Shining or Suffering, Here's Hope to Cling To

I wish following Christ meant my life was always easy, healthy, and happy. If my life was prosperous and successful, wouldn’t that make people want to follow Jesus? Wouldn’t the beacon of my shining life pierce the darkness of this squalid, suffering world with such brilliance that all would come to its light? 

If I were God, this is the way I’d script it. And for a few verses, this is what the faith life looks like in Hebrews 11, known by many as The Hall of Faith. This chapter lists shining examples of mighty warriors, conquering kings, and fearless leaders. Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Moses. Even those whose lives might not have started out well, like Gideon and Rahab, ended victoriously and filled with faith. 

Listen to what these believers did: “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again” (v.33-35). 

YES! This is the kind of Christian life I want. I want to shut lions’ mouths, escape from deadly peril, and pray dead people back to life. Absolutely this! If you’re honest, it’s what you want, too. 

But I can’t ignore the end of the chapter. The verses that begin with the word others. Others who were tortured, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two, and slain. 

Whaaaaat? Oh no, THAT’s not what I signed up for. 

“destitute, afflicted, tormented . . .” 

When familiar passages come alive, it can be both exhilarating and frightening. Such is the case with this one. 

We can’t ignore the fact that sitting alongside the mighty, shining headliners are the not-so-mighty, not-so-shiny believers whose lives didn’t follow the Powerful and Prosperous script. Many were homeless fugitives who suffered mightily for the cause of Christ. Yet they’re included in the Hall of Faith. And given top billing. “. . . of whom the world as not worthy,” the writer of Hebrews declares them to be. 

It’s apparent from Hebrews 11 that God sometimes calls his children, like Daniel and Moses, to battle beasts and challenge super powers. Other times he calls his children to a grander service – that of suffering. He calls them to cling to faith when there’s no earthly reason to. To demonstrate, by faith, that if God allows difficulty into their lives, he’ll use it, somehow, for their good and his glory. 

Listen to his final commendation – for all those listed in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith, shiny and unshiny, celebrated or scorned: “These were all commended for their faith . . . .” 

I don’t which you are today, a superstar or a sufferer, but I do know this – if you’ll cling tightly to God as you travel the path before you, he’ll walk beside you all the way. He’ll empower you to face your fears with dignity and grace. He’ll fill you with peace that defies understanding. When you reach the end of your resources, your patience, and your hope, he’ll provide what you need. 

And he won’t waste a second of your experience. Nothing is purposeless or insignificant. It’s all part of his grand plan to draw you and others closer to himself. 

I admit, I’d rather be a shiny superstar than a suffering servant. But I don’t get to choose. My Father, who knows what’s best, charts the course of my life. Because of the words of Hebrews 11, however, I know I can trust him to use every trial to accomplish his purpose, both in my life and in the lives of those around me. 

Superstar or sufferer, he’s given us our marching orders. I invite you to ponder, embrace, and plant your feet on their truth: 

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. 

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him 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 sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Heb. 12:1-3). 

Now it’s your turn. How has God used your circumstances to reveal himself to you and others? Leave a comment below and join the conversation. And if you’d like, leave your name in the comments below, and I’d be honored to pray for you. If you're reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment.

And as the Lord brings her to mind, please pray for Joni Earekson Tada. She's been diagnosed a second time with breast cancer and will be undergoing surgery on November 26. She is one of the modern-day heroes of the faith and needs our prayers. If you'd like to read more about her condition, CLICK HERE to go to her website.

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