WISDOM FOR LIVING DAILY DEVOTIONAL
JUNE 30, 2021
TOPIC: THE UGLY SIDE OF FAITH
BY T. O. BANSO
“Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented — of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (Hebrews 11:35b-38 New King James Version).
Faith is very crucial in the life of a Christian. The Bible says without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). The Bible also tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen; for by it the elders obtained a good testimony (verses 1-2).
By their faith in God, people in the Bible and in contemporary times have experienced awesome things. One cannot easily forget David’s faith in God, which made him kill the Philistine champion with just a stone. It could only have been God that a champion fully dressed in his armour would fall down when a stone hit his head (1 Samuel 17:49-51). Everybody would like to be that boy, David, who exercised such faith in God and killed Goliath. But the story would have been different if Goliath had killed David!
Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the Hall of Faith because it chronicles the outstanding things that some Bible characters did by their faith in God. The chapter talks about the faith of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets (verses 4-32).
The narrative continues, “By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death” (Hebrews 11:33-35a New Living Translation)
These were tremendous acts of faith that anyone would be proud of and thank God for. When one reads this account, one’s faith is easily boosted. But suddenly the narrative changes. Verses 35b-38 presents a contrast that I consider as the ugly side of faith. The characters mentioned had negative experiences but they remained people of faith.
Hebrews 11:35b-38 says, “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented — of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth” (New King James Version).
Most people are attracted to faith that, humanly speaking, produces a positive outcome like in the case of the three Hebrews, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that were thrown into the furnace of fire and the fire didn’t burn them. They came out of the fire unscathed. The smell of the fire was not even on them (Daniel 3:16-27). But suppose the fire had burnt them to ashes, would many people have commended their faith? Or would they have said that their faith didn’t work or their faith was not enough?
But remember that though they had faith in God to deliver them, they were prepared for any eventuality. In case God chose not to deliver them, they would not have felt that He disappointed them. Before being thrown into the fiery furnace, they had told the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (verses 16-18 New King James Version).
However, God decided to deliver them in the fire. Nevertheless, this is not always the kind of result everyone who stands in faith always gets. God doesn’t deliver in all cases. Not because He cannot but He may choose not to because He has a greater goal to achieve. He may deliver one but not the other. Many Christians have been killed by their persecutors despite the faithful prayer of the saints and their faith for their deliverance. God knows why; we may never know. But God’s decision in every matter is always the best.
We may stand in faith for someone and pray for his healing and God may decide to take him home. He knows what is best in every circumstance. Does that mean we should stop praying because of that? No. There are many cases of answers to prayer in line with the requests of saints. Sometimes, God even does more than what we ask Him to do. “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20 New King James Version).
It is not every time that faith gets you positive, pleasant results, humanly speaking, and even when it does, the price is high. The trials of faith are not usually easy. The ugly side of faith doesn’t make faith attractive to many people because it may mean demotion, humiliation, destitution, depression, death, etc. But that doesn’t mean faith doesn’t work.
The ugly side of faith, the suffering the children of God may experience for standing in faith, shouldn’t make them live another way. We must live by faith. The just shall live by faith (Hebrews 10:38; Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11). The just shall live by his faith (Habakkuk 2:4).
Consider this: Abel lived by faith, He offered sacrifice to God by faith, and God accepted it. But he was eventually killed by his brother, Cain, because his sacrifice was rejected. One would have thought that having accepted Abel’s sacrifice, God would prevent Cain from killing him. God didn’t do that. God, who does what pleases Him, shows Abel to us as an example of faith by offering to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain (Hebrews 11:4). Although he was murdered cold-blooded, he remains an example of faith.
His death does not diminish his commendable act of faith. To human beings, death is a big deal; it looks as if death is final. But God doesn’t look at it that way. Spirit-filled believers also share God’s perspective of death not being a dead-end or loss. Hear Apostle Paul: “Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8 New Living Translation). Paul also says in Philippians 1:21, “For to me, living is for Christ, and dying is even better” (New Living Translation).
To the believer, death is not a loss; it’s gain. That was why God allowed the first Christian martyr, Stephen, a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit to be stoned to death (Acts 6:5; 7:54-60). If God didn’t want him dead, He could have saved him. But God didn’t consider his death a loss. Faith in God doesn’t always results in rescue or deliverance from death. The three Hebrew boys thrown into the furnace of fire knew this very well and that was why they spoke the way they did.
