As Christians, we endure so much: hatred, curses, beatings, swearing, temptation to give up, persecution because of our beliefs, challenges to prove that Jesus is the only way, people who defy us every step of the way. Families abandon us because we live a life they don’t accept. Friends leave us because we changed our ways and don’t live like the world. And the world is confused because we refuse to be a part of what they consider to be a normal way of life.
We struggle. We fight. We cry. We beg God to make things easier or to punish those who persecute us for our beliefs. We are tested, if not by God then by Satan, who wishes nothing more than to see us fail. Our faith is brought to the test. And what happens?
I don’t know about you, but when my faith is tested, I fight for a little bit. I try to keep strong, I pray, I seek God, look for answers and I do what I can to make sure that I do not stray. But as things get worse, then I start to turn away. I turn my back on God and I refuse to listen. Life gets bad, I fall into a deep struggle with a terrible addiction, I hit rock bottom and I turn back to God. Then, vicious cycle begins all over again, never to be broken.
This is the story of many Christians, specifically Christians who live in America. Troubles come, either in the form of persecution, faith-testing or discipline from the Father, and they give up. They stop seeking God.
What do we do about this? The author of the book of Hebrews gives us a solution.
In Hebrews 11, the author defines faith, “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” (v. 1; The Message). There it is, in semi-confusing black and white. Faith is our handle of what we can’t see. We can’t see God, but we have faith that He is there.
Our forefathers in Christianity and Judaism gave us very clear instances of faith. I’m not going to go through them all. You can read it for yourself in your own Bibles in Hebrews 11. I am, however, going to give you the highlights.
Noah had faith that God was going to send a flood to destroy the world. He couldn’t see the flood coming. Some Biblical historians believe that Noah and his people had no idea what rain was, and so the idea of a whole bunch of water falling from the sky and overflowing the oceans and rivers and lakes and flooding the earth seemed rather farfetched to Noah. But, God told him that a flood was coming and Noah had faith. What was the result? Noah and his family was saved. (Genesis 6-8; Hebrews 11:7).
Abraham was willing to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, on an altar because God told him to. Does that seem a bit harsh? Maybe, but God was testing Abraham’s commitment to Him. Abraham knew that Isaac was the chosen descendent to give Abraham an everlasting family, and so Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac, having faith that God could raise the dead (Hebrews 11:17-29).
Moses, an Israelite saved by God, raised Egyptian, refused to live the Egyptian lifestyle and instead faithfully trusted God to make him the leader that would deliver Israel out of Pharaoh’s hands and into the Promised Land. And the Israelites faithfully followed Moses through the desert for forty years, having faith that God would deliver them to the Promised Land (Hebrews 11:24-31).
These people, and many more, lived great lives of faith. They never actually got a hold of what they were promised, but they still had faith, and we are reaping the benefits of their faith.
But the greatest example of faith is the faith of the Lord, Jesus Christ. We are told to keep our eyes on Jesus, or rather, look to Him (Hebrews 12:2). He “began and finished this race we’re in.” (The Message)
When times got rough, Jesus kept going. “Because he never lost sight of where he was headed–that exhilarating finish in and with God–he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God.” (12:2; The Message)
That to me, my friends, is something worth considering. The author of Hebrews goes on to tell us this, “When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story [the story of Jesus] again, item by item, that long litany of hostility [Jesus] plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” (12:3; The Message).
So, consider Jesus, my friends, when you are weary in your faith. Remember that He struggled through so much. He even endured death on a rough, wooden cross! He knew where He was headed, but He never so much as once gave up the fight.
“Do you see what this means–all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running–and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.” (Hebrews 12:1; The Message)
God bless you all.