Monday, February 16, 2009
Where is Home
“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 the 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, and 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” (Hebrews 11:32-40). As we look at the end of this grand chapter, we feel a crescendo of compassion for these great men and women of God. Although the writer admits that time does not allow him to name all their exploits of courage, these nine verses do much to convince us that each one deserves our highest respect. Imagine yourself in their place? The subject here is endurance in both triumph and tragedy. Note several things about the triumphs and tragedies of the faithful. First, there are erroneous ideas about the Christian life. There are at least four wrong conclusions regarding Christians that have been drawn over time and must be dismissed from our minds. Regarding passivity: “Christians are followers of Jesus, so they are meek, mild, and passive people.” Let's examine the subject of persistence: “Because Christians are people of faith; therefore, they never doubt or become discouraged.” Regarding perfection: “Christians, because they are Christians, are perfect-free from the marks of imperfection.” Regarding protection: “Christians know God, so they are shielded from hardship, calamity, and tragedy.” 1. Jesus was not passive, He stood firm against His critics. 2. Christians, being human do teeter on the fence of uncertainty at times. Defectors have been found within the ranks of Christianity throughout all generations. 4. Christians can and do experience such things as financial disaster, mistreatment, trips through the deepest valleys imaginable. Second, note some actual examples of endurance. The writer attempts to stir up endurance in his readers. Here he gives a sampling of those who have already endured. Several historic names and roles are noteworthy (v.32). Not one of these people was perfect, passive, persistent or protected. They were people who experienced the full spectrum of life’s offerings: both its triumphs and its tragedies. Let’s examine two extremes (vv. 33-38). Triumphs: (vv. 33-35a). 2. Tragedies: (vv 35b-38). Tragedy does not happen only to the wayward, the unkind, the hypocritical, the ungodly; it happens to mature, sensitive, obedient, and concerned believers as well. In this generation, an illusion is spreading: that people of true faith experience only wealth, health, and happiness. Scripture does not support such a superficial teaching. Effect then and now (vv. 39-40). All these magnificent folk of the past who experienced and endured both triumphs and tragedies brought honor to God because of their faith. Through their faith they gained approval. The person of Messiah, the promise of God, under laid each heroic act of faith. Third, note the practical impact of this teaching today. Several unavoidable conclusions must make their way into our thoughts if we are going to see life as God sees it. Undeserving and sinful Christians often rejoice in unexpected triumphs. Godly and great Christians often suffer through unexpected tragedies. Both extremes link us with an uninterrupted history: a history we call “God’s plan” (v.40). How do you respond when you see sinful Christians experiencing triumphs? What type of response does the Scripture teach us? How do you respond when godly Christians suffer tragedy? What type of response does the Bible teach us? Have you personally experienced either of these conditions? Dr. Ken Copley is available for counseling, conferences, and local church meetings.