11 February 2015

the triumphs of faith

I hope this isn't too redundant...I am no stranger to writing about the full rainbow of a life in Jesus, not living dependent on the sunny side of the richness of His blessings and grace, and not rejecting the pale side of the sufferings that should be expected upon being a follower of a crucified Jesus.

But I hit Hebrews 11 again today, and it always hits me.

Of course, the list of our fathers stepping out on firm conviction of things they would never see is powerful.  Thinking through all the stories of Abraham and Rahab and Moses and Noah through the lens of their FAITH is powerful.

But this time, it was the list of everyone since, "for time would fail me to elaborate."  The list of the most powerful victories known to man smashed into the list of the most devastating blows and injustices...all marked equally as heroic faith, having gained God's great approval just by stepping out with conviction on His unseen things.

If I EVER doubted that suffering and trials are to be an expected and EMBRACED part of the life of a Christ-followers, I don't know how I still could reading through the list of men and women and victories and injustices.

With equal breathlessness and desire, try with me to embrace this list of that which has been done by faith...
conquering of kingdoms
performed acts of righteousness
obtained promises
shut the mouths of lions
quenched the power of fire
escaped the edge of the sword
from weakness were made strong
became mighty in war
put foreign armies to flight
received back their dead from resurrection

I mean, bring it on, amen, may it be so.  Please.  I want that.

But without so much as a period splitting them, the list of powerful things done by faith continues...

tortured, obtaining a better resurrection
mockings and scourings
chains and imprisonment
stoned
sawn in two
tempted
put to death with the sword
going about in goatskin
being destitute, afflicted, ill treated
wandering in deserts and holes in the ground

Triumphs, they are called.

Triumphs because of who He is, and what He has promised, and "because God has provided something far better" (vs. 40).

I think over the remarkably small "injustices" and hurt that have kept me up the last few nights, and the closest thing on this list I can compare it to is perhaps going about in itchy goatskin (that one must have some kind of cultural understanding that  2015-Stacey is not getting the depth of...I'll ask Matt what that would have meant :)

My pathetic sense of being "ill treated" has suddenly been abandoned by the way-side, not because it must be "sawn in two" or "get over it", but because if these men of faith had spent their days woeing over their destitution, they would not be our Triumphs of Faith.  They would not be His men and women approved by God.  They would be self-absorbed justifiably whiny people, crying themselves to sleep in their wandering holes.

They would not be some of the same men who also saw their dead received back by resurrection, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong.  Saw chains fall off, walked with angels, were swept up.

The girls and I are reading through the book "Missionary Stories with the Millers" because it is in Lil's first grade curriculum.  We're reading a chapter each nap time, which then keeps all of us from napping, because for as many miraculous stories of lives being saved and guns misfiring and bold faith-moving-mountains it shares, there are just as many grisly and powerful tales of torture, death and great suffering.

I am literally gasping tears back at every chapter.

Today was Jim Elliott, whom you know as one of the five men speared to death by the very tribe they had worked for months to gift and befriend and approach with the Gospel, guns tucked behind them as they died, leaving young missionary wives and babies.

"The next time the Gospel came, a year later, the Auca people embraced it," the book shared.  "They remembered the kindness of the five men they had killed, and remembered that the men hadn't tried to kill them--the bloody way of their culture--giving up their very lives in their places."

One of the men who had killed them shared his testimony later, telling of the many he had murdered when his "heart was dark", and of how Jim's death led him to Jim's Jesus, Jesus who transformed his life.

Amen, may it be so, I found myself thinking yesterday, tears running down my face, so inspired by Jim's triumph of faith, stepping out with his life's very conviction with hope for the salvation of a lost people...a salvation and transformation he would never see.

I must learn to train myself better.  I must learn to embrace the hard and move on with an attitude of faith and triumph...because of who He is, because of the Kingdom which is better, because of stepping out on Him, as ready to be sawn in two in faith as I am ready to see the mouths of lions shut.

As ready to be afflicted in Him as I am ready to perform acts of righteousness.

Ready to quickly give Him my woes and wounds in exchange for a newfound perspective of FAITH, in which He might triumph as quickly as He might triumph in any victories my eyes might see.

Like everything else, His "triumph" is not the world's version of triumph.  His "greatness" is not the world's version of greatness.

As you go through the news today...as you live and rejoice and hurt...as you see Him move and as you see Him wronged...as we feel blessed and as we feel injusticed, work through Hebrews 11 with me, and let His Word be THE Word we've been waiting for today.  Let HIS perspective be OUR perspective.

If to die is gain, if His death and great suffering brought us new life and great hope...can't our hurts and heartbreak and deaths of today be used for His radiant glory?

Let us turn in our pain for the hope of our faith, trusting it all in the hands of a God who has been turning out beauty from ashes for thousands of years.

May our hurt, and the way that we give it back to Him, turn others to our scarred up Jesus.

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