Hebrews 11, 12. Part 27.
Never forget that God is good. He plans for all of this to result in our good, to cause us to grow and mature. Keep that reality close to your heart.
We find ourselves in a difficult place — a pandemic coupled with a deep and personal need for growth. With sincere and humble hearts, we must learn to listen with love to those who regularly are still oppressed in our society. Their pain has spanned centuries. Black lives do matter, and yet our policies, our actions, and our health care realities haven’t shown this.
Change is required, growth in humility, kindness, and holiness. Growth in faith.
On top of this, our weariness and denial of realities produced carelessness. We quit wearing our masks, and we quit socially distancing, thinking that we wouldn’t catch this virus. As a result, SARS-CoV-2 now surges again, producing infection rates higher than at first in some states and filling hospitals. In some places it’s now more contagious, while in others less so. Viruses mutate.
After heading downward, our country’s number of cases has now turned upward again, rising to 2,210,000 of the 8,060,000 worldwide.
Uncertainty breeds fear. When all is well, it’s easy to trust God. When we’ve suffered loss, trusting God is harder. And yet, accepting the losses that the Lord has allowed prepares us for the new normal — the next phase of our lives. Whatever is coming, it is what God knows is necessary and good for us and our refinement. Life as we knew it will never be the same.
Hebrews 11 contains over twenty stories of faith, stories of life not going as expected, and yet of God using it for good. The lives of these people illustrate that even amidst uncertain circumstances, our faith can still be certain, for God never changes. His promises remain.
Times like these call for perseverance, for learning to trust the Lord to empower us to grow in compassion, to put others first, and to trust him with our very lives. We climb the challenging peaks of faith, but do not fear. Our Lord and Savior is with us.Even amidst uncertain circumstances, our #faith can still be certain, for God never changes. His promises remain. Click To Tweet Times like these call for perseverance, for learning to trust the Lord to empower us to grow in compassion, to put others first, and to trust him with our very lives. We climb the challenging peaks of #faith. Click To Tweet
While the Lord’s yoke is easy and his burden is light, nevertheless our faith consists of a series of ascending mountaintops, challenges we navigate with his help and enablement. Occasionally, we come out into a broad meadow, level ground, a place of peace before we must scale the next peak, but then upward, we must climb once more.
“Without faith it is impossible to please God, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:6, 1 ESV).
Every one of the believers listed in Hebrews 11 was just as flawed and human as we are. Their flaws are entirely similar to ours. There are no sinless people named. Jesus is the only one to ever live a sinlessness life. Those who went before us demonstrated their faith in the most difficult of circumstances. God remembers them for their successes, rather than their failures. This is how he sees us, too. Yet, we remember their flaws.Those who went before us demonstrated their #faith in the most difficult of circumstances. God remembers them for their successes, rather than their failures. This is how he sees us, too. Click To Tweet
When we read of Abraham, we remember that he was afraid, that he took matters into his own hands, and that he gave away his wife, not once but twice — she who was to bear the child of promise. On our own journey, we find ourselves battling the same struggles we have previously fought. Thus, Abraham’s faith journey encourages us. He required decades of growth to comprehend that God truly does keep his promises. And usually, so do we.
Every person listed in Hebrews 11 had failings. They’re just like us. None are perfect. The Holy Spirit, in his vast wisdom, recorded the truth about each one, written down in his Book. By recording their flaws, he offers encouragement to us as we scale the peaks of faith. Because our Savior took on human flesh and faced the same struggles that we do, he knew we would need this encouragement, and so he provided it by holding up flawed and broken believers as the “great cloud of witnesses” (12:1).
If they can be called people of faith, then so can we.
Since we’re all flawed, we all need God’s help to run the race. Our Savior took on human flesh, allowing himself to be tempted in all things as we, yet without sin, and thus he is our model. He ran the race well, and he now helps us to climb these peaks. Because of him, we can change. His Spirit is within us, helping us, urging us toward growth.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted” (Hebrews 12:1-3 ESV).
In Hebrews 12, the author tells us how to run the race of faith with endurance, bearing up under difficult circumstances. We learn here how to scale this series of ascending peaks, each offering a bigger challenge than the one before, for our physical strength wanes as we age. We need the Lord to empower us lest we grow weary and fainthearted.
Therefore, we must let go of the impediments and lay aside the weight of besetting sin that often seems to be a part of our every breath, so that we can run unimpeded. We must lay aside our independence. We must let go of our prejudice and our presumptions about others. We must do what is right for the other human beings involved, not merely thinking of ourselves.We must lay aside our independence. We must let go of our prejudice and our presumptions about others. We must do what is right for the other human beings involved, not merely thinking of ourselves. Click To Tweet
Faith is a journey. Jesus is the destination.
This is what the journey of faith looks like:
We turn toward Jesus. We follow his example, opening God’s Word and studying what he did and how he did it. We’re instructed to consider him accurately, to examine his distinctive actions repeatedly, to meditate on him, to commune with him, and to ponder all he did that was true and right and praiseworthy. We cry out to him for help, that we might live as he lived.
We are to consider Jesus — accurately, intently, and habitually.
Are we doing this?
Jesus kept his eyes on the joy of gaining our salvation. “For the joy set before him” he endured the cross, though the shame was despicable, the moment awful, the trial traumatic. For the joy of obedience to the Father and of gaining us, he conquered. He is our model.
We keep our eyes on the prize of obedience to him. We cherish our future union with him and his “well done, good and faithful servant,” enough to live with intentionality, as he did.
Are we doing this?
The discipline of this training, the trials we suffer, the chastening he brings when necessary, the instruction he gives to equip us, none of it should be regarded lightly, none should be considered small.
Because he loves us, he trains us for the race. Each trial he brings us through is significant — this pandemic and its need for selfless obedience to the detailed guidelines, this challenge to love others better and to strive to understand our black brothers and sisters with more compassion. Each has lessons to be applied and meaning to be remembered.
We recognize his training produces discipline for growth in each of our trials. He prepares us for a future that he already envisions.
Are we doing this? Do we know this?
We grab hold of the grace of God, taking heed of what he says, rather than refusing instruction, so that we can forgive others, avoid bitterness, grow in personal purity, love others, and treat them as we would want to be treated.
With our eyes on Jesus, we learn to love our Lord with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, for we are headed to his eternal city. He is our destination.
“I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10 NIV).
22 “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. 25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven” (Hebrews 12:22-23 ESV).
This is where we’re headed.
How is the journey going for you? How are you seeking him with intentionality? In what ways is he working in your life?