What is faith? Part 8
Earlier I wrote about the longing for heaven experienced when we commit our lives to Christ. This world is not our home. We know we belong with the Lord. Like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, we’ve pitched our tents, living as sojourners, longing for a city built by God.
Living in tents is no fun. We like our indoor plumbing and other comforts.
Have you ever huddled in a tiny tent at about 14,000-feet elevation while an all-day rain soaks through the vinyl? You shiver as the drops dampen your clothing and bedding. Then nature calls in the middle of the deluge.
Has your canteen gone dry while you’re far from water in a desert climate? Has the weight of your backpack caused your body to ache? Have you tried to pitch a tent in a howling wind?
Have you camped with a baby? The first camping trip my husband and I took included our eight-month-old firstborn. Two weeks in the wilderness affected our baby’s sleeping habits adversely. He crawled around our tent most of the night, flopping onto us in our semi-conscious state. When outside he ate dirt, pinecones, and rocks.
Hunched over all day, I trailed him around stumps and over logs. My arms burned as he bent himself in half leaning toward freedom. Our backs ached, because he was a big boy in a badly designed 1970s backpack.
The fear that he would topple into a raging mountain stream, tumble off a cliff, or never sleep through the night again sent us home early. Concern for his welfare greatly reduced our satisfaction with the camping experience.
We didn’t try camping again for about a decade, now with four kids. This time the baby had a severe allergic reaction and the temperature topped 100 degrees. My husband still has a panic attack merely thinking about it. All our camping since then has been in our own backyard.
“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” (Hebrews 11:37b-38).
At the end of Hebrews 11, we see this awful list of suffering endured by Old Testament believers. Living in holes in the ground and wandering about naked or in animal skins occurred when evil kings, such as Ahab, tried to kill the prophets and true people of faith. To survive they had to go into hiding. They were refugees.
Obviously, this type of camping is no fun at all. This involves running for your lives, your family often scattered. During severe persecution they ran for years. People became edgy and cranky. Spouses argued. Singles decided not to marry. Christians all over the world still endure this type of persecution and the discomforts associated with it. We see the horrors on the news.
Imagine babies crawling through sheep dung, toddlers wandering out of caves and disappearing, sick babies wailing through the night, giving away the group location and keeping all awake, and groups of kids stampeding through campfire circles upsetting the cooking pots.
Contemplate arguments or crying heard through thin tent walls or from another part of the cave because someone had HAD ALL THEY COULD TAKE!
Thank God for his mercy!
Living on this earth includes difficult circumstances, giving us all sorts of opportunities to blow it in every way. This world shows us how we really are. We yell. We have snotty-nosed fights. We bicker. We’re petty.
Yet in the middle of this messy life, by the grace of God, we can still live as people of faith. This chapter reminds us of their faith, not of their human mistakes. The bickering is not mentioned here, nor are the times they had had all they could take. Their faith is.
God loved them, and he loves us too. This is why he came to save us.
Living in holes and wandering around in moving vans, losing all our money and suffering injustice show us exactly who we are. It isn’t pretty! We NEED Jesus!
They were just like us. We are just like them. The process of growth is messy.
“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” (Hebrews 11:39-40).