We sometimes ask, “Will my faith endure through whatever comes into my life?” Many have felt the pain of unexpected trials. Our hearts have a hard time coping with grief and the suffering we know of in the world. Tragedies shatter the sense of control we thought we had. Our confidence feels threatened and our security shaken. We desire a bright future. Undesirable circumstances can cause us to question whether we can trust God. Let us take a closer look at God’s Word regarding persevering in our faith.
The heroes of faith listed in Hebrews 11:22-38 understood, as we do, that they were living in a world that could be shaken. There is no hope apart from God. How did they endure when things seemed out of control?
We define endurance as the ability to hold out, to remain, to continue faithful in the gospel of Jesus Christ, to keep on trusting God. The writer of Hebrews appeals to Christians of his generation—and of all future generations—to endure in faith and to not be overcome by fear and doubt. He reveals what brought these heroes of faith successfully through their trials. In this article we will also look at ways we may remain faithful through the circumstances we face.
1. A Continuous Focus on God – Joseph and Moses’ Parents
The King and the kingdom which cannot be moved must be our focus. Some of those who had this focus are named in Hebrews chapter 11. The families of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob lived as strangers and pilgrims because they “saw” beyond their circumstances. Joseph is mentioned next in verses 21 and 22. Joseph had God and His kingdom as his focus, and when the hard times came, he endured.
Taken as a slave into Egypt because of the jealousy of his brothers, Joseph faced tremendous adversity, including false accusations and imprisonment. But because Joseph acted with discretion and wisdom he was eventually made the second-highest ruler over all the land of Egypt! The beautiful end to this story is found in Genesis, chapters 42-45.
Joseph’s faith enabled him to understand the ways of God. With insight he told his brothers that God had in fact used their evil intent to preserve a nation (Genesis 45:4-8). Joseph saw that the adversity he had experienced was a blessing in disguise. Can we look for the providence of God in our hard circumstances? If we keep our focus on God and endure with patience, we may someday see how God used our circumstances to bring blessing into our future.
Hebrews 11:22 records Joseph’s dying hours. He could have looked back on his promotion and achievements in Egypt, but Joseph’s heart instead was looking forward to the “things hoped for.” He draws attention to the time when the children of Israel would take possession of the land that God promised. Joseph was so certain of this promise that he commanded that his bones be taken along when they departed for Canaan. This would be a public exhibit to his descendants that his heart was agreeing with God.
The circumstances surrounding Moses’ birth are spoken of next. Those circumstances are similar to the culture many face today. Moses was born at a time when Pharaoh was making the lives of the people of God miserable. Fearing their potential strength in numbers, Pharaoh ordered the killing of male babies. What would we have done if we were living at that time? Would we decide not to have children? Amram and Jochebed became the parents of a baby son whom they named Moses. The parents were put in a vulnerable position when they made the decision to keep this baby!
Though God instructs us to obey those in authority over us, we are not expected to obey something that is clearly wrong in light of God’s Word (Acts 4:18-20). We love the story of Moses’ parents hiding him at home three months, and then carefully placing him in the little bulrush boat hidden at the river’s edge. Nothing quiets the mind like a real faith in the Lord who directs the course of history!
God saved Moses’ life in a very unusual way. Through the compassion of Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses was brought out of the water and, amazingly, given back to his mother to be nursed until she would take him into the palace (Exodus 2:1-10). Imagine the godly teaching that was done while Moses was in his parents’ care! The home is where the earliest faith is born; we must not neglect it. This was a window of time when Moses’ parents could teach him about God. The realization of the shortness of that time had to be continually in their minds. Without a doubt, God’s promise of deliverance from Egypt was surely taught to Moses.
2. A Regenerated Heart – Moses
A regenerated heart is required for individuals to endure. Acts 10:35 says, “In every nation he that feareth [God], and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” It is through this process that we will endure through trials. The fear spoken of here is reverential fear that brings us to faith. We ask God to save us from our sinfulness and to strengthen us to follow His will. He comes through the Holy Spirit into our lives to give us a regenerated heart. This work in our hearts is evidenced by turning in obedience to the Lord and working righteousness.
Moses is an example of this. When Pharaoh’s daughter later brought Moses into Pharaoh’s court, Moses was taught the wisdom of the Egyptians, which likely included the unlawful studies of the magicians of Egypt. The “pleasures of sin” were abundant. The time came when the sinful practices in the Egyptian culture showed stark contrasts to what he had been taught about God’s will for the Israelites.
