Posted by: glorifyhim1 | January 8, 2013

Faith When It Hurts

This past week our church lost one of its most devoted members. This dear man worked unceasingly for his church until he was paralyzed by a stroke and became confined to a wheelchair over 14 years ago. Still, with the help of his beloved wife, he was there practically every Sunday morning sitting in a chair stationed at the end of the pew next to where his wife was seated.

Although the stroke debilitated him physically and impaired his ability to communicate, it was not able to obliterate his faith. He demonstrated to everyone who saw him week after week that his devotion to Christ and the church had not changed. While he could no longer work and serve as he had been accustomed to, he could still worship – and that he faithfully did every Sunday morning.

Some people might wonder why. Why would he continue to come to church when it was undoubtedly so difficult for him to do so? Why would he continue to worship a God who had allowed him to be struck down and to suffer in such a way? Some may wonder why he didn’t take the advice that Job’s wife gave to Job after he lost his property, his children, and his health: “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9)

Yet I think he was probably a lot like Job. Job replied to his wife: “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10) What a declaration of faith! Faith is probably no better seen than when it is demonstrated in the life of an individual caught in the throes of adversity. It’s easy to trust when skies are blue, food is on the table, and all is well. But trust is more difficult when storms blow in, when provisions are meager, and when, for whatever reason, our world is turned upside down and our lives begin to unravel. Yet it is at those times – times when our faith seems so small – when we need it most of all.

One definition of faith in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is a “firm belief in something for which there is no proof.” The Bible defines faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). So what does faith look like? Consider just a few examples from Hebrews 11.

  • Noah built an ark before there was one drop of rain.
  • Abraham left his home and journeyed to a place to receive his inheritance, not knowing where he was going.
  • Sarah bore a child when she was well-past child-bearing age.
  • Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph all believed in a future they could not see.
  • Moses chose to suffer with the Israelites rather than enjoy the worldly pleasures of Egypt.

Among many other examples, the writer of Hebrews then exclaims:

“And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of the weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.

And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us.”

(Hebrews 11:32-40)

The above examples remind us that faith is not always pretty. It doesn’t always come out on top in our present circumstances. But just as the heroes above were looking forward with faith to a promise, we also are looking forward to the fulfillment that awaits all believers – the complete realization of God’s promises in His coming kingdom.

As I think of the examples of faith above, I can’t help but think that some of these faithful ones were probably just like you and me. They wondered about their challenges. They questioned why some received miraculous deliverance while others were tormented, stoned, and afflicted. But in spite of their questions and their lack of understanding, they believed in the One who made the promise. The Scriptures remind us: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).

There are still people of faith today. Sometimes their faith may be small like a tiny mustard seed (see Matthew 17:20). Often they don’t know the reason behind their trials or the purpose for their suffering. But they do know the only One who is worthy of their faith and trust. So just like Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and countless others down through the ages, they run their race, the one designed for them by God Himself, and they look “unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). They surrender their need to know, their desire to understand why, to the One who loved us enough to die for us. And they walk with Him, looking forward, one step at a time, until like our friend at church, they finish their race, behold their Savior, and realize the victory of faith!

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