Monday, September 17, 2012

My Friends of Faith: the people that persevere

I’ve heard a lot of testimonies recently from Christians who were in troubled times and God instantly and miraculously delivered them from their troubles.  I love those stories.  I live those stories.  I can not list the many times God has protected me, provided for me, and proven that He is capable of making possible the impossible.  In Hebrews 11 (the famous Hall of Faith), there are numerous stories of those faithful men who “conquered kingdoms…shut the mouths of lions…quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword.”  There were women who received back their dead loved ones by resurrection, groups that walked through the parted Red Sea and watch the strong walls of Jericho fall down.  There is even a man named Enoch who didn’t experience death.  He just flew away in the sky.  Could that be me please?????

But there are other stories recounted in Hebrews 11.  There are stories of people who obeyed God when it cost them everything.  Obedience cost their homes, their property, control over their children, their reputation, and their own lives.  These are stories that are compelling to read about, and complicated to live out.

I know a few people whose names I could insert into Hebrews chapter 11.  They are dear friends of mine.  They are around my age, and in my opinion, not old enough to experience the hardships that have been placed before them.  For their own privacy, I can’t mention most of their names, but I can put their circumstances into categories: 

*I have two friends who are experiencing significant health problems.  Not the flu, or the allergies or asthma we deal with in my household.  Their health issues are life altering, making them unable to function in the every-day activity of life.  I’ve tried to pity them and they won’t let me.  They turn the conversation around and praise their Father. 

*Then there’s Sabrina, who was widowed in her early 30’s.  She’ll be the first to tell you that the single mom life mixed with grief is hard.  She doesn’t pretend.  But she just WON’T give into despair.  The harder life gets, the more she’s determined to trust God through it all.

*Then there are my friends who spouses have committed adultery.  Note the plural form of friends.  Some have been forced to divorce.  Some have reconciled and have a thriving marriage, leaving an incredible legacy for their children and covering a multitude of sins.  My friends feel rejected.  And yet they are resolved to trust in God’s faithfulness even when His own people can’t seem to pull it off.

*Then there are my friends who have children with special needs.  The care for these children is so constant, so tedious, and so demanding, with very little glory given to the parents.  These parents are exhausted.  And yet they endure.  They persistently show the love of the Father with very little earthly reward.

*Last but not least, my sister.  She is an able-bodied, capable and smart woman.  Somewhere along the way she’s realized that to those whom much has been given, much is required.  Right now, she is involved in a scenario that is tragic. She is offering help, aid and assistance for people at the expense of her time, money, emotions, and physical health.  She is simply sad.  And yet she is steadfast in proclaiming the Good News and being Jesus in the flesh.

The people in these five scenarios have no earthly promise that things are going to turn out okay.  They are people like in the Faith Chapter who have not yet “received the things promised, but [have] seen them and greeted them from afar, and [have] acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.”

These faithful people remind us to not grow weary.  We are to persevere no matter how simple or substantial the specific acts of obedience about God’s commands to love Him and others.  They are people who have figured out that God is good even when life isn’t.

When I was 18 years old, a roommate challenged me to memorize Habakkuk 3:17-19: “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  God the Lord is my strength….”

To put that passage in our context, I encourage you to live with this declaration: “Though there be no food in my pantry, no money in my bank account, no health in my body, no daddy for my children, no faithfulness from my spouse, no “normalcy” for my child’s future, no end to my friend’s pain, no glory in my circumstances, I WILL rejoice in the Lord.  I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  God the Lord is my strength.”

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