The more I look at what it takes to have rock-hard-solid-grounded-rooted faith the more I see it takes a lot of guts and courage. Faith encompasses so much of life. Faith involves so many things. Sometimes we try to limit what our “spiritual” life (the life of “faith”) involves or includes–because it makes it more manageable. But make no mistake, when I talk about faith, I mean how you live your life–the whole thing–however you live it. We all have faith. The question more often than not is what are you putting that faith in? You trust your doctor. You trust your bank. You trust that chair you’re sitting in. You trust yourself. You trust that you won’t forget that password. You trust your parents. You trust that the chef of the dinner you’re eating won’t spit in your food. We all are living by faith in what we don’t know, can’t see and don’t even consciously think about.
“Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.” (Hebrews 11:1-2 NLT)
The great men and women of the Scriptures lived lives of faith. They were commended for the way they trusted God. They were commended for the way they were obedient to God. They were commended for the things they accomplished and the victories by faith. They were commended for their refusal to be associated with worldly wisdom, pleasure and instead wanted to suffer for God. Let’s look through Hebrews eleven and see what it says–only we’re gonna remove their names because if you’re reading this you’re probably familiar with the stories in the Bible, but I want to isolate what they did and how they lived–because we’re told to emulate their lives.
By Faith…They understood the world was created. (v. 3)
By Faith…They sacrificed for their sins and offered of praise and worship to God. (v. 4)
By Faith…They were commended by God. (v. 5)
By Faith…They realized without faith it would be impossible to please God. (v. 6)
By Faith…They were warned about what is not yet seen. (v. 7)
By Faith…They went even when they didn’t know where they were going or how they’d get there. (v. 8-9)
By Faith…They looked forward to a city whose architect and builder is God. (v. 10)
By Faith…They considered Him faithful who promises. (v. 11)
By Faith…They died not yet receiving what was promised. (v. 13)
By Faith…They admitted they were strangers looking for a heavenly country. (v. 14-16)
By Faith…They were obedient. (v. 17)
By Faith…They reasoned that God can raise the dead. (v. 18-19)
By Faith…They blessed in regard to the future. (v. 20)
By Faith…They worshiped. (V. 21)
By Faith…They looked forward to God’s fulfillment of promise. (v. 22)
By Faith…They were not afraid of man’s verdicts. (v. 23)
By Faith…They refused the pleasure of sin and instead suffered with God’s chosen people. (v. 24-25)
By Faith…They regarded the disgrace of Christ of greater value than earthly treasures because they were looking forward to their heavenly reward. (v. 26)
By Faith…They conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised. (v. 30, 33)
By Faith…They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of flames and escaped the edge of the sword. (V. 33, 34)
By Faith…Their weakness was turned into strength, they became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. (v. 34)
By Faith…They received the dead back to life. (v. 35)
By Faith…They were tortured and refused to be released so they might gain a better resurrection. (v. 35)
By Faith…They faced jeers and flogging and were chained and put in prison. (v. 36)
By Faith…They were stoned, sawed in two and put to death by the sword. (v. 37)
By Faith…They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated. (v. 37)
By Faith…They wandered in the deserts and in caves and in holes in the ground. (v. 38)
I think a lot of people stop reading after verse thirty-five. They want to lead lives that are victorious. They want to have success. Do you know anyone who doesn’t want to succeed (even if their goals aren’t lofty or ambitious)? I think everyone has some sort of goals or ideas of what it means to being doing life “right”. I think we often want comfort and happiness. So we naturally get through thirty-five verses of Hebrews eleven and say to ourselves, “I want a faith like that.” I want to conquer. I want to be victorious. I want to receive loved ones back from the dead. I want to lead people out of captivity. I want to trust God and follow Him into the unknown. I do look forward to a city who’s architect is God! I want to worship and bless! I want to be commended by God. I want God to say to me, “well done, good and faithful servant.”
“All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth.” (Hebrews 11:13)
But if you read past that you begin to realize that many of the men and women of God have not lived easy, comfortable lives. Just look at the stories of the martyrs to get an idea of how many Christians have lived and died. Many of them died in gruesome and painful ways, many of them lived lives of poverty, loneliness and were persecuted. The great men and women of the Bible might have had victories but they also had a great many situations where it seemed God had failed them where God allowed them to be tortured, burned, and suffer great emotional and physical pain before He brought them home to heaven.
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
“In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…”
(2 Timothy 3:12)
In-between the victories the Christian life is filled with suffering. Do you think that even those who seemed to live victorious lives in Scripture thought it was all success and joy in the midst of their situations? Don’t you think Abraham might have been trembling in fear picking up his entire family to move far away in a day and age where that just wasn’t done? While Abraham was filled with faith, might he have had a lump in his throat and choked back tears as he lead Issac up the mountain to sacrifice his only son (a son of promise no less)? What about Moses’s parents? They hid their son from Pharaoh’s men, knowing they could get in trouble. When they sent baby Moses down that river do you think they had any idea what would happen to him? Don’t you think they cried not knowing if they’d ever see their son again or who would take care of him? When Joseph was about to die, a refugee in a foreign land, he gave instructions about how he wanted his bones taken out of Egypt; I imagine that while he was filled with faith and looked forward to his people returning to the promised land he was also filled with sorrow that he was not able to live and die in his homeland.
“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:39–40)
We also, like the men and women of the Bible, live by faith. We look back at the cross. We live looking forward to a city whose architect and builder is God. We will have some victories. We will see people come to faith in Jesus. We will see some people reject Him. We will get mocked. We will have to walk by faith-following God into the unknown-and it will be scary. We will walk through the valley of the shadow of death (Ps 23:4). We will walk through the flames and they won’t scorch us, we will walk through the waters and they won’t overtake us (Is. 43:2). We will walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:17). We will hear a voice that tells us “this is the way walk in it.” (Is. 30:21) Yet when it’s all said and done, we will have lived troubled lives. If we walked by faith we will have suffered for Jesus. If we walked by faith we will have had great victories. If we walked by faith we will have been persecuted, mocked and maybe even tortured for Jesus. But that doesn’t matter. Because we will die knowing that we like our ancient forefathers of the faith didn’t receive what was promised to them either. Our hope is in what is YET TO COME. God has made promises to us many of which we won’t receive in this life. But we were never meant to receive them in this life. You see, God is saving His best for the day when there will be no more tears, sorrow, pain, suffering or death. He’s saving up all the best-stuff for that day-so let’s not think that God is going to give us “our best life” now. If our ancestors of faith had to wait and even died not receiving what was promised why do we think we’d be any different?