I just finished reading Hebrews (NKJV). This time, chapter 11 really seemed to stand out. I’ll admit, writing this blog has me looking for ideas, but there was more to it than that as I read. As I went down through the catalog of faithful ones, each one seemed to be alive. Then I got to v. 32, where the writer seems to have run into a common difficulty of writers: having more to say than he could really put down. So he summarizes, as it were: 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 weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again.
Wonderful. Examples of great blessings. Incredible deliverance. Brave actions. Courage. Victory.
Things worthy of those who believe in and serve God.
But he didn’t stop there:
Others were tortured,…
What! How can this be? How could God let this happen – to His faithful people!? Why would people go through such things?
Since I have started writing this blog, I have met, via the Internet, people who are suffering incredibly. Terrible illnesses, stressful home situations, personal grief and familial sorrow. People whose testimonies and praise of God shine like a searchlight at midnight. Incredible testimonies. Wonderful faith. Simple trust in God. Not perfect, no, but their focus is on God.
The writer didn’t stop with the suffering of these Old Testament brothers and sisters of ours. He continues: not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection.
There is the answer:
they knew this life wasn’t all there is to it.
The world looks at all this and says, “Well, if God is so all-powerful, loving and good, why doesn’t He do something?” They fail to realize that He is. He is showing His power, not in making everything rosy for all His people, but by demonstrating that even in the worst of times, He is there, strengthening them and giving them grace to go on with life. He’s showing that there are people, like Job, who love and serve Him for Himself, not just for what they can get out of Him.
The world wants nothing to do with and scoffs at such thinking.
But this life isn’t all there is. The grave isn’t the finish line. In some ways, it’s the starting line, because then all these terrible things will be gone for the believer, and only good is left. As Paul put it, Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things that are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal, 2 Corinthians 4:16-18.