«Therefore, do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward» (Hebrews 10:35)
Today’s passage urges the disciples not to lose their confidence. To express this idea, the author uses the verb apobalo, which has a military meaning and was used when a soldier lost or dropped his shield during the battle. When a soldier got discouraged on the battlefield, he could resort to one of the most undignified reactions: throwing away the shield to lighten his burden and then fleeing. He would then inform his superior that he had «lost» his shield. This kind of action indicated great cowardice and such a man couldn’t participate in the ceremonies held to celebrate and honor soldiers.
Not losing hope means preserving the courage, audacity and dynamism typical of a good soldier. It is not surprising that these linguistic terms were used, since the letter is addressed to the second generation of Jewish-Christian disciples who had endured the persecution of Nero and that of Domitian before. These were tense times because, even if the Christians were not persecuted at that moment, their parents had suffered persecution and they were about to endure it also (Heb. 12:4).
The truth is that when the adversities or the harshness of the fight are extreme, we cannot do anything by ourselves. It is no wonder that the natural reaction to danger or to threats is carried out by the so-called autonomic nervous system that works independently of our will. It’s common knowledge that on the battlefields, some soldiers literally died of fear. This is due to a biological mechanism called «parasympathetic rebound.» Under alarming circumstances, the sympathetic nervous system warns us about possible danger through a series of reactions: pounding heartbeat, sweat, dilation of the respiratory airways, dilation of the blood vessels, muscular power, among others. When this occurs, the parasympathetic nervous system reacts in order to lessen the effects of this natural shock and bring s it closer to normal. But when the alarm is extreme (like the fear of death in battle, the parasympathetic effect can cause cardiac arrest and end the person’s life.
During our spiritual battles, only God can make us brave to face the harshness of temptation and the threats of our life. Maybe you find yourself in the worst phase of the fight, and you are tempted to drop your shield and admit your defeat. But there is a better option. Surrender yourself to Jesus and He will make you victorious. Just like He told Jairus while his daughter was agonizing, He tells you now, «Do not be afraid; only believe» (Mark 5:36)