Monday, July 13

Faith that works for both…

Scripture: Isaiah 19-21, Hebrews 11

Hebrews 11:32–39  How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. 33 By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. 35 Women received their loved ones back again from death. 

But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground. 

39 All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised.

Observation

Hebrews 11 is the great Hall of Fame of Faith.  The author cites examples of faith under duress (remember, he is writing to people who are suffering for their faith and in danger of leaving it).  

In these final verses of the chapter, the author summarizes by listing other champions of faith that he doesn’t have time to recount, and then lists great victories that were won by faith.  However, he goes on in the next section to list some great suffering and loss endured by faith.  Both those who were victorious and those who weren’t “earned a good reputation because of their faith.”  And “none of them received all that God had promised.”  

Real faith works for both—victory and defeat.  

Application

Faith isn’t a guarantee that you will win in every situation, or get what you want.  Faith operates in both realms, victory and defeat.  Sometimes we win a great victory by faith; other times we endure great loss by faith.  Our faith is unshakable in both.  We trust God for healing; we trust God in death.  We trust God to rescue us; we trust God when He doesn’t.  And through it all, we know that the ultimate and full realization of all God’s promises (His Kingdom) awaits us in the future.  No matter how often we win here, the ultimate Win is yet to come.  This isn’t heaven.

Laina and I were talking on our morning walk about 4 couples whom we love who are facing very difficult health problems that potentially lead to death or debilitation.  Each of them is trusting God deeply and has said repeatedly how blessed they are, how great their lives have been and are, how rich they are with family, friends and their faith.  They inspire me.  They are living examples of Hebrews 11 faith—faith that works for both.

Hudson Taylor, the famous 19th century missionary to China, wrote, “It does not matter how great the pressure is. What really matters is where the pressure lies — whether it comes between you and God, or whether it presses you nearer His heart.”  

Faith—a deep trust in God—means that pressure only pushes us closer to His heart.

Prayer: Lord, I pray for my four friends and for others who are facing great hardships and pressure right now.  Help them to trust You deeply and press into Your heart.