Sin is often fun, exciting, and amusing. It can feed our pride and satisfy unwholesome physical desires. Often overlooked are the facts that the pleasures of sin will bring punishment and the pleasures of sin are always transient. They are for a season. Then the pleasure passes away. And more is desired. Moses recognized this lifestyle would be a snare to his spiritual identification with God.
It is a serious thing to resist God, who promises eternal blessing. His only intent is to bless us. Psalm 16:11 says, “In thy presence is fullness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore.” Though we may not be esteemed highly by the world’s standard, we have riches that the natural mind can barely fathom.
When Moses was forty years old, in a noble act of self-denial, Moses by faith made the choice to identify with the people of God. In doing so he gave up the honors and pleasures available to him. Though in a unique position of freedom in Pharaoh’s court, he chose to place his heart with God’s people, who at that time were slaves! He saw that the culture of unbelief and the power of superstition could not compare to life with the Spirit of God.
Though troubled by reproach from his adversaries and sometimes by personal stumbling, Moses sought “greater riches” than those of Egypt. We are told he endured these things as “seeing” Him who is invisible (Hebrews 11:27). We catch up with Moses again in the New Testament (Matthew 17:1-3)—and see a glimpse of how his “sight” became a reality!
How is our “sight”? A brother told me he was given an assignment through his employment to attend a business conference. It was held in a city of America known for its wickedness. He would not go out to view the city or the sin. He said, “I was ashamed to even be there.” This wariness, this disdain of evil, is a sign of a regenerated heart.
3. A Dependence upon God – Joshua, Rahab, Gideon, Jephthah
We rejoice to see the Bible characters endure and God’s objectives not be defeated. The servitude which the children of Israel experienced actually made them stronger for the journey out of Egypt that was ahead of them (Exodus 1:14,19).
Joshua follows next in Hebrews 11. He also followed the Lord. He learned he was not self-sufficient to conquer the land of Canaan which they were entering. When he was brought face to face with the captain of the Lord’s host in Joshua 5:13-15, he fell on his face in an act of humble surrender.
Through realizing our weakness and believing in God’s power, we can be victorious in the difficulties we face. After the Lord caused Gideon to see his own helplessness, his faith became notable (Judges 6:13,15). He also needed to learn that God is not dependent upon numbers. He was strengthened as he realized that he could only succeed if he relied upon the all-sufficient strength of the Lord. Through the Holy Spirit we succeed.
Rahab, Gideon, Barak, David, and others are pointed out in the cloud of witnesses. The term witnesses does not mean that they serve as spectators, but rather that their lives are testimonies to us of their faith and are incentives to us. Many of them did glorious deeds during dark periods of Israel’s history.
Yet we remember also failures in their lives. They were men of like passions with us. We can take courage from that fact when our faith is at a low ebb. Through our failures our character is tested and matured. The courageous actions described in Hebrews 11 do not overlook man’s weakness or his struggles of fear or self-pride, but they show us God’s power to provide endurance.
People of faith sometimes fail through self-confidence, fear, physical allurements, or reliance on carnal methods. These weights hinder us and must be removed in order to press on in faith. God’s Word tells us there are two principal “kingdoms” the Christian is called upon to subdue. One is within and the other without—they are the flesh and the world. These “kingdoms” seek to prevent the people of God from entering into and enjoying their rightful inheritance.
The lives of Rahab the harlot, Jephthah the son of a harlot, and others teach us that God is not hindered by our position in life or by sinful actions formerly associated with our lives which we have repented of. Afflictions need not be a barrier for service either. The heart is where character is produced. Spiritual faith is the heart’s persuasion of the truth of God. When Rahab accepted the truths she learned, her heart was changed, and this faith saved her from the doom that awaited her city.
Like runners in a race we can expect to encounter exhausting circumstances. Relational problems, physical or financial setbacks, and feelings of failure and inadequacy all tempt us to give up the race. One name given for God means, “Jehovah will provide.” How does He supply? One way is by giving us the light (Ephesians 5:5-14). Another way is by equipping us with the armor of light (Ephesians 6:13-18). We are warned to not be as the men of Ephraim who “being armed, and carrying bows, turned back in the day of battle” (Psalm 78:9).
When we read about our friends who were kidnapped and held hostage in Haiti, we were reminded that God’s grace to endure will be an everyday supply. During their captivity they faced spiritual warfare which tested them severely. Knowing their sure identity in Christ and praying for unity among their group became a strong position in their spiritual warfare. God acted and provided escape from the gang leaders. Satan’s strongholds cannot withstand the power of God! He is able to give victory in trials.
