How do you maintain a faith that gives you the confidence to keep believing, even when you face overwhelming or impossible circumstances? It can be tempting to give up when life gets challenging.
In my new book, Don’t Give Up, I take an in-depth look at Hebrews 11, also called God’s Faith Hall of Fame. When you study Hebrews 11, one thing you discover is that faith is not theoretical. Faith is not something to be studied or explained but lived. Faith isn’t really faith unless it is expressed.
Hebrews 11 begins with a definition of faith, “Faith is the confidence of things hoped for. It is a certainty of things not seen.” OK, but what does that actually mean? Definitions are supposed to help you understand what’s being defined, but this definition doesn’t give me much clarity.
I think the author of Hebrews knew that might be an issue because he goes on to give multiple examples of what faith means. Each example illustrates a person who tangibly expressed their faith in how they lived.
Those who Accomplished Great Things
Hebrews 11 introduces the long list of heroes who lived out their faith and, consequently, saw God move mountains. The author describes the Israelites passing through the Red Sea as if it was dry land and seeing the walls of Jericho fall after tirelessly marching around them for seven days.
Other people survived raging fires and closed the mouths of lions instead of being devoured. People witnessed many unbelievable accomplishments and triumphed over impossible odds. God’s people lived by faith and the result was amazing victories in the most unlikely of circumstances.
Sometimes, that’s exactly what faith looks like. If you’ve been following Jesus long enough, you probably have some amazing stories of God moving mountains in your life.
Those who Overcame Horrific Things
As Hebrews 11 continues, a different group of faith heroes is introduced. The first group could be labeled, “those who have accomplished great things by God’s power through faith.” This second group … not so much.
There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed 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, living in caves and in holes in the ground. Hebrews 11:35-38
Here we read of people who lived by faith but had to endure unimaginable circumstances. The description of the second group begins with “There were others.” Listen, no one signs up to be part of “the others.” We all want to be a part of Group 1. We want to shut the mouths of lions, not be devoured by them. Oftentimes, however, we find ourselves in Group 2.
My guess is most of us find ourselves in both groups. There will be times when God seems to be accomplishing things you never could’ve imagined, and other times when you feel like you’re barely coping with something you never dreamed you would go through.
What Does Faith Look Like?
Sometimes faith looks like a wife on her knees in a waiting room praying for her husband while he’s in surgery having a tumor removed. The doctor comes in and says, “There is no tumor there. We can’t explain it.” Sometimes, that is what faith looks like. But sometimes faith is a wife sitting in a cemetery and watching a casket lowered into the ground.
Or, sometimes, faith looks like a high school student who decides to start a Bible Study on campus and it takes off. Revival breaks out across the school. Sometimes that is what faith looks like. But sometimes faith is a high school freshman who walks into school with a Bible and is ridiculed and mocked over the next four years.
Faith sometimes means walking into the boss’s office and refusing to lie or mislead a client because of your faith, and it gets you a promotion. Sometimes that is what faith looks like. But sometimes faith will land you in the unemployment line.
Be a Hero of the Faith
If you’ve found yourself in Group 2, and you’re finding it hard to keep the faith, I want to encourage you. You have an opportunity to be a hero of the faith. When you endure much, you are an example of what faith looks like when faith is challenging.
How do we get through those challenging and horrific circumstances? Remember that definition, “Now faith is the confidence of what we hope for and it is an assurance about what we do not see.” Faith means confidence; it’s believing something that has yet to happen as if it has already happened.
Faith speaks of the future in the past tense. When you’re in Group 2, you need a determined faith that is more than a hopeful optimism; it is an absolute certainty. You know. You know what’s coming. You know that you are not at the end of the story.
When you endure much, you are an example of what faith looks like when faith is challenging.
I get to see the difference faith makes when I visit church members in the hospital. I talk to the doctors and nurses, and they’re often amazed at how well our people are handling intensely bad situations.
I was called to the hospital once to comfort a family from our church. They had gone in to deliver a new baby, a bunch of relatives had come to celebrate, but the baby was stillborn. I walked into the room and the suffering was palatable. I prayed with the family, and after I said “amen,” one of the aunts began to sing. Soon, everyone joined in.
In the midst of their pain, they sang, “How great is our God. How great is our God? Sing with me. How great is our God? And all the earth will see how great, how great, is our God.” Yes, they were hurting and sad, but their faith told them this was not the end of the story.
Character Over Circumstance
When you’re in Group 2 you also rely on a confident faith. You can have a confident faith because of who your faith is in. Your faith is in God. I think sometimes we put our faith in God expecting him to do what we want. But our faith is not in life’s circumstances; it’s in God’s character.
If we’re not careful, we can interpret our life going well as a reason to have more faith, and things going poorly can threaten our faith. But our faith is not in life’s circumstances, or in God doing what we think he should do. Our faith is in God; a God who loves us more than we love ourselves and who is always faithful. He is a God who saves and redeems, who is powerful and compassionate.
Sometimes you might be in Group 1. Through your faith in God, the impossible will be accomplished. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in Group 2, the “others,” and you’ll face horrific circumstances. You’ll pray, but the mountain won’t move. In those moments, don’t give up.
Remember that your faith is an absolute certainty, not in your circumstances, but in an always faithful God.
Life can leave you feeling depleted and weary. Anxiety controls your life and circumstances leave you restless. But God whispers to you, don’t give up. Receive encouragement to keep pressing on with a new perspective! Sample our free Don’t Give Up 7-Day Devotional.
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