January 6, 2021
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
So much is packed into these four verses – but the first two sentences contain a profound and painful truth. All of the ancient heroes of faith listed in the first 12 verses died before they saw the full expression of God’s promises revealed. They only ever saw them from a distance. How do we reconcile their unfulfilled promises with a faithful and loving God? The shining examples listed in Hebrews 11 made tremendous sacrifices in honoring God. Abel was murdered. Noah spent huge portions of his life building a boat, and then rebuilding humankind. Abraham left everything he knew to journey 1,000 miles. Yet they did not see the promises that motivated these sacrifices.
How do you reconcile the same tension in your life and in the lives of people around you? Earnest and wonderful people remain single when they long to be married. Loving couples find themselves unable to have children. Kind and generous individuals suffer from diseases like cancer or COVID. Yet many of these good things are implicitly or explicitly promised in Isaiah 53, where we read that the Messiah took up our suffering and sorrow. He was wounded so that we might be healed.
If we started the discussion of faith on Monday by looking at the micro-expressions of faith found in each simple and daily act, today we look at the far other extreme. Faith means believing we are a part of a much larger story. A story so large we could not possibly comprehend it’s full scope. In our years on earth, we may never see God’s grand design in all its splendor. Faith means sacrificing anyway. God’s promise to us may be far less personal than we wish. His promises of healing and restoration may be for a future age – not for our body, or the body of someone we love, right now. Faith says we continue to hope and pray and care and hurt.
If you are struggling with faith today, if you feel hopeless, confused, or insecure, let me encourage you to ask two questions.
- Am I trying to be the center of this story, or am I willing to see myself as a small player in God’s story?
- If I take three steps back from my pain, disappointment, or uncertainty in this situation, does a larger picture come into focus?
As you reflect on those two questions, ask God to give you faith afresh.