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 11:32–40)
The writer to the Hebrews wraps up his discussion of the heroes of faith in this hodgepodge list of people, triumphs, and tragedies. Through faith they did some amazing feats, such as shutting the mouths of lions and quenching the fury of flames. But they also faced torture, chains, imprisonment, persecution, and mistreatment. And horrible deaths: by stoning, being sawn in two, by the sword.
Not exactly a list of experiences we’re eager to embrace. Nor to advertise to people who are curious about the Christian faith. “Yes, become a Christian and you too could endure ridicule and maltreatment!” Sometimes instead we highlight only the amazing promises of God – that he will never leave us, that when we walk through the river the waves will not submerge us, that he loves us with an everlasting love.
But because we live in a fallen world, which is not as God intended it, we may experience house fires and breast cancer. We may lose our jobs or our spouses to a roving eye and hand. God doesn’t cause these horrible experiences, but he allows them. Why? We just don’t know. At these times, perhaps more than ever, we need to cling to God’s faith-building promises while sinking back into his everlasting arms. And to know that God has something better for us planned, such as our home in heaven.
None of these heroes – Abraham and Moses nor Gideon and David – received what they had been promised. But they welcomed it from a distance. May we who have the gift of the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – live in a manner worthy of our callings. May God increase in us our faith, that we too may be heroes who welcome God’s promises, perhaps also at a distance.
For prayer and reflection: “God wants you to understand that it is a life of faith, not a life of emotional enjoyment of his blessings…. Faith by its very nature must be tested and true.” Oswald Chambers