Trials are regular and normal. Disappointment is inevitable. Failure is common. One skeptic rightly noted, “In times like these it’s good to remember that there have always been times like these.” If we expect a trouble-free life, we will never be satisfied.
However, the goal in life is not to avoid trouble and trial, but to learn to respond to those certainties in ways that honor God. That was the lesson the writer of Hebrews was building into his readers in chapter 11. The suffering endured by those readers was not indicative that they were wrong to trust God; God’s people have always endured hardship and the faithful follower of God is the one who persists in trusting God’s goodness and ultimate provision.
That is not the way our heart is naturally bent.
But that is the way our super-natural (redeemed) heart can and should be bent.
What are the circumstances that entice you to despair, to be despondent or depressed? When are you tempted to give up on the faith? What are the situations that seem impossible to overcome? How can you respond faithfully to the Lord? How can you evidence that you have not left Him but are still clinging to Him?
In verses 17-18 of Hebrews 11, the writer reflects on the faithful life of Abraham, who remembered the promises of God. His point from Abraham’s example? To remain faithful, remember God’s promises.
And in remembering those promises, also remember that God is faithful — not only to His people, but to Himself (2 Tim. 2:13). That is, He can do nothing in contrast to His nature. That means that He can make no promise that contradicts His character and He also must fulfill every promise He makes (or He will be a liar, in contrast to His nature of truth).
When struggling in hard circumstances, more than getting out of the circumstances (which is not always wrong; consider 1 Pt. 1:1 — readers who scattered because of persecution, but were not condemned for running from the persecution), we need to remind ourselves of the One who will faithfully take us home at the end of our time on this earth (2 Tim. 4:17-18).
The writer not only reminds us in verses 17-18 that Abraham remembered God, but throughout the remainder of the book, he reminds us of some of God’s promises to His people. Consider just a few reminders of God’s promises in these chapters:
- When there is suffering, God has something better ahead (11:40).
- Jesus is the perfecter of our faith and He has secured His place on the throne which equips Him to be our perfecter (12:2).
- Even when we are disciplined, a godly response will produce the “peaceful fruit of righteousness” (12:11); that is, God will produce righteousness in us through our faithful response to suffering.
- The Kingdom in which we participate cannot be shaken or overthrown (12:22, 28). God is and always will be King and He will bring us into that Kingdom.
- God will never forsake those who are His (no matter how it appears, 13:5b-6, 14).
The writer also reminded the readers of their own earlier actions of faithfulness — they endured suffering and difficulty “knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one” (10:34; cf. also v. 36). When God promises to take His people to His heavenly kingdom, redeem them, free them from the bondage of sin, and loose them from the shackles of these weak and fleshly bodies, we can be fully confident that is exactly what God will do. He must fulfill His promises because of His nature.
So Abraham clung to God while enduring hardship — and the severe testing of the sacrifice of Isaac — because he trusted God’s promises. Abraham did not know how (he would escape the test) but he knew who (would see him through the test). When in the test, he remembered the nature of God and His promises. This same trusting response is what will protect and guide us when we are tested: remember God’s promises.