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What the Bible says about Heroes of Faith
(From Forerunner Commentary)

2 Corinthians 4:17

To help us endure hardship, Paul gives us a valuable mindset when he says our suffering “is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” To see our afflictions as light (Matthew 11:30), we must recognize the value of our calling. We would do well to consider its benefits often. As Paul indicates, the understanding that there is “a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” is a necessary component to seeing our trials in this life in comparison as a light affliction, a recognition that enables one to endure to the end.

Therefore, it is vital to know that the price we pay now is minuscule compared to the reward that awaits us. Note the power of that vision:

These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)

Having this vision in their lives as a daily reality enabled the heroes of faith to endure to the end. In modern jargon, they did a cost/benefit analysis and concluded that the benefits made the costs insignificant. Christ and Paul made the same analysis, concluding that their burdens and afflictions were light costs compared to what the benefits of eternity held for them.

In Romans 8:18, even with the weight of his trials, Paul again emphasizes that they are infinitesimal costs, so trivial that they are insignificant compared to the mindboggling benefits that await us: “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

In the King James Version, the first part of Proverbs 29:18 reads, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” For “perish” a better translation is that they “cast off restraint.” Without a vision they lack restraint, leading to disobedience. This results in a people who will not endure to the end, whose fate, then, is to perish. Without a vision of the future that is as tangible to us as the present, we will walk by sight, only seeing the now, rather than by faith seeing as real a true vision of the future. Without that vision, we risk trading the future for the now (Galatians 6:9; II Thessalonians 2:15), a poor bargain indeed.

Pat Higgins
Light Affliction?

Hebrews 11:1-7

Hebrews 11, popularly called "the Faith Chapter," contains the recitation of the names and deeds of several men and women of faith from creation to the time of Israel's entering of the Promised Land. In it, the author—most likely the apostle Paul—presents illustrations from the Old Testament to bear out his opening statement: "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony" (Hebrews 11:1-2).

In the lives of individual after individual, he shows that their expressions of faith in God, despite the lack of material evidence, proved they were righteous (verse 4), pleased God (verse 5), and were heirs of righteousness (verse 7). The remarkable acts that they accomplished—from Abel's offering of an excellent sacrifice to Rahab's hiding of the Israelite spies—were done because, believing the Word of God, they envisioned a heavenly future that others could not see.

We see, then, that the heroes of faith not only lived righteous lives in the present, but also moved and acted with a steady eye on the future. Their faith had its foundation in the invisible God whose Word they obeyed, yet their foreknowledge of God's plan for mankind contained in the promises that God gave to them and to Israel also played a major role, one not nearly recognized enough among professing Christians. It was not just the promise of salvation or even of eternal life dangled before them that made them so unflinchingly faithful. It was also their steadfast hope of a better tomorrow in God's Kingdom.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
David the Prophet

Hebrews 11:2

It was by faith that the elders, meaning those who lived long ago, the ancients, received God's approval and made a good testimony. Because of faith, they were enabled to become good witnesses. We need to connect this word "testimony" or "witness" with Hebrews 12:1, where it is said that we are "surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses." The author does not mean that these people are watching us as unseen spirits, but that they witnessed through their lives that they had faith in God, and we see them now in our mind's eye.

These heroes of faith are dead and still in their graves. However, we can look at the record of their lives in Scripture, and it is as though they yet live. It is similar to Paul saying that the blood of Abel crying out from the ground yet speaks, for that story tells us a great deal about Cain and Abel. This great cloud of witnesses is there in the Bible for us to observe so that we can examine the testimony that they left—how that they used their faith, how they endured, how they glorified God by the things they said and did.

It was faith that strengthened them and enabled them to overcome. It enabled them to suffer and to endure the privations of their lives. This patient waiting under trial is the primary object, teaching, or subject of this wonderful chapter.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Faith (Part Two)


 




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