Today’s Bible Reading: Hebrews 11
What does a cancer diagnosis, plus ten months of fervent prayer, plus a tenacious fighter, plus a loving family equal? They equal a recipe for an inspirational story, or so we hope. There are many stories of people believing in God through the hardest circumstances and seeing him move in profound and amazing ways. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, we knew she would be one of those stories. If anyone could beat cancer it was her. We believed she would win her battle, we prayed for her to win her battle, she fought to win the battle.… she didn’t.
We know that not all circumstances turn out the way we want to or pray for. Life is very seldom “lived happily ever after.” The challenge is not being surprised, disappointed, upset, or confused when hard times do strike. To this day, I still struggle to find the “purpose” in what my mom went through. By earthly standards, when the battle ended, it ended badly. My mom didn’t write books to inspire others. She didn’t get to raise money for a worthy cause. She never got to hear the pitter-patter of her grandkids’ feet or the giggle of their laughter. She didn’t get to accomplish a lot of what she wanted to. Instead, she passed away the day before I got married, and then my dad went off the deep end.
Often, when things don’t go our way, or when things collapse, we run, we blame, we lash out, or we abandon our faith altogether. The strength of our faith is revealed under pressure. The truth of our faith is revealed when our life is shaken by our circumstances. Is my faith in God dependent on the outcome of my circumstances?
The passage for today, Hebrews 11, is often called the “Hall of Faith.” In it, we read about many heroes of the Old Testament and the big things God did as they trusted in him “by faith.” Also, in verse 6, we see how it is our trust in God that pleases him, not our effort. That trust—our faith—has to go beyond the times we see positive outcomes! Faith gives us hope and reminds us of something better, especially when we don’t see the preferred outcome we’re hoping and praying for.
Toward the end of the chapter, the writer speaks to this tension. He is revealing how the faith of the Old Testament saints “turned weakness to strength” by routing armies and “shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death” (v.33-34). Then he abruptly shifts his narrative to those whose lives didn’t have such exciting results.
35b But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. 36 Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. 37 Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. 38 They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
Verses 39 and 40 assure us that the faith of these martyrs was every bit as pleasing to God. It is just that God had something better planned. These verses should give hope to every Christian who has ever faced or will face a difficult circumstance. With these verses, the writer is wrapping up the entire chapter by reminding us that regardless of how our circumstances turn out, God always has something better for us. That is what each and every person in chapter 11:35-38 longed for, hoped for, yet never got to see come to pass: Jesus. To know God in a personal relationship with his Son, Jesus, is what you and I have the privilege of experiencing.
Hebrews 11 is a reminder that our faith is not about the outcome of the circumstances we face, but instead about who the circumstances are helping us to become. In my mom’s case, she was closer to Jesus at the end of her life than she had ever been previously—and that’s the ultimate inspiration.
Are you currently in a situation for which you are not sure what the potential outcome will be? How can you trust God even if the situation doesn’t turn out the way you hope it will?
Tell God you trust him with your current circumstances, regardless of how they turn out. Invite someone to an Easter service who needs to hear about what it means to trust God.
Dear Lord, knowing you is better than anything this world could offer. Help me trust in you through the circumstances I am facing. I know you love me and will work in and through every situation I face to draw me closer to you and demonstrate your love to this world. Amen.
This post was written by Alex Woody. Alex is the Senior Director of CedarCreek Students. His family attends the West Toledo Campus where his two daughters and son can be found filling the lobby with laughter and smiles.
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