Yesterday was a tough day. God has been working on me concerning absolute surrender, pinpointing my lazy places and selfish areas of life, He was affirming that I should not withhold anything from Him. As much as I knew how, I did what He asked, realizing no one knows for sure if anything is absolute until it is tested.
It was tested. My husband’s quarterly blood test report came in on the fax machine. Even though he has few symptoms if any, his numbers keep rising, a solemn reminder of our mortality. I sat down at my desk with the emotions of seeing those numbers and the phone rang. A member of our family called with even worse news about a life-threatening health issue that will be tested by a specialist tomorrow. Absolute surrender is not just about me, but about yielding the lives of those I love.
I feel numb. Who expects surrender to a loving God will result in news that two people I love will be taken away from me? I kept telling myself, this is the nature of life. No matter the route or the means, everyone will die. The death rate in this world is 100%. We are all terminal. While true, and while heaven is a better place, my self-talk isn’t changing my emotions. They also must be surrendered to God.
This morning’s devotional verses put things into an eternal perspective. They are about the saints of old who committed themselves to God, surrendering all to serve the Lord.
They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. (Hebrews 11:37–40)
The author of today’s reading based on those verses was a leader in the early church, a church that was persecuted and in constant danger, something which the church in North American knows very little. He put trials in perspective by pointing out that these ancient believers wandered like exiles and outcasts with no refuge as they looked for places to hide in fear for their lives. I’m not doing that yet.
The passage also tells of a reward, one that they had not yet received but are still waiting for. They died in great tribulation, not giving up but are still waiting for the promise of God to bring them to perfection. So then, why should any of us who are still in the conflict, still battling the enemy and the trials of life, be perplexed or frustrated?
This devotional reminds me that Abraham and the apostle Paul are waiting until I have been perfected so they can receive their reward too. The Lord has told them that unless I am present, He will not give it to them. How dare I be upset that my days are filled with God’s perfecting trials when Abel, Noah, Joshua, Joseph, David, Daniel and a host of others have had trials too, and now wait for me and others who will come after?
This text says “God had provided something better for us” in that no one who trusts Him has the advantage and privilege of being crowned first. “Apart from us they should not be made perfect.” They have endured their conflicts before me, but not received their rewards until we can be honored together, as one Body. The Scriptures indicate that these saints of old even rejoice as they unselfishly watch my walk with Christ. This is incentive for me to surrender to the hand of God in peace and patience.
While pain still pulls and prods at my peace and even my faith, the idea of future glory is a comfort in present distresses. The reminder that the saints of God suffer in this sin-sick world is also a comfort. Christians, we are not alone, not now nor will we be at the judgment seat of Christ. There, together, our trials will be over and we will each be honored for believing in Him.