And what shall I say further? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, Who by [the help of] faith subdued kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promised blessings, closed the mouths of lions, extinguished the power of raging fire, escaped the devourings of the sword, out of frailty and weakness won strength and became stalwart, even mighty and resistless in battle, routing alien hosts. [Some] women received again their dead by a resurrection.
Others were tortured to death with clubs, refusing to accept release [offered on the terms of denying their faith], so that they might be resurrected to a better life. Others had to suffer the trial of mocking and scourging and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death; they were lured with tempting offers [to renounce their faith]; they were sawn asunder; they were slaughtered by the sword; [while they were alive] they had to go about wrapped in the skins of sheep and goats, utterly destitute, oppressed, cruelly treated– [Men] of whom the world was not worthy–roaming over the desolate places and the mountains, and [living] in caves and caverns and holes of the earth. And all of these, though they won divine approval by [means of] their faith, did not receive the fulfilment of what was promised, because God had us in mind and had something better and greater in view for us, so that they [these heroes and heroines of faith] should not come to perfection apart from us [before we could join them].
There is a myth we need to debunk. And that is that Christians are free from problems. This myth probably came about because we can sometimes seem so full of hope and joy!
Well, the truth of the matter is that being full of hope or faith or joy does not exempt us from problems. Even Jesus Himself, the Son of God, had to deal with the issues of His day during His earthly ministry. He could be casting out demons, healing the sick on one of the days, and on another, the devil would come along to test His identity. And please don't mention the Pharisees who gave Him unnecessary problems, as if there were not enough of them already!
One of the most powerful ways we can testify to the world about His goodness, faithfulness, and breakthroughs in our lives, is by how we live our lives and carry ourselves in spite of challenges. The writer of Hebrews writes a somewhat sombre letter here to the church to remind the church of many individuals in their midst – brothers and sisters alike, some of whom received their promises and hailed as Bible heroes whilst others seemed to have received the shorter end of the stick and are not even named. Don’t forget that for every name you see registered in the Bible as a hero of faith, there are probably hundreds of thousands of others who died for their faith and no one even knows or remembers them (but God does!).
As a community of believers, one of the things we need to learn to do, is to inspire each other to strive towards the higher call, and to press in to finish our race well. While we would like to have faith that healing is available to all and that we can pursue and persevere in prayer for those who are sick and suffering from terminal illness, there will be those amongst us whom God has chosen to call home to Him. And we must be able to navigate even through this tension of healing and death, fulfilment and non-fulfilment (of promises), and emerge out of the sometimes seeming confusion to realise the perfection of our faith in Christ.
What this means for us is – some of us may have received promises but will not be able to see them come to past. Some of us will experience that joy of receiving breakthroughs. And we, as a community of believers will need to walk through the experiences of joy, sorrow, exhilaration, pain, healing, passing/demise, etc. and other tensions between faith-miracles and non-fulfillments. Such is the journey that we are called to walk through and inspire others to do the same. Such is the journey that we have in Christ but the unifying theme behind all the ups and downs boils down to the fact that Jesus is the centre of it all.
As long as we keep our eyes on the prize (the cross, the finishing line of our faith), we will do just fine. We might even ace the results when we stand before Him on the final day. But first, let us start out by aligning our theology to actual practice, and learn to live our day-to-day, along with the various in-spite-of moments, with Christ at the centre of them all.