32 But recall the former days in which, after you were illuminated, you endured a great struggle with sufferings:
The content of verses 26 to 31 now shifts to a new subject in verses 32 to 39. That is, in the past Hebrew Christians of this book endured suffering (He 10:32–34), but they should not throw away their confidence because it has a rich reward (He 10:35). At the present time these believers need to endure trial so that they may receive that reward (He 10:36–39).
The word “but” signals a shift by contrast to verses 26 to 31. The shift is from warning to encouragement.
recall the former days in which,
The “former days” were when they became Christians. In those days these believers found victory in their faith during suffering. Their faith was the formative principle of how they lived their Christian lives. We will see this clearly in chapter 11.
after you were illuminated,
There was a point when the readers of Hebrews clearly accepted the finished work of Christ for their forgiveness of sin. “Illuminated” means to receive light. It was the Holy Spirit who gave them light to believe the gospel (Jn 14:7–11).
You endured a great struggle with sufferings:
The word “endured” comes from two words, to remain and under. The idea is to stand one’s ground, to stay under the load. Their need was to develop the character of endurance in the long run. The thrust is to hold tenaciously to our convictions and principles (He 11:27; 12:1–3).
The Greek word “struggle” connotes an athletic contest (He 12:2). Their Christian life was like an epic contest between two powerful forces—to maintain one’s confidence in Christ or let the opposing forces prevail. God’s grace had genuinely worked in their hearts. These Hebrew Christians had enjoyed a time of triumph.
Christians are to recall past tenacity as the motive for future action.
Earlier trials in our lives show how God works to develop us. The readers of Hebrews had experienced hardship “with joy” because they knew they had a “better possession” than anything on earth. Conflict helps believers live triumphantly. The immediate need of those who suffer is to develop the character of patient endurance.