We have many of the usual suspects, guys like Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and even "lesser" characters like Rahab, stories that are rich in faith. The writer of Hebrews describes all of these men and women like this:
Hebrews 11:33-35 (NIV)
who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.
Isn't that what faith is all about? When we think about the work of God in the world and in the Bible, these are the stories that get told and retold. When faith acts then death is defeated, people escape from danger, the fire is extinguished, the battle is won.
I wish this story was the only story of faith, but it isn't. I don't ever want you to think that these things don't still happen because I believe they still do, but I also believe God works in areas that are often less spectacular and are therefore overlooked.
Hebrews 11:35-40 (NIV)
Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated--the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Now this doesn't match our traditional images of faith does it? This sounds......awful. Torture, death, poverty, insults, jeering are all mentioned for these people who lived commendable lives of faith. I find it interesting that we don't get the names of these heroes of faith. Why do you think that is?
Call me crazy, but I think it is because there are many more of the faith giants represented in the second passage than in the first. Despite what we might think, the stories in the Bible are not everyday events...it is not normal for David to defeat Goliath, that is what makes it extraordinary. Usually, diseases run their course, the dead remain dead, the obstacle remains unmoved, and we are then forced to live with the consequences of those events. Does that mean God is absent? Of course not, but it certainly means we need to adjust what we sometimes think living by faith is all about.
It isn't about taking the easiest path. God may be calling you to be one of the unnamed in this passage, the one willing to follow Him into the darkest and most dangerous of places, regardless of the consequences.
Is a life of faith supposed to be easy? I would say no. God is calling us to something much different than the usual life. Our life is a journey, an adventure, a race.
The story continues soon.