II. The Meaning of Christian Perseverance
“For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.” – Hebrews 6:10-12
Here is perseverance described for us in three parts. First, it is a continual labour of love for God. “Your work and labour of love that you have shown towards His name”. Christian perseverance is partly an ongoing work of loving God, pleasing Him. It is love for His name, for His glory. The word labour actually means troublesome toil. This is not love that comes upon you like goosebumps in winter, or like pins and needles from sitting too long. This is love that is deliberate toil, intentional acts, directed efforts.
Second, Christian perseverance manifests this love by serving the saints. The writer describes their labour of love by saying “in that you have ministered to the saints and do minister”. Both past tense and present tense. You have served believers, and still do. This is the verb form of deacon. You are waiting upon others, helping, blessing, exhorting, teaching, counselling, visiting, giving, assisting.
From time to time you will come across the man who tells you he doesn’t need church. He gets what he needs from online sermons. He reads his own Bible. He prays. But here we read that such a man’s love for God is a fiction. You show love for God when you love what He loves. And God loves His people. The way you show love to His name is by serving the saints.
“If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?” –1 John. 4:20
“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” – 1 John 3:14
We remember in Matthew Jesus speaks to the sheep and the goats. The sheep He rewards and tells them that they fed Him and clothed Him and visited Him when sick or in prison, and clothed Him. The goats He curses and says they refused to feed Him and clothe Him or visit Him when sick or in prison. Both groups ask when they did such t it to these My brethren, you did or didn’t do it to Me. Jesus so identifies with His people that loving God and loving His church are indistinguishable.
So the good fruits that are accompanying his readers are that they love God, and show that by loving God’s people. And now he shows them the third aspect of this perseverance.
“And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end…”
Third, Christian perseverance diligently continues until our hope becomes a full completed assurance at the end. In other words, one day, when you cross the finish line, hope becomes sight, what you trusted would happen now happens. You continue until what is unseen is finally seen. The kind of labour and toil they’ve shown, the writer say, the same diligence must go on until He comes or until you go to Him.
It must not, verse 12 become sluggish. That’s the same word from 5:11: dullness, laziness, slothfulness. Instead, it is a labour that keeps going, a love for God’s name that survives trials, hardships, insults, calamities, attacks, loss. It’s a love for God’s people that survives disappointments, conflict, division, slander, dissension, betrayals.
So here is a one sentence definition of Christian perseverance: you keep diligently loving God by loving His people until your faith becomes sight. That’s what accompanies true salvation. It’s momentous to have it.
I think you can tell why. What kind of love can keep loving Him whom we have not seen, even when we suffer for Him, and experience increased hardship, and experience alienation in this world, and persecution, and hatred from loved ones? A love that has been put into your heart, that’s what. What kind of love can keep loving people from whom you expect the best, but will sometimes receive the worst, who will often disappoint in ways unbelievers won’t, who will seem to have worse flaws, who will seem socially awkward and just not easy to click with? A love that has been put into your heart: the things that accompany salvation. Persevering love for God and love for His people: that’s the fruit of true faith.
Let me make a side-observation here about his use of the words: we desire each one of you. Each one. This writer is not speaking to faceless crowd, a shapeless mass of bodies. Each individual is valued and important. Like Christ, He does not want to lose one out of the ninety-nine. In Scripture, God says to Moses, “I know you by name” (Exodus 33:17). In the Bible God delights to give us long lists of names; names which seem meaningless to us until we zoom out and see that this shows God knows and loves individuals.
Church is not meant to be a crowd of bodies in which you can hide. The church is supposed to be a place where you can known by name, where someone knows you, disciples you, can care for you, and can pray that you would be among the each one who has Christian perseverance. Maybe there is something in you that likes the idea of hiding in the crowd, slipping out after church as if your car is on fire. But God wants you to know and be known. Hoe would have you be noticed, and known, and exhorted one on one to remain faithful. And actually, unless you treat church as a place where each one is to be valued, you probably won’t do much of the ministering to the saints.
But how do we love God, by loving His people, diligently, until our hope becomes full assurance? One part of the answer we’ve already given: if you are in Christ, you are bonded to Him, His faith is your faith, His love is your love, and it can no more fail than the God-Man could stop trusting His Father. But the second part of the answer has to do with our responses. God has ordained that our human responses are the means by which His sovereign grace works in and through. So the writer now gives us the motives for persevering in love for God and His people.
– David De Bruyn, Professor of Church History, Shepherds’ Seminary Africa