32 But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, 33 sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. 34 For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. 35 Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.
When I was in seminary, I had a professor who would teach on preaching. He had a phrase that he would always repeat when speaking about preparing sermons. He would often lean forward and point at us with an open hand and say in his serious and blunt demeanor, “You sweat in the study so you don’t bleed in the battlefield.” In this, he referred to the necessity of studying and being prepared, so that, in the moment of testing we would not fail to be prepared for that test. The maxim held a great reminder for me as a student who should always be ready for a test, but the truth is that this proverb can and should be extended more broadly in the Christian life. There is great value in God’s word. It can give us hope in hopelessness. It can give us strength in weakness. It can give us peace in the midst of troubles. The interesting thing about the Scriptures is that in every circumstance that we face as believers, they have something of profit for us. The problem is that many times, we fail to put the time in to study it before trouble comes.
The writer of Hebrews is writing to the church in chapter 10, and reminding them of the time that they spent in the study. He writes that because they had been enlightened, or taught in the promises of God, they were uniquely prepared for the trials that they faced. He even went so far as to remind them of when they were unjustly robbed and had their homes plundered, and in the midst of this they felt gladness. I have a bad day every once in a while, like everyone does, but I rarely face such circumstances and even more rarely do I do so with gladness. These believers were able to do so, because they had already sweat in the study. They knew God’s promises before they knew how much they would need them in the midst of trials. Certainly in the Christian life, trials should lead us to find comfort in the word of God. This will always be the case for us, but if we know God’s word, if we study it before the storms of life hit, if we already know the promises that circumstances can’t undo, then we will have the strength to face our trials with gladness rather than fear or bitterness. We should seek to put the work in when it comes to seeking truth in God’s word, rather than telling ourselves that when trouble comes, God’s word will still be there waiting for us. We can do this. God’s word will still give us the encouragement and comfort that we need to overcome the world, but it is a hard path. We might bleed a little. If we seek God in times of peace, we will not bleed in times of trouble. So seek more and more everyday to learn and understand and be enlightened by the promised words of God.