Mike and I have struggled recently with a couple of our favorite TV pastors. They are what might be called “Edutainment; God loves you and wants to bless you.” kinds of pastors. And we like that or maybe liked that. We enjoy learning about our loving God from pastors with joyful hearts and still believe much of what we learned from them.
But through our time of suffering, their happy messages have fallen short of our reality. Their formula of great faith equals an easy life in this world fails to resonate with us. Our definition of what a hero of faith looks like seems to have diverged from theirs.
Jesus, first and foremost, the author, finisher and example of our faith:
Hebrews 5:7-8 “While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.”
I am pretty sure that like Jesus said:
“The student is not above the teacher, nor a servant above his master.” – Matthew 10:24
|Part of our recent adventure in Tennessee.|
The apostles, who were followed by many signs and wonders, also suffered MANY trials: boiled in oil, beaten, put in prison, fed to lions, crucified…
Heroes of faith from the old testament suffered, too. Able was murdered. Abraham’s wife, Sarah, was barren for decades. Abraham had to send his eldest son away never to see him again, was asked to sacrifice his promised son, then lost Sarah. Isaac went blind. Jacob lost his favorite son Joseph when he was sold into slavery by his brothers, then lost his beloved wife in child birth.
Hebrews 11:35-40 says: “Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
Three more verses into the next chapter:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” – Hebrews 12:1-3
These chapters don’t say if you have enough faith you’ll live the good life. Well, actually they do. But not while on earth. “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised..” They had to wait for “God had planned something better…”
These chapters encourage us to endure; not grow weary and lose heart; to fix our eyes on Jesus who endured the cross for the joy set before him. Jesus, who had to go through suffering before He “sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
There would be no temptation to grow weary and lose heart if our faith could protect us from:
“In this world you will have trouble.” – Jesus’ words in John 16:33
Back up a little farther in Hebrews 11:
“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, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a Heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (verses 13-16)
We are foreigners and strangers on earth.. longing for a better country – a Heavenly one. We are not home yet.
|We gained a deeper understanding of the sign as we traveled up the single lane, switchback, mountain road.|
Jesus says in Matthew 6:19-21,
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
I still believe that God’s heart towards us is to bless us. His presence with us is the greatest blessing I know. If I didn’t believe that He was working everything.. and I mean EVERY THING together for our good (Romans 8:28), I wouldn’t make it out of bed each morning.
I don’t believe that Jesus came to create Heaven on earth for us.. at least not yet, but soon. I do believe:
“Our light and momentary troubles are producing for us an everlasting weight of glory, far beyond any comparison. So we do not focus on what is seen, but on what is unseen; for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:17-18
Jesus said in
John 14:1-3 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.”
And that is where I continue to land. Bad things happen. Life can be unbelievably hard and sweet and wonderful. Trust God. Breast cancer diagnosis. Trust God. Youngest son murdered. Trust God.
Trust. Pray. Cry out. Stand. Wait. Listen. Obey. Repeat.
Jesus is returning for us. This life is not all there is. “There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” -C.S. Lewis. God is working ALL THINGS together for my good. Trust the almighty, all knowing, all understanding one who’s love is stronger than even death… (Romans 8:31-39).
My heroes of faith are not those who believe that great faith produces an easy life. My heroes of faith are those who have continued to trust God in the midst of great suffering; those who are blessed because they are poor, morning, meek, hunger and thirst for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, persecuted. Those who have a great reward in Heaven. -Matthew 5:3-12
My heroes of faith are those like David who have not tried to hide their suffering or whitewashed it, but have bared their souls to us and shared with us what they have learned… the comfort that God has given them.
2 Corinthians 1:5 “For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.”
My heroes of faith are those like Abraham who never denying the truth of their situation, believed against reason that God would keep His promise, grew stronger in their faith through their suffering and give all the glory to God. – Romans 4:19-20
Trust. Pray. Cry out. Stand. Wait. Listen. Obey. Repeat.
Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”
Isaiah 41:13 “For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.”