Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Hebrews 11:29–12:2 Faith that Conquers

KEY TEXT: Hebrews 11:32-38 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 they 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, 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.

KEY THOT: It takes faith not only receive the blessings of God but to endure deprivation, pain and death. We like to believe if only we have faith, life will be just a breeze. The truth may be exactly the opposite: that because we have faith, God will put us through trials of faith that involves deprivations, deserts and deaths. The problem with prosperity gospel is that it makes faith as the guarantee to the “good life”, often defined in terms of material abundance and emotional/spiritual peace. So if a believer does not live the luxurious life (like driving a BMW or carrying a Chanel handbag or wearing a Rolex watch), it is a sign he or she does not have enough faith. But this is contrary to what we read in Scripture today. 

Yes, these OT heroes and heroines “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” (vv.33-34). But they also “were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they 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, 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” (vv.35-38). 

Faith does not guarantee a life of unending bliss and happiness—faith also entails suffering, pain, chains and imprisonment, including for some  premature death by the saw and the sword. Faith also means physical deprivation, living in deserts, dens and caves. 

So, it’s time to exercise the real kind of biblical faith that not only conquers adversities but also gives us power to suffer deprivations, deserts, dens and death. 

How can we do that? Hebrews 12:1-2 gives us four steps to conquering faith: 
  • Travel light: “let us also lay aside every weight”. Whatever that is hindering our obedience should be put away—it can involve laying aside family loyalty to pursue God, laying aside our “working overtime” office ethos, laying aside recreational activities that take up our time for God.
  • Repent: “sin which clings so closely”. If we have sinful attitudes and activities, we need to repent of them, seeking God's forgiveness and cleansing. Sin hinders faith and unbelief is the greatest hindrance to conquering faith.
  • Persevere: “let us run with endurance the race that is set before us”. Faith is not just an attitude but an act—persevering act; not quitting when the going get tough. As it has been well said about those with faith: “When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”
  • Look to Jesus: “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith”. Jesus is not only our model but also our means to faith. We look to him for example and for power to live with conquering faith.
Father, we pray You will grant us conquering faith that overcomes adversities, endures suffering, always looking to Jesus as the Pioneer and Perfecter of our faith. Amen.

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