Hebrews 11 points out that faith is bigger than circumstances. We often have a skewed view of how faith works, thinking that it is like a vending machine. We put our money into the slot, press the button of the item we desire, and within seconds, we are reaching through the hinged plexiglass to retrieve our selection. But faith isn’t about our control. Faith is the absence of our control. It’s more like a gum machine in which our quarter is deposited and we get something for the effort, but what we get may not be what we expected to receive. To prove that faith is bigger than circumstances, this chapter lists heroes of faith. Some had amazing miracles happen on their behalf. God showed up and supernaturally delivered them from their unfavorable circumstances. Others, no less heroic, endured THROUGH their circumstances. Their children were murdered. They lost loved ones in battle. They were imprisoned. They were homeless. They went without. They were tormented. They struggled through temptation. They died. Circumstances for them was decidedly UN-favorable. In light of the many who had glorious testimonies of deliverance, their end doesn’t seem quite fair. But the writer herald them as worthy and faithful. Full of faith BECAUSE and IN SPITE OF their outcome. Because we often think what we receive is proof of our faith, we can be tempted to think their faith was in vain, but it wasn’t. Not from the view of eternity. These heroes’ promises were no less fulfilled even though their answers weren’t embraced on earth. Instead, they triumphed over circumstances to gain their reward in the heavenlies. Because they did, we have examples to look to in our own trying times. “If they can endure, so can I,” we are able to proclaim during our struggle. And as if in a great stadium, we can hear the echo of their voices cheering us on.
After drawing our attention to human heroes of faith, the author of Hebrews also points out the ultimate hero, our Lord. Jesus suffered. Blameless. Sinless. Perfect. He exchanged fairness for the bitter. For us. To the death. Even if our suffering leads to death, we will never have suffered as Jesus did when the weight of all that was demonic pressed upon His holiness. When He carried, not His blame, but ours. His trials were immeasurably above our testing, and because He endured…and did so on our behalf…we can take heart and endure as well.
When we look to these examples who were victorious over circumstances, our perspective shifts. We are encouraged to press through. The trial is no longer the enemy. We realize that the God who can deliver from the fiery trial can also change us with its heat. Knowing that He is with us and that He is for us, we stop complaining and become compliant to the corrective nature of the trial, which shapes us into Christlikeness. Like a child reaping the blessings of good behavior, our training brings the reward of experiencing more of Jesus’ nature. Knowing the awaiting benefits provides encouragement to our faith while we are in the season of pressure.
With our faith encouraged, we can “…lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; And make straight paths for (our) feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.” Our worship, prayer, and personal disciplines are not sabotaged by discouragement. We are able to walk without stumbling, able to pursue peace with others and to pursue holiness with God. With faith intact, we avoid pitfalls the enemy often uses to ensnare. We sidestep offense and bitterness, we flee immorality, we embrace the valuable and sacred, and we stop misusing God’s grace as an excuse to have our way, and, instead, use His grace to serve Him acceptably.
When we stop looking at our circumstances, and look instead at conquerors of the past, to Christ our Savior, and for correction for Christlikeness—three C’s of victory—we find encouragement to endure. Our faith grows secure. It stands strong when all else is shaken. Our conversation exchanges complaints for comments about our new covenant and the Heavenly City, a C the faithful Christian is sure to see.
Tip/Tidbit: Examine your words today. What are they projecting about your circumstances, and what are they indicating about your faith? Use the 3 C’s-Conquerors, Christ, and Correction--to keep your heart encouraged during tough times.