Text: Hebrews 11:35b-40, Title: Others, Date/Place: NRBC, 8/5/12, AM
Opening illustration: Bro Howard, former pastor, who got cancer of the throat and could not preach. Complained until another pastor said, "You are not exempt."
Background to passage: these verses bring an ominous but realistic end to this great chapter on overcoming faith. It deals with the scenario that these believers might face – no deliverance. After so many examples of OT saints and heroes who overcame huge circumstances to see victory, deliverance, and the fulfillment of promises, the writer speaks of the "others," who did not see the answers to prayer. Interestingly, the "others" obtained a good testimony (God’s approval on their lives) just as the elders in the first verse of the chapter. Important note: we are dealing with believers here, not all people.
Main thought: we are not exempt, and some are really not exempt.
Some Have it Rougher
One of the reasons this text exists it to let us know that the Christian life is not exempt from suffering, nor is it fair. Life is not fair. Many of the members of the hall of faith had huge victories and miracles, but the "others" never saw the promises fulfilled or prayers for deliverance answered. God providencially ordered their lives so that they would be offered a chance to save their lives on the condition of apostasy, but they would not accept it. God is a God who is good all the time, including when He ordains the suffering of His children. The word used here for the torture spoke of a round rack which one was stretched on and beaten with rods or whips.
Illustration: ever meet one of those people that just can’t seem to catch a break?
We have a big hang up with fairness and rights because we live in a free society in a representative republic. But here is a newsflash: some of you will suffer much more than others, and that is part of God’s plan. You can’t expect the Christian life to be fair. If that is your expectation when you came into the faith, you will be sorely dissapointed. Christian men, women, and children have their lives cut short by car wrecks, cancer, torture, drownings, murder. Christians are raped, kidnapped, and enslaved. Christians starve, and freeze, are homeless, shipwrecked, carjacked, hijacked, bombed, and are attacked by animals. "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 13 but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy." -1 Pet 4:12-13
Rougher Doesn’t Mean Cursed
It is clear in these verses that God is not upset at these "others." It says that they obtained a good testimony with God. It says that the world was not worthy of them. It says that God had something better in mind. It is always for His glory and your good. It is always for your sanctification and purification.
Job—whole book was this error, John 9:2, Lam 3:33, 2 Cor 1:9, Ezek 18:32
Illustration: Michael Phelps’ coach constantly making life hard for him: leaving his goggles or hat away from the pool, giving fake start signals, intentionally running behind and being late/rushed, ice cold water, one more lap further,
God will never afflict us purposelessly. We know some general purposes for suffering: growth, purification, evangelism, learning not to trust in ourselves, valuing Christ, testing our faith, but we may not know our specific resaon. He always has something better for us than a life of ease. We may not understand His reasons, but know that your suffering doesn’t mean that you are cursed of God. You may feel like God has turned his back on you, but remind Satan that it is not true. God may be silent before you for a season, but it is not because He doesn’t hear you, or doesn’t love you. Our minds deceive us, and cause doubt in God’s love and character, but stand firm, God is good, and He is sovereign. Sometimes we think that our suffering is more than we can bear, but know that He is for you, not against you. Now it can always be good to search your heart when suffering comes, because sometimes chastening from the Lord comes to expose a particular sin, but sometimes not. But even a chastening father loves his child. Know that God loves you! In fact, the bible says that God is close to the brokenhearted, and that He is like a refiner of gold—closest to the gold when the fire ist he hottest.
Suffering Binds Together