God’s will is more important than any believer’s comfort, ego, or reputation. Just like John the Baptist was beheaded (Matthew 14:1-12), James was killed with a sword (Acts 12:1-2). God didn’t deliver them. However, He delivered Daniel in Lion’s den (Daniel 6:16-23) and rescued Peter supernaturally from prison (Acts 12:5-19). That someone dies despite exercising his faith in God for his healing or other people exercising faith for his healing does not mean faith doesn’t work. Death is not final; there is the resurrection!
Standing in faith doesn’t preclude one from suffering. We must not let go of our faith in God; we mustn’t quit on God because of the trials of faith or the negative, harrowing experiences we go through because we’re standing on the word of God.
Paul says in Philippians 3:10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death” (New King James Version). Fellowship of his suffering means sharing in his suffering. Being conformed to His death means being like Him in His death. And Paul suffered so much for the sake of the gospel of Christ as God had said to Ananias shortly after his conversion. God had told Ananias concerning Paul, “For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:16 New King James Version).
Christians today are also supposed to be partakers of the sufferings of Christ. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 1:7, “And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation” (New King James Version). Did you see the phrase “partakers of the sufferings”? He said in Philippians 1:29, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (New King James Version).
We are partakers of Christ’s sufferings, and 1 Peter 4:12-14 says, “Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; 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” (New King James Version).
Believers are not to pity themselves as they partake of the sufferings of Christ but rejoice. Why? Because the “sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18 New King James Version).
In his writings, Paul didn’t hide his sufferings. In 2 Corinthians 12:10, he said for the sake of Christ, he was content with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. In 2 Corinthians 4:11, he said he lived in danger of death; he was constantly being delivered to death because of serving Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-33, he gave us a summary of the sufferings he went through. Faith didn’t exempt him from all this. He lived by faith amid all his sufferings.
In Philippians 4:12-13, Paul says, “I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (New King James Version).
As we have seen in Hebrews 11:35b-38, some people had faith in God and were tortured, not accepting deliverance, so that they might obtain a better resurrection. Others had trials of being mocked, scourged, chained, and imprisoned. Some were stoned, sawn in two, tempted, slain with the sword, and wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute.
Others were afflicted and tormented. They were too good for this world. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. Their faith didn’t prevent them from suffering all the negative conditions listed. This is the ugly side of faith.
Nevertheless, those who truly have faith in God never quit on God or renounce their faith because of the sufferings of faith. They have faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck (1 Timothy 1:19). They look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of their faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2).
Hold on to your faith in God even if you suffer. It is better to die having faith in God than to live a life of unbelief. 1 Peter 3:17 says it is better to suffer for doing good if that is what God wants than to suffer for doing wrong. It is not the physical outcome of your faith that people see that is important but your obedience to God.
Hebrews 11:13 says all those mentioned all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. Die in faith. “We must endure many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22b Berean Study Bible). Endure to the end. He who endures to the end will be saved (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13).
If you are not born again, you need to give your life to Jesus now. I urge you to take the following steps: *Admit you are a sinner and you cannot save yourself and repent of your sins. *Confess Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. *Renounce your past way of life – your relationship with the devil and his works. *Invite Jesus into your life. *As a mark of seriousness to mature in the faith, start attending a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church. There they will teach you how to grow in the Kingdom of God.
Kindly say this prayer now: O Lord God, I come unto you today. I know I am a sinner and I cannot save myself. I believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died on the cross to save me and resurrected the third day. I repent of my sins and confess Jesus as my Lord and Saviour. I surrender my life to Jesus now and invite Him into my heart. By this prayer, I know I am saved. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me and making me a child of God.
I believe you have said this prayer from your heart. Congratulations! You will need to join a Bible-believing and Bible-teaching church in your area where they will teach you how to live your new life in Christ Jesus. I pray that you flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon. May you grow into Christ in all things and become all God wants you to be. I will be glad to hear from you. The Lord be with you.
PRAYER POINTS: Father, uphold me; let me stand and keep standing in You. