God Pleasing Faith, Living by Faith in Sunshine or Rain, Lesson 21, Hebrews 11:32-40
We ended last weekís lesson on Faith by listening to the Apostle Paulís reminiscence of the lesson he received from God concerning his desire that a thorn in the flesh be removed.
For this thing which occupied Paulís mind for most likely a lengthy time, Paul sought the Lord three times that it might depart from him.
But God is God and God thinks far differently than we think for if anyone would come to us and ask for help in the removal of a thorn there would be only one answer given as we went to find the proper tools with which to remove the thorn.
But we learn from Paulís experience that God desires to bring about his will not through the strength of man but through manís weakness and in so doing all glory will go to him.
For Paul was told, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Paul expressed this truth again in:
II Cor. 4:7, But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.
God has given us some strength but our armís reach is short, but as Paul realized by faith this opens the door to Godís arm and then God and God alone will receive the glory.
Remember Gideon who was used by God to overthrow the Midianites.
God took Gideon through baby steps of faith by leading him in little victories to prepare him for the battle to come.
God helped Gideon to learn to trust Him and eventually brought him to live the first description of him by the angel of the Lord who called him, the mighty man of valor.
The mission was set and Gideon gathered his forces determining that he needed 32000 men.
Gideon left no room for Godís arm to bring the victory in the battle so God pared the force down to less than 1% of Gideonís requirement.
Gideon left to himself and winning the battle with his forces would have garnered to himself all the glory.
But God weakened Gideon that Godís strength would be totally evident in the victory.
When we walk by faith we yield to God all the glory for his strength is indeed made perfect in weakness.
When Gideon assembled thousands of men I suppose he felt confident in having success but when God pared the force to 300 men Gideon must have concluded there was no other option but to trust the Lord for victory.
This is where God wants those to be who live by faith!
Godís intention was that when the battle was over the people of Israel would acknowledge that it was the Lord who delivered them, not the strength of men, not the strength of Gideon.
Again, with the account of Gideon we see a repeat of the story of faith lived by 100 year old Abraham, the father of faith who believed God even though his body now dead regarding procreation staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strong in faith, giving glory to God.
We and all those of faith never are to stagger at what God calls us to do for when we extend our arm we can always be sure that Godís arm will extend the rest of the way and in so doing God will be sure to receive the glory.
Oswald Chambers said: God comes in where my helplessness begins.
This of course is a statement of faith for faith recognizes helplessness, faith recognizes our short arm and begs for Godís arm to save for Godís arm is never shortened that it cannot save.
The just shall live by faith means that our lives are to be testimonies of faith not testimonies of our own strength!
Our lives are to daily evidence a trusting that God will help us in our service to him.
Think about this and ask yourself what am I trusting God to help me in that is beyond my strength and length of arm?
Are we asking God for that which will bring glory to Him, things brought about that would obviously point to Godís hand in the result?
It is so normal to take on things we will be successful in and to avoid those things we know we will fail at.
That is the old man.
The new man involves himself in things as a co-laborer with God reaching as far as he can and depending on God to reach the rest of the way.
Faith in God will bring you to trust Him for answers and things that are beyond you, answers and things that if you tried to get them on your own, miserable failure would result.
Peter saw Christ walking on water and stepped out to him by faith.
Peter knew he could not walk on water but he knew the one who could and did not hold back thinking he was going to drown.
He risked putting himself in a situation where if God did not help he would miserably fail.
That is not easy to do but faith remembers that, with God all things are possible.
And another thing about trusting God for answers and things that are beyond you is donít try to figure out how God will bring these answers and things about.
For when we do that our conclusion is usually that it canít be done.
Gideon assembled 32000 but God accomplished the victory with 300.
Simply cry out to God for help and let the solution come from the Lord.
We ought to be a church that prays that God will accomplish things that can only be explained because He accomplished it.
We have needs that we cannot figure out how to meet.
We may have needs that we donít even know of at this time but God knows and we need to pray for his intervention.
And in our prayers ask that His answers be so apparently from Him that all glory will go His way
Now in the beginning of the crescendo passage of Hebrews 11, we learn that faith may bring extraordinary deeds,
the subduing of kingdoms,
the stopping of the mouths of lions,
quenching the violence of fire,
escaping the edge of the sword,
waxing valiant in fight,
and turning to flight the armies of the aliens.
But there is another side to faith that God does not hold back in telling us about.
For we read of this in Hebrews 11:35-40:
35 Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: 40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
God told Paul that His grace was sufficient for Paul to endure the thorn in the flesh.
In Hebrews 11:35-40 we are faced with the truth that by faith God gives grace to those who trust Him that they may not only endure a thorn in the flesh but endure sometimes terrible and even horrifying trials without compromise or deliverance.
We hear of the terrible atrocities of modern life in the Middle East and even here in our own country as we hear of the dismemberment of babies drawn from the womb.
Today we have Christians suffering these horrible things around the world as the world moves in place for Satanís man but here we are told that by faith, by Godís grace, these will stand for God until the end.
We are given two groups here in Hebrews 11.
The first group, by faith subdued kingdoms, stopped the mouths of lions, wrought righteousness, waxed valiant in fight and turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
We would easily think it a privilege to be in the first group, but what about the second group?
From anyoneís perspective the second group did not fare well for they were tortured, mocked, scourged, imprisoned, stoned, sawn asunder, slain with the sword, wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, afflicted, tormented, living in dens and caves of the earth.
What about this group?
Does anyone long to be a part of this group who are counted as men and women of faith?
Well, from Godís perspective the second group were people of faith just as much as those who populated the first group.
And donít you suppose those who withstood such things as the horrible things described would seem to have even greater faith than those of the first group but God does not rate these of faith in any way but says in Hebrew 11:39:
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
Given a choice of course we want to be with those who from the worldís perspective appear victorious and shun such atrocities but we learn here that God is pleased at times to withhold from us mighty and impressive results, instead blessing us with His grace to endure and carry on in spite of overwhelming trials.
And as Paul wrote after speaking of the thorn in his flesh and the grace that God offered:
II Cor. 12:10, Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.
God is plain in telling us that faith in Him may bring to us infirmities, reproaches, persecutions, distresses and to think otherwise is to not believe God.
Satan is alive and well in this wicked world of sin and he and his forces will fiercely oppose Godís people.
It is an amazing thing to see in our lifetime the face of evil that is shown all around.
In the last century millions were destroyed by men of Satan and many thought this kind of evil was erased but until the hearts of men are changed by God and only by God himself this evil will continue.
It is interesting the reaction of our leaders in seeing the Russian Premier invading nations not his own.
For they seem to think that here in the 21st century things like this ought not to be.
This is the heart of those who believe in the perfection of men by menís means.
But Christian, the word of God makes it very plain that until God rules, the heart of men will be evil continually.
Therefore we are to learn from Hebrews 11 that by faith we are to endure rejection, mistreatment, injustice, and perhaps even torture and death, if that comes, for Christís sake and the sake of the Gospel.
So we are to be prepared by the strengthening of Godís word for things like this to come.
It is not farfetched for it is easy to see in our world how quickly evil moves in its quest to destroy all things godly.
But Look up for your redemption draws nigh and see the great cloud of witnesses, many of whom have entered heavens gates by persecution and suffering as so described in our passage today.
These, Paul describes as of whom the world was not worthy.
But how the world thought otherwise, for the sooner these men and women of faith left the scene the better and the world made it happen by all kinds of awful and dreadful means.
But the worldís evaluation is not that which we should seek.
For God is the only judge of those of faith and he judges them as of such worth that the world did not deserve that they should live among them.
God blesses the world with those of faith but removes his blessings as evil pervades.
Remember how he will do this as you recall what is to come, for what is to come is the removal of the body of Christ, the church in the rapture, for as the time approaches the world will hate the churchís value.
Hebrews 11:39,40, And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
So whether you are victorious in the battle accomplishing extraordinary deeds of faith, or whether you die as a martyr for Christ, or whether you live a long life of faithful service, we all will be made perfect together.
Those of faith as described in the Old Testament received not the promise, the promise of Christ.
They followed the scarlet thread, the promise of a deliverer, but they saw him in types and shadows from afar.
But they waited that we too might see Christ and we are given to see him clearly as revealed to us in the Gospels that they without us should not be made perfect.
They lived under the old covenant given to point to the new covenant which sanctifies us through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
They of the old covenant looked for the shedding of his precious blood and we of the new covenant glory that it has been shed making our salvation, complete for the perfect sacrifice is complete.
But we still await that full promise for we have not as yet realized the full experience of the glory that is to be revealed in Him in heaven.
For this is the promise of Ephesians 1:10, That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
And in Ephesians 3:19, And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
And in Ephesians 4:13, Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
And so as the Old Testament saints did, we continue to live by faith in Godís promise as we await the coming of Jesus Christ and while waiting we endure hardness as his good soldier.
And if we are included in those of faith we occupy till He come.