By Benjamin H. Liles
The writer of Hebrews records, "These all died in faith without having received the promises, but they saw them from a distance, greeted them, and confessed that they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth....Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them" (Hebrews 11:13-16, Holman Christian Standard).
Whoever the writer of this book is we see what it means to have a sense of patience. They never received God's promise in their lifetime, but they held on to faith, their hope, which is found in God. This writer is declaring a couple of things within this short passage, so let's look closely:
- These people mentioned in Hebrews 11 had faith God would fulfill His word. We're told after all, "All these people died in faith..."
- The things revealed to them, by God, were ordained from the beginning to be kept until the very end. "they saw them from a distance, greeted them..."
- At the best, we conclude these mentioned are, guests, and at best aliens. "confessed...they were foreigners and temporary residents on the earth." I think the best term here is these who had faith in God and His word were the earliest Ambassadors of His grace and mercy.
- These mentioned, also, counted the cost before going forward with God, and went ahead, not knowing where He led them. "Those who say such things make it clear...if they were thinking about where they came...had an opportunity to return."
- God prepared a better place for these who had faith in Him, a heavenly one; a city has been given for them: "they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them."
I admit here and now I'm not the most patient man that lived. In fact, I don't believe many of us are all that patient. But, and I say this to empathize here, God allows us to be changed, slowly to see things His way, to be changed, to have patience. Paul writes to all believers, saying, "Through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope" (Romans 5:2-4).
How can we have faith to be patient if we don't suffer even in the smallest degree? I think what Paul is saying here is that we can stand by our faith in His grace, boasting in the hope of God's glory. This glory is in the Son, Jesus Christ, our Hope, our Strong Tower. Because He suffered on our part we can do the same because we are His. So, as Paul says, "We glory in our sufferings..." as it "produces perseverance," then character and finally hope. So what is faith? "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not [yet] seen," the writers of Hebrews tells us (Hebrews 11:1, New King James).
Our faith comes, as Paul says, "by hearing, and [we are able to hear] by the word of God" (Romans 10:17, New King James). But we must stand firm in our faith. Without a strong stance on faith in Him, His abilities, His word, and His character we have no real strength of hope. And we do have hope these days. If we look at Christ's own words here, He told the disciples (before they became His witnesses as apostles), "Don’t let your heart be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am you may be also" (John 14:1-3, Christian Standard).
I want to conclude this by saying our patience is found in the One who bore our pain, our suffering on the cross. We don't have to enjoy being patient, but we must allow Christ to do His work, His part, which has already taken place. He died in your place so you have a place with Him and the Father in Heaven. Jesus tells us plainly in the gospel record--from Matthew through John--who He is, what His work is, by whose authority He does it, and how He's supposed to do it. He conquered the enemy by laying down His life, willingly, although hard for Him to do, so that we have access to the Father who calls us His. I pray this blesses and encourages you to have patience in the things God calls you to in this day. In the name of Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior, Amen.