“And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.”
Isaiah 46:4 “I have made you. I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”
Sometimes when we call out to God in our affliction, He answers. He miraculously or in ordinary ways changes our situation and rescues us from it. In verses 32-34 the writer to the Hebrews gives us numerous examples of the times where God moved mightily on behalf of His people. He listens. He cares. He rescues.
Often, we pray because we are supposed to, stumbling through the same broad, blanket prayers, not really expecting Him to do anything. If we earnestly believed that our God stops the mouth of lions, wins wars, and raises the dead for His people, our prayer life would look much different.
God cares deeply about us. He cares so much that He sent His own Son to die a horrific death so that we would be reconciled to Him. He cares so much that He listens to our prayers and answers them. So often our first instinct when trouble strikes is to go inward, but we have a Savior that has suffered every affliction and is eager to walk with us in ours. Psalm 120:1 says: “In my distress I cried to the Lord, and He answered me” and Psalm 116:2 “Because he inclined his ear to me, therefore I will call on him as long as I live.”
Whatever you are walking through today, know that you have a God who hears you, who answers you, and who doesn’t leave you alone in suffering. Cry out to Him, draw close to Him in sorrow, and seek His comfort in Your pain. He is able to answer your prayers and rescue you.
Dear Father, thank You for being an ever-present help in trouble. Forgive us for how little we reach out to You for help. Forgive us our pride and arrogance that makes us seek our own way out of trouble. We pray that You would be foremost in our hearts so that our immediate reflex would be to seek You in any and every circumstance. We believe, help our unbelief.
In Your Name we pray, Amen.
Faith in suffering – When He doesn’t answer
While God is always fully capable in might, power and wisdom to step into our situation and rescue us, the fact is, sometimes He doesn’t. Verses 35-39 tell of men and women of faith who suffered the worst persecution and neglect we can imagine. They were mighty in their faith, so why didn’t God do something? The measure of our faith has nothing to do with when God acts. He does as He wills and is not limited by anything in us. The writer to the Hebrews wants the suffering church to know that their suffering does not mean that God is in any way displeased or disapproving of them, or the quantity of their faith.
We live in a fallen world that does not know God. Suffering and evil are a result of the fall. God steps into that and uses suffering for His ultimate glory and purpose. Do we understand that? No. But we trust. And as Pastor Steve said this week “If our faith wanes because God is not answering our prayers the way we want Him to, then whatever we want is of greater value to us than Him.” John Eldredge said: “There is no more devastating blow against evil then when a human being chooses God in the face of suffering, disappointment, unbelief, chronic pain, frustration, abandonment… before the circumstances change, to get up and proclaim that God is good is a devastating blow to evil.” When we remain steadfast in the face of persecution, Jesus is shown to be lovely.
These men and women who died counted Jesus, His gospel, and eternal life with Him as more than worth enduring the sufferings of this world. Paul wrote: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). After losing his children, wealth and health Job cried out: “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21) and later said: “Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15).
All of us have suffered. If you aren’t suffering now, you will someday. Let us view these heartbreaking times as light and fleeting afflictions compared to the glory that is coming. Let us trust God that He knows what He is doing, even when it is veiled from us. Let us draw ever nearer to Him, knowing that He is with us and will never forsake us.
Dear Jesus, help us to trust You when we don’t understand. Help us as we grieve and hurt, to trust. May our sufferings only drive us closer to the cross, make us look more like Your Son, and bring glory to Your name. Thank You that You are sovereign over Your creation and mighty in power. Help us view the pain that comes our way as an opportunity to make much of You. Thank You for the gift of Your Son that makes all the suffering of this life more than worth the glory that is to come.
In Your Name we pray, Amen.
Still, we are left with questions. Why would these believers endure so much? Verse 35 tells us that they “refused to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.” That is what is promised to the faithful child of God: a better life, a life with Him. Being a Christian doesn’t mean that you do good things and try to stay on God’s good side. It means that you have been born again as a new creation. You have been rescued from sin and death, and this life, and happiness in it, is no longer the chief objective. You obey because you love, because you have been saved from yourself. This is our reality, and it changes everything.
I can’t imagine living through the suffering of this life as an unbeliever. All the pain and hardship would seem so hopeless, pointless and unending. But as a follower of Christ, we can already see the end of the story. Jesus has defeated death and will return for us; this is His promise. We endure because we are waiting for this day, for this better life.
Faith says that Jesus is better than anything this life has to offer. He is better. No matter what happens on this earth, we have a better one coming. Hold steadfast when this world is brutal, and He is silent. Hold steadfast when you lose what feels like everything but really, in the light of what we have to gain in Christ, is nothing. Hold steadfast when life does not give you what you feel like you deserve. Hold steadfast to Him.
“The common feature of the faith that escapes suffering and the faith that endures suffering is this: Both of them involve believing that God himself is better than what life can give to you now, and better than what death can take from you later…. When you can have it all, faith says that God is better; and when you lose it all, faith says God is better.” – John Piper
Heavenly Father, impress on us every day the tenant that You are better than anything we can imagine. Help us to love you more every day, and that that love for You would cause our love for the world to wane in comparison. Wrap our hearts so tightly in You that the world drops away and we see clearly how fleeting this life is. Hold us close when our hearts are breaking and give us faith to trust You when we cannot see.
In Your Name we pray, Amen.
Posted on August 6, 2019
by Shelli Jones