Our author quotes the prophet Habakkuk in Hebrews 10:38. “But my righteous one will live by faith and if he shrinks back, I take no pleasure in him.” Endurance takes place through faith being exercised. Faith is like a muscle, the more it is used the stronger it becomes. If our faith is passive or lies dormant it will automatically become weaker. We may think that we are okay spiritually because we feel fine within our comfort zone. It’s where many retreat to during times of crisis or adversity. The only way to determine how we really are is to step out of our comfort zone and exercise our faith. Otherwise we as Christians are living under a false sense of security in that we deem ourselves stronger than we really are.
We are told that the opposite of living by faith is shrinking back in 10:38. Think of a turtle retreating into its shell when it senses danger. The words “shrink back” were used by mariners to describe a ship’s sail that was unfurled but was wrapped around and fastened to the mast. No sail up meant no wind caught and so the progress of the ship would be severely hampered. These words further convey the sense of withdrawing oneself and so to be timid, to cover, to shy away from.
Is our faith only for the clear and sunny days of life? Or is our faith sufficient for the overcast and cloudy days of life where our human visibility is reduced to almost zero? Can we not trust God in the dark, or through our darkest hours? If our faith is unable to step forward or step out during these difficult days, then do we really possess genuine faith at all? Note that we are told at the end of verse 38 that the Lord God takes no pleasure in those who shrink back. In fact, we are told in the very next chapter by our author that, “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Hebrews 11:6).
I love the confidence that our author expresses in the recipients of this letter in 10:39. It literally reads, we are not shrinking back. We are not going back. Sometimes we just need someone to place confidence in us. Sometimes we just need even one other person in our life that believes we will rise to the occasion. Sometimes, that is all the encouragement we truly need. And our author was certainly hoping that would be the case in this situation.
Maybe God wants you to stand up during a crisis and say to others that we can, and we will keep following Christ to the end. We will hold onto faith and not shrink back. Remember faith is manifest by not believing despite the evidence but obeying despite consequence. Faith is more than just understanding the facts of the Bible and mentally acquiescing. It is inseparable from surrender and submission to Christ’s word and authority in our lives.
So, if you personally need this encouragement then let me be that voice in your life today who believes in you and is saying to you, we are not shrinking back! Unfurl your sail!