the outcome of the situation. We act timid even when we aren’t in a public trial because we are so worried that people are going to judge us and we start to worry about everything we do. And that is not how we are meant to live, we should run and not care what we look like, just as long as we are running for Christ.

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  12. It is a pretty incredible thing to think about, how we are able to have confidence to enter into the thrown room of God. I think because we are so far separated from that reality that the Israelites lived in, where they could not even think of entering into the holy of holies, its hard for us to really imagine and wrap our minds around the weight of that privilege we have now to enter. we still can still ponder on that thought and come to a sense of awe, but I can only imagine the amazing feeling and reality that was for them to know the confidence they can have. But, even the Israelites had a temptation to shrink back because of fear or persecution and the reality of persecution. I think this just goes to show that the tool of fear that the devil uses is very effective when it comes to shutting us Christians down fast. Fear doesn’t come from God, it comes from Satan. We are afraid of the unknown, what will happen if we say this or that, or do this or pray for this person? We fear what we might think could go wrong but we don’t stop to think about what could go right; and if we do think about what could go right, the fear over powers the possibility of a positive outcome.

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    • It is amazing how we can have confidence to enter the presence of God (Hebrews 4:16). In my translation this same verse says that Christians can enter boldly into the presence of God. To be bold is to act courageously. I feel like this plays into what you said about the people of Hebrews being afraid of persecution. If you are afraid, you cannot act boldly. I believe that the Christian faith requires a lot of boldness. That is, not being afraid of persecution or approaching God. Those who shrink back lack the boldness because they are afraid and do not have the confidence in God and the Christian faith to endure suffering.

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  13. I guess, after reading the comments, I should hop on the athletic statement train. In any game, or sport event, the end result is a process. A process that which you strategically implement plays or moves to win. I look at chapter 11 and see those who never quit or gave up on their faith with God. I look at athletes around the world and see the same actions, but for themselves and their teams. However, can we not do the same in our churches and our communities? Coach’s will often say this to their players, “Are you hungry enough to go get the win?”; and looking at that statement, Jesus is saying the same thing to the church today. The hunger and the desire to go and suffer for God needs to be a part of every Christians life. Every athletes favorite verse is Phil. 4:13 about doing everything through Jesus Christ, but what if that same mentality were to happen but instead of “through” we say “for” Jesus Christ? Like the lasting question at the end of the blog, we can have all the confidence in the world standing before the thrown, but as soon as we are public we have a fear. Seeing events that happen over the course of time, and even recent events, make it that much more pivotal that we stand up for our faith.

    “We have the right, to live in peace. We must fight for what we keep. If what we keep holds truth inside, stand up, defend or lay down and die.” – Sonny, P.O.D

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  14. The question posed at the end is somewhat ironic. How can we be so bold or confident at the throne of God, but timid about our faith in public settings? The only thing that we should fear is the Lord. Yet, we tend to shrink down in public, because we fear persecution. In this age, we do not fear the same persecution that the Israelites fear, rather we fear not being accepted, being laughed at, and judgement from peers. The answer to this question is difficult, because I have not seen first-hand the kind of persecution that the Israelites faced. In applying this to my life in the western culture, I think that I can be bold when facing God, because I know he loves me. But when I am in public and I physically can see people’s judgement or I feel unaccepted, I become fearful. It is easy for me to shrink down, because these people do not love me. It is when I realize that God is so much more powerful than these people that I will not shrink down. I will fear the Lord instead of persecution. Hebrews 13:6 says, “So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
    -McKenzie McCord-

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  15. McKenzie,

    I enjoyed reading your post and putting the context into things that you see on a day to day basis. I agree with you at times it can be hard to be bold in public. To stand up for what you believe in and be faithful in that way. Certainly, people judge, people mock, people disrespect, causing individuals to feel unaccepted. I don’t know about you but as i continue to get older and wiser it seems that i care less about what others say. I don’t listen to others as much as i use too. I think a lot of that is because of my faith getting stronger as a mature. Moreover, as i continue to learn more. Nevertheless, people will continue to mock, disrespect, judge, etc. Yet, we know that God is always there. Like the verse you used, Hebrews 13:6 explains. So for me i share my faith with others. I share it in public, i do my best to live by it and to pass the word on to others. As i continue to grow i will continue to do my best to make impacts in other lives.

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  16. I am so blessed that we have the ability and confidence to enter the throne room of God as Hebrews 4:16 says. I am guilty as anyone in being timid when public or private trails come in my way. The main theme in the beginning of Hebrews 11 is the idea of having faith. Something I have learned that’s all throughout the Bible and in my own person life is that when your faith and trust is in God, there shouldn’t be anything that makes your timid in your thinking. Trusting God with faith and not sight is what grows our faith the most. Fear is doubt is a weapon that Satan uses very well to deceive us from not trusting and having faith in God. There is consequences to falling away from God as Hebrews 6 talks about, but we all know our sinful flesh will cause us all to stumble at points. We must endure this tough trails and have faith in the Prince of Peace.