God had consecrated Moses to lead the people out of Egypt. God’s unique object lessons supplied Moses with courage, and were figurative of cleansing his heart and hands (Exodus 4:1-9). Through this renewed courage Moses obediently kept the Passover and brought God’s people through the Red Sea in a miraculous display of God’s power (Exodus 14:14-23). To depressed Elijah God also supplied strength: “Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee” (1 Kings 19:1-8).
4. A Faith that Accepts Suffering
It is possible to live in faithfulness to the Lord without being freed from physical suffering. The experience of some is not the rule for all. In Hebrews 11:32-39 we see that those who endured pain and death are also commended for their faith. They didn’t see the promised relief in this life. But they had faith in their spiritual Redeemer. The strength to endure in such suffering cannot be understood apart from the renewing power and comfort of the Holy Spirit. Those who were delivered from death are not commended higher than those who were not delivered in this life.
Actively seek what God says about answered prayer in the Bible. We are commanded to believe that God is who He declares Himself to be. Genuinely show evidence of faith in the truth concerning His substitution and salvation. Be encouraged by the way He has identified with us in our struggles. This results in a prayer of childlike trust that says, “Do for me as you would have done for Jesus, for I am authorized by Him to use His name” (compare James 1:5-7). Christ knows the heart of a petitioner, because He also prayed in the Garden for His own needs with prayers and supplications.
Praise Him for the unshakable foundation He gives to us (Luke 6:46-49). When we are falsely accused or abused, do not lose hope. We know our salvation and our honor depend on God, and we can pour out our hearts to Him. We can hand over the damages to God’s control (Psalm 62:5-8). Others can provide a safe physical and emotional environment when the need arises.
Seek to help others endure who face trauma and grief. We know of Anabaptist brothers and sisters who opened their homes to refugees from the Russia-Ukraine war. These brothers and sisters saw loss of life, sadness, tragedy, and people’s homes and security taken away. Their touch and presence gave a taste of the presence of God to the refugees. Their sacrifice testifies that security is not in this world’s wealth or weapons of war. They are witnesses of the “living hope,” of an inheritance reserved in Heaven. That is their sword and fortress.
Those who grieve are comforted when others listen to their lament. One of the most precious gifts we can offer people in the midst of tragedies is to weep with them. Christian people can pray with and intercede on behalf of those who are for a time too weak to pray. Realize that in this world we belong to a bigger picture of what is happening. Scriptural examples can renew this understanding and give courage.
The day is coming when all the faithful will see deliverance. Set your hope on this. Note what 1 Peter 1:7 says: “The trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ.” First Peter 1:3-5 speaks descriptively of the hope we have:
Blessed be the God . . . which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Every stage of life has its beauty and its burdens. As we walk the Christian life, we will notice that among the seasons of adversity there are also seasons of grace and blessing. May we choose to praise God and trust Him in every season of life. Our faith and endurance will grow as we live in this peace and serve our heavenly Father, because He is truly good.
We must recognize who God is before we can trust Him with our difficulties. It is a lifelong process. This is the God whose promises I am counting on. Can He help me out of my predicament? Jesus, during His walk on earth, was the head of a long line of faithful witnesses. Christ showed in His life the perfect realization of faith. His own faith is our incentive and our example to imitate. We are told to look “unto Jesus . . . who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Because He endured He is called “the author and finisher of our faith.”
In the Old Testament, God had promised the children of Israel a land to inherit. Faithful men and women acted upon the conviction that this promise, though yet unseen, was a reality. In the New Testament, God shows Himself in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9).
Jesus today promises His followers an entrance into a heavenly city which cannot be moved (Hebrews 12:27-28). He has conquered death! When we think of some of the darkest moments in recorded history, we desire that heavenly city. We realize the need for this message to shine brightly.
“The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined” (Isaiah 9:2). Jesus is the promised Messiah and His hand is stretched out to save you. Jesus understood injustice; He experienced it. As the missionary B.T. Badley wrote:
Show me Thy hands, Lord, when I’m weary,
When toiling and burdensome seem Thy commands.
If my load should lead to complaining Lord,
Show me Thy hands.
Thy nail printed hands, Thy cross torn hands,
My Saviour, show me Thy hands.
Christ, if ever my footsteps should falter,
And if I be prepared for retreat,
If desert and thorn cause complaining,
Lord, show me Thy feet.
Thy bleeding feet, Thy nail scarred feet,
My Jesus, show me Thy feet.
Oh God, dare I show Thee my hands and my feet?
The day is coming when “the government will be upon his shoulder” and darkness and injustice will be banished (Isaiah 9:6-7). Revelation 22:3 concludes, “There shall be no more curse.” Will you believe and be a part of that kingdom?