Women received back their dead, raised to life again. 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, verses 35-38.
Read through these verses again and you get a, well, Biblical feeling about them (pun intended). Then read through them again and consider that, somewhere in the world today, there are people who are being mistreated, persecuted, and tortured for believing in Jesus just like these church forebears thousands of years ago.
You and I read about that on the Internet, but it’s true. In Sudan, people are tortured for being Christian, for denying anyone but Allah. In Iran, you can be executed for being a Christian. Ditto in North Korea (or any communist country for all that matter). In Cuba you can still be thrown in prison for saying you believe in Jesus (but, then again, Cuba is still a communist dictatorship). Same in the People’s Republic of China (also still a communist dictatorship). In Saudi Arabia, if you’re a Christian (or any non-Muslim for all that matter), you can be punished with instant death for trying to enter the holy mosque near the Kaaba.
Being tortured and dying for what you believe goes a long way back. But look at the benefits. Indeed, consider ONLY the benefits of believing. Jesus or the world? Jesus wins.
Only Jesus can bring you back from death because only He has done that. Only Jesus can give you true peace inside, true calmness of your Spirit. That’s here and not, not just some day. Only Jesus can steel your spine to face down agonizing death because only in Jesus can you have full assurance that physical death is only a tiny passage into eternal life.
That’s not to say that living your faith is rosy or even easy. I wonder if that’s not a disappointment for many folks who say they believe. They are looking for something that takes away the hurt, the difficulty, even the pain of things that happen in life and when Christianity doesn’t instantly do that, they walk away disappointed. Who knows when we got away from the idea that following Jesus could be tough? Somewhere along the way, (especially) we in America began to serve up a Christianity that was light and easy, an egg-white omelette of faith if you will.
That isn’t the faith Jesus advertised. He said that, if we wanted to follow Him, we would have to take up our cross and walk with Him daily. That means we would, every day of our lives, have to stand against the world, against our nature, against even those who love us but don’t love Him. That means we would have to carry our instrument of death with us everywhere we go until, at the end of all things, we are nailed to it. When Jesus taught from the Scriptures, he taught from the accounts of the Old Testament heroes who died for their faith but died IN their faith. For them, there was no death at all, but only that passage to something far better in paradise. Death in the service of the Lord was an honor, maybe even a duty, but not a burden.
They understood that the God of their fathers was loving, just and true. That He kept His promises. That He was all He said He was. They understood that, even in a century-long life, time here on earth is short. The men and women of ancient days who died for Christ in their faith seemed to know something we have misplaced.
Here’s the hard part: what are you willing to do to get it back?
For further reading: 1 Kings 17:22-23, 2 Kings:4:36-37, Jeremiah 20:2, genesis 39:20, 1 Kings 19:10, Jeremiah 26:23, 1 Kings 1:8, 1 Kings 18:4, Luke 9:23.
My Lord, forgive me when I fail You. Thank You for the blessings of enduring hardship in service to You, in faith in You. Let my sufferings be a good witness to others and strengthen them.