“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1
My pastor was preaching on faith yesterday and we looked at the “Hebrews Hall of Faith” during his message. I found myself looking at the verses around his focus and I felt that the Holy Spirit was directing and reminding me of things that I have looked at before. Not that I was distracted from the pastor for long, but this morning I had to go back to the passage and see what God was trying to tell me. I know my pastor would be pleased that I was distracted in that way. He encourages us to study on our own!
This was the passage that caught my eye:
"All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them." Hebrews 11:13-16
I began to think of people I know who can’t move beyond their past. They have a great future out there, if they will trust God and keep moving forward. But they are stuck. Since their actions say they long for the past, “the country they had left,” they often repeat past mistakes and God doesn’t seem to stop them.
Romans 1:20-24a says, “For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…”
We are called by God and He allows people to choose to follow Him or not. It’s as simple as that! He does all the work, we need only to surrender. Conversely, if we so choose, He will allow us to go down to the pits.
Then, I thought of those who have had to step out on faith, move beyond their comfort zone, and yet have not seen the fruit of their labor. That could be missionaries or it could be an everyday “Joe” like me. It doesn’t matter who or where, but it matters that we trust God completely.
We must realize that we are citizens of heaven, temporarily on assignment in a foreign country. We are looking for new opportunities to serve God and step out on faith. If we lose heart and long for the past, choose to give up and go back to a lazy life of sin, God will allow us to return to “the country [we] had left.” I think He would have allowed me to do that if I had given in to certain temptations not too long ago. A little scary, but we do not have to be afraid. Even so, God has promised to never leave us or forsake us. That means He goes where we go: down to the pits, up to the heights, God is with us! I think the pits are so that we recognize our need for Him, but we should so desire to please God that we would not take Him there.
So, rather than pursue the past, we should pursue Christ.
Paul said it this way, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:12-14
“So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Timothy 1:8-10