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  17. For me personally the book of Hebrews is easy to relate to because of the sports metaphors. For those who compete and suffer are awarded a medal, but only if we do not turn away. This resonates for me in a soccer game that i played once. There were about 40 minutes left in the semi-final game in the tournament, and this team we were playing against walked off the field. They gave up. To answer the question why we may be timid in public trial I personally believe it is the flesh. As we as Christians have probably observed when we get emotional and let our personal opinions take over we lose sight of Christ. We lose sight of the real importance and that is when we become shy and timid. We lose our confidence because our focus shifts.

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  18. Right away in the first paragraph it says that one of the main points the write of Hebrews had was to encourage the readers to not throw away what they have done thus far. I really did like the metaphor and it makes perfect sense; there is no “participation award” for those who quit early. In Isaiah 41:10 NIV it says, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” I have noticed a lot of times that people now a days tend to basically give up when life get tough. We are scared of what our peers might think of us if we say certain things like we believe in a higher power and we are “too weird”. That cannot be the way we act as people in this world today. Just like the blog suggests, we need to be more like the people from Hebrews 11. Sure, they did not truly understand the real reasoning why things were happening the way they were. At the same time though, they were understanding of the fact that they possessed something greater in life and that they wanted something greater the life itself.

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  19. As Jobes explains, the author was focused upon emphasizing perseverance to keep the readers from backsliding, eventually resulting in apostasy. (Pg. 140-141) The reward of living by faith is becoming a “righteous one”. (10:38) Nowadays, many believers set their sights upon the objects that make up the “good life”, whether that be money, sex or fame. Because of their reliance upon their social standing with their non-Christian peers, they can become afraid, denying the Lord in the process. (Mat. 10:33) A believer’s attitude regarding sin can determine whether or not they are going to begin to drift away from the faith (Pg. 141). If they are still pursuing the useless “chaff” of the world, they cannot fully commit themselves to pursuing Christ and running the race of faith. Some Christians have adopted the notion that calling out someone’s sin is “judging” and should be looked down upon. Believers need to encourage one another to admit their sins and let their “guilty consciences” be cleansed by the blood of Christ. (10:22) No one longs to feel guilty except those who find prideful satisfaction in their own wallowing! It can be tempting to shrink up in private because we are judging God by human standards. “Christ died on the cross for my sins, but he doesn’t want to hear about how I messed up yet again…” How prideful of you to say that! Hebrews 4:16 encourages believers to approach the throne of grace to find help in our time of need. If you cannot accept and represent God’s gift of grace in front of your peers and in secret, you should examine your relationship with Christ, if one indeed exists.

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  20. There could be multiple reasons for why people can be timid in public and private trials. One reason could be because they do not know what is going to happen so they have emotions of fear, anxiety, or hopelessness. Ecclesiastes 8:7 tells us that that no one knows what will happen, but Jeremiah 29:11 tells us that the Lord has our future set for us. The types of persecution from the time of the writer was far different than what we go through today. Some of their convictions cost their lives, but that isn’t too common today for professing your faith (from my knowledge). I would like to say that I would give up my life for what I believe, but I have never been in that situation. I don’t have a hard time letting people know about my faith, but I then consider situations where I would die for my faith. The first one that comes up is a school shooting where the gunman would say, “If you’re a Christian, you will die. Are you a Christian?” I want to have this “great confidence” that the readers have, but only the Lord knows what I would do in that moment. Like I said, I want to believe I would die for my faith. This relates back to the athletic statement made at the beginning of the post when it said there are no “participation awards” for the people who quit. You can’t claim your faith in easy moments if you can’t do it in hard moments as well. You have to finish the race to claim the prize to Heaven.

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  21. It’s comical to me how much the sports metaphors in the book of Hebrews stand out to people, for as much energy as I have for baseball, I am admittedly skeptical about “running races”. As I’ve stated previously, I don’t experience faith (personally) as a race, but perhaps more of a hike to the top of a mountain.
    The author of Hebrews does, however, catch my understanding in terms of timidness. It’s funny when you consider the contrast in cultures and time periods. Many might have been timid in their faiths back then because of persecution and laws, meanwhile I don’t experience many Christians in modern America to be timid about their faith. However, when it comes to trial, we all tend to fall silent. Perhaps it’s because, since the first chapters of Genesis, man has been afraid to face their sins and faults. Even when they were right before God. Perhaps it’s in our nature.

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  22. I love the metaphor about if you quit the race early there is not a participation ribbon. We need to keep pushing forward in life, we need to suffer like God suffered. We need to do this all in the name of Jesus. If the readers of Hebrews shrink back they will never see the true outcome. Being cowardly and not having endurance in life will not accomplish anything. Anyone who runs away when it gets tough, did they even deserve the grace in the first place? Obviously, God would say yes. But you have to be committed to really getting to the end of the race. No matter how hard it gets, no matter how high the hills are, God will provide, He will get you through–you just have to trust in Him. “The warnings seem to progress in their intensity, beginning with a warning against “drifting” (2:1), then to a warning against is a difference between “backsliding” and apostasy, but everyone who apostatizes starts in that direction by backsliding (through the converse is not true; not everyone who backslides will inevitably apostatize),” (Jobe, p.141). This is showing that yes, drifting is wrong, but that does not mean you are doomed to apostasy. But it is warning that when you backsliding apostatizing starts. Hebrews is trying to keep everyone aware of that possibility.

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