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PGA Chaplain Bible Studies

Weekly Bible Study - Study 43 - Hebrews Chapter 11:35b - 40
- Where faith and suffering meet!

 “Others were tortured, refusing to accept release, in order to obtain a better resurrection. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned to death, sawn in two, they were killed by the sword; they went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute persecuted, tormented – of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and in holes in the ground. Yet all these, though they were commended for their faith, did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better so that they would not apart from us, be made perfect. (Hebrews Ch 11: verses 35 to 40)(New International Version)

Where faith and suffering meet!

I agree with what sports people sometimes say that when people die from floods or sickness or accidents that it puts sport in the right perspective; it is only a game and there are far more important things in life. Everything changes with suffering!
Suffering provides I believe the greatest obstacle to our faith. Last week we saw from faith great victories and blessings in life from the Old Testament. This week from faith nothing but suffering and death is described! How do we reconcile these two contradictory experiences? I think it is a mistake to try to resolve the matter in our hearts or minds with some kind of answer. We must accept this dilemma as our writer has. It amazing that in life, suffering also draws some people towards God and others away! For me at times I have gone in both directions.

In the larger framework of the scriptures and the life of Jesus these two realities are part of the one story. We are moving towards a fulfilment according to scripture and Jesus of the kingdom of God where all of God’s people will be perfected and united in a future event according to our last verse 40 of this chapter. However for now, suffering is part of life.

Jesus made it clear to us that suffering for our faith (and we can include other kinds of suffering as well since all of life comes under God’s umbrella) is part of life that has been spoilt and to be expected. Our problem is that we don’t think like this, we kind of expect God to protect us from all harm and if something goes wrong we are inclined to blame God. I know some nonbelievers also think this about God.

As our reading this week indicates that with faith it was normal in their life and history to suffer. Our inheritance as God’s children does not relate to this world as we know it, but to a future one where according to our writer is a perfect place. While we cannot conceive of such a place because of our limitations, faith in this chapter has been all about believing in the promise of God, even though we have yet to receive it.

Suffering, sickness, crime, war and death affect us all in varying ways. Our response should be that like Jesus who when saw those weeping at death, wept also. We do no good denying what comes natural to us and that is to grieve and maybe, even be angry at what we see or experience. God, governments and faith can help in some way, but none of these will take away our suffering. The cross of Jesus and the empty tomb demonstrates that God has embraced our suffering and provides hope of a better future.

rayer. Lord God, Please help us by faith to accept the sufferings we experience in life and to come to a place of trust and rest. Amen.

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