“These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised.” - Hebrews 11:39
One Sunday morning a little girl went to church, and her Sunday School teacher had a little craft for all of her students to do. Each of the kids made a little plaque with the words, “Have Faith in God.” Well, the little girl took it home, and she was so proud of it, she decided that she was going to put it in her backpack and take it to school to show her friends.
The next morning she woke up late, got dressed in a hurry, and managed to board the school bus just in time. But when she found her seat and looked inside her backpack, her plaque wasn’t there. The bus driver had already started down the street. In a panic, she jumped out of her seat, ran up front to the bus driver and shouted: “STOP THE BUS! I lost my Faith in God!”
In Hebrews 11, the Bible talks about many heroes who found great faith in God. In verses 33-35a, the writer illustrates a powerful point: The obedient faith of these Old Testament faith heroes brought them great rewards. Through faith, they conquered kingdoms, administered justice and gained what was promised to them. Through faith they shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of the fiery furnace and escaped the sword. Through faith their weakness was turned to strength, they became powerful in battle and defeated foreign enemies, and women even received back their dead.
Then, partway through verse 35, God’s word makes a shift from the rewards of faith to the sacrifices of faith. Although many men and women of faith experienced miraculous healings and deliverance during their lifetimes, many others suffered and died. According to verses 35-38, some of the faith heroes of the Old Testament were tortured or faced criticism and flogging, while others were chained and put in prison. Some were stoned to death with rocks. Others were sawed in two. Some faith heroes were impaled with swords. Others were dirt poor and had to dress in sheepskins and goatskins. Many wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and holes in the ground.
All this to say: Walking in faith has never been a walk in the park. True Bible faith does bring certain rewards, but it also brings certain suffering. Write this down and don’t forget it: Living out your faith in God will always cost you something. As Jesus warned his disciples in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble.” Jesus doesn’t say that as we live out our faith on this alien planet, we “might” have trouble. He says, you and I WILL have trouble. There’s a really good chance that the world will hate us, because it hates him. There’s a really good chance that the world will persecute us and make us suffer in one way or another.
But take a look at the second half of verse 35: “Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection.” And in verses 39-40, we’re told: “These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.” I love the way The Living Bible translates this verse: “For God wanted them to wait and share the even better rewards that were prepared for us.”
Think about this: When you walk in faith, you are never doing it alone. You are walking in faith with Christians in your church and throughout the
and around the world. And since true faith never dies, you are also walking
with all of the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. When heaven is finished
being built and Jesus takes us all to our permanent home, he will take us all
together. And we will enjoy the greatest rewards in eternity for our faith. Victor Valley
In this world you and I WILL experience insults and trials and persecution for our faith. But on the front end of our faith journey we will also experience some amazing, undeserved rewards: grace, mercy, forgiveness, a relationship with God, and purpose in life. And the back end of our faith journey will be even more amazing! We’ll receive eternal life in heaven with heavenly rewards that are so much more generous than we deserve for enduring some temporary criticism and hardships here on earth. Isn’t that great?
You could say our lives of faith are like a “reward sandwich,” with just a little bit of suffering in between the buns to keep things interesting. Yes, living out your faith in God will cost you something, but when we consider the rich rewards that come by faith, there’s no doubt: NOT living out your faith in God will cost you even more.
Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for our latest message series, “Christmas at the Movies,” Sunday at 10 a.m. at the new Dr. Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.