The Full Assurance of Hope

Though we speak thus, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things that belong to salvation. For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do. And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end.

Last week we focused on verse 10 and noticed four things:

  1. We saw that serving the saints (loving each other, caring for each other, encouraging each other, supporting each other, being there for each other) is a way of expressing love toward the name of God (" . . . love which you showed toward his name in serving the saints . . . ").
  2. We saw that God will never forget love shown to his name in the service of his people. He will remember it and reward it. "God . . . [will not] overlook [or forget] the love you showed toward his name in serving the saints." The smallest things done for the sake of his name and for the good of others will be remembered by God even when no one else does.
  3. We saw that God's commitment to remember your love for his name and your service to his people is based on his unimpeachable justice. "God is not unjust so as to forget the love you showed to his name."
  4. We saw that the reason his justice is the foundation of this commitment to remember your love for his name is that God's justice is his unswerving allegiance to uphold the worth and honor of his name. So when you love his name, and when you serve the saints out of love for God's name, you show the worth and honor of his name. And God would therefore be unjust, unrighteous, to forget your work.

The upshot is this: if we want to serve people in the most helpful way, and if we want God to remember us with the greatest possible blessing, then we should devote ourselves above all things to loving his name. Because verse 10 teaches us that love toward the name of God is the source of genuine service and love toward his name is the means of being remembered by God with blessing.

Keeping First Things First

The inter-relationships of these three things (being remembered, loving God, serving people) are very important. It would be wrong to go away from verse 10, or from last Sunday's message, and say, "Well I better work harder on serving the saints so that I can get God to remember me with blessing." The reason that is wrong is not that the desire for blessing is wrong. The reason it's wrong is that the first step is left out, namely, falling in love with the name of God.

Trying to serve the saints without being satisfied first with the beauty of God—his grace and power and wisdom and truth and goodness and justice—is like setting out to cross the desert in search of paradise without any water bottles and with no guide and with no assurance that there are oases to replenish you.

The Right Response to Verse 10

The right response to verse 10, or to last Sunday's message, is to put first things first—to devote yourself first to knowing and loving the name of God. Without that, service becomes servility, and the quest for reward becomes mercenary. Service stops being the fruit of the Spirit and becomes the works of the flesh. And the quest for reward stops being a spiritual hunger for more of God, and becomes a merely carnal desire to escape the pain and get pleasure—God or no God. That's the great danger if you don't keep first things first, namely, love for God's name.

Another way to put it would be to say: the right response to verse 10 and to last Sunday's message is verses 11 and 12.

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

How Are We to Attain the Goals of Hebrews 6:11–12?

There are several goals here:

  • the goal of inheriting the promises,
  • the goal of imitating the lives of those who have lived in faith and patience, and
  • the goal of not to get sluggish or dull or weary in all this.

But now notice carefully that the effort to attain these goals (which are mentioned in verse 12) is not an effort focused directly on not becoming sluggish, or directly on imitation, or directly on inheriting the promises. Where is the effort focused directly? The effort, the earnest pursuit, is focused directly on realizing the full assurance of hope (v. 11).

Notice the Relationship Between Verses 11 and 12

Now notice: just as in verse 10, it is all important to see the inter-relationships of these things. Look how the writer connects verse 11 and verse 12. Most of the versions (not the NIV!) bring out the crucial relationship between verses 11 and 12. Verse 11 is the means to the end of verse 12. And that is brought out by the word "that" or "so that" or "in order that."

And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Not being sluggish is a goal, but you aim at it by realizing the full assurance of hope. Imitating the faithful is a goal, but you aim at it by realizing the full assurance of hope. Inheriting the promises is a goal, but you aim at it by realizing the full assurance of faith.

This is the same approach to the Christian life that we saw in verse 10 last week. One goal was to serve the saints, but the way to aim at the goal is to aim at loving the name of God. Another goal was that the Lord would remember our work and love, but the way to aim at the goal was to aim at loving the name of the Lord.

The Fight to Maintain the Full Assurance of Hope

This is the main thing I want to get across in these two weeks. There is a fight to be fought in the Christian life. There is a kind of effort and earnestness. Laziness and sluggishness are not the way to live. But the direct focus of the fight is not first on serving or first working or first on patient endurance. The direct focus of the fight is to maintain the full assurance of hope and to love the name of the Lord. And the rest results from that.

Verse 11: "We desire you to show the same earnestness in realizing the full assurance of hope to the end SO THAT . . . " the other aims will come. If you want not to be sluggish—if you want to imitate the patient and faithful saints, if you want to inherit the promises—then earnestly fight to maintain the assurance of hope. Don't get the focus wrong.

"Show the Same Earnestness"

The clearest link between verses 10 and 11 is the word "same." "We desire you to show the same earnestness . . . " The same as what? The key is noticing the word "show" in both verses. "Show" the same earnestness (in verse 11) as what you "showed" (in verse 10). And what you showed in verse 10 was love to the name of God: "God is not unjust so as to forget your work and the love which you showed toward his name . . . " Now "show" the same earnestness in verse 11.

So the thought goes like this: You showed love toward the name of God and it came out in serving the saints. Now show the same earnestness toward the full assurance of hope, and it will come out in the imitation of the faithful and persevering saints.

Loving God and Hoping in God

These are not really two separate focuses: loving God and hoping in God. Loving the name of God means being satisfied more and more with who God is now. Having the full assurance of hope means being satisfied with what God will be for us and do for us in the future. They are not really separate things. What they are saying together is this: the first business of the Christian life is to find God satisfying—because of who he is now (that's called loving him), and because of what he will be for you in the future (that's called hoping in him).

A Fundamental Aspect of the Christian Life

So here in these verses we have one of the most basic things to learn about living the Christian life: the way to be a servant of others, the way to be patient, the way not to be sluggish, the way to inherit the promises, the way to be remembered by God, is to show great earnestness—zeal, diligence—in being satisfied with God, loving who he is and hoping fully in what he will be for you in the future.

The most fundamental fight of the Christian life is to keep on being satisfied with God. When you look up, to keep on feeling love for the glory of his name. When you look forward, to keep on feeling hope in the greatness of his promises.

Is there a diligence in the Christian life? Is there an earnestness? Is there a fight and a struggle and a zeal and a passion? Yes. But the direct focus of that earnestness is not first on certain behaviors but on God—maintaining the assurance of hope in God and the sweetness of love for his name. All other obedience is a second commandment. And if second things become first things, we may have a rigorous religion, but we will not have evangelical, God-centered, biblical Christianity.

Go Back to the Spring

Pause for a minute here with me and dwell on this. I don't have time to say much more. I want this to grip you the way it has gripped me more deeply these past two days than in a long time. It is possible for Christians—even those who have drunk for decades at the spring of God's grace—to slowly wander away from the fountain of life. It is possible even in the ministry—the water-carrying business—to stop going back to the spring and settle for pools and puddles down the hill.

This morning I think there are many of us who need to hear the simple, loving exhortation: let us go back up the stream and get down and drink until you are satisfied with God.

How many of us are trying to serve the saints? How many of us are trying to be remembered for our work? How many of us are trying to imitate some great saint? How many of us are trying to be longsuffering in some hard situation? And it isn't flowing from a heart satisfied with God?

We need to go back up to the spring that overflows with God and there simply come to love him again for who he is, and find the assurance of hope again for what he promises to be for us in the future.

And I don't mean go to him to get healthy or to get a job or to get a spouse or to get your marriage fixed or to get your bills paid. I mean go to him and dwell with him. Look upon him (Hebrews 3:1) until he becomes your heart's satisfaction. Until you love him for what he is for you now, and until you have a full assurance of hope in what he will be for you in the future.

That is what many of us need above all things this morning. I invite you to be earnest and to go back up to God and be with him until you love him and hope fully in him.

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