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Believers in Christ have always faced persecution in one form or another. Countries like North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, and others have severely restricted or banned peoples’ right to even identify as a Christian or own a Bible in some cases. The author of Hebrews gives a review of the people of God in the Old Testament, pointing out that many were used by God to do extraordinary things. But many faced persecution or martyrdom.
What makes a person’s faith “commendable” as the passage says? There are four truths that people of faith in Christ have in common when it comes to enduring persecution. (There are many more, but these four come from Hebrews chapter 11.)
- Commendable faith focuses on what God has promised and revealed, which is not always visible in our reality. The premise of biblical faith is that God is working in the world and in the cosmos on a supernatural level. What we experience here is only part of the complete picture. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. We can persevere in difficult times when we recognize that God has more planned for our good which we cannot immediately see.
- Commendable faith realizes that God uses us–often in our frailties and sins–to do his will. Samson, Jephthah, Gideon, and others were examples of ordinary men who had their faults. Whether it was Gideon’s fear, Samson’s impulsiveness, of Jephthah’s rash vow in order to secure a victory for his people, each of these men had to recognize their own sin and the consequences it caused. Faith means pressing on and asking God for the strength to obey even after we have disobeyed him previously.
- Commendable faith recognizes the suffering of Christ on our behalf in the midst of our own suffering. 1 Peter 2:21-25 articulates that Christ suffered as an example for us to follow. However even in the midst of our worst suffering, we see that by His stripes we are healed. Suffering is inevitable in some form, but as we suffer we can meditate on Christ’s sacrifice and experience fresh aspects of his love and grace.
- Commendable faith sees the benefits and rewards for all God’s people, not just ourselves. In Hebrew 11:39-40, we see that the ancients of faith did not receive in their lives what was promised. They did not see the full completion of their faith in their lifetime. Yet God, in his plan of salvation, has made their faith and our faith complete through the revelation of Jesus Christ. One future day we will be in the assembly of the firstborn, with all the spirits of those made righteous (Hebrews 12:23) It will be a day when the imperfect faith of every believer will be made perfect and complete. That day is something to long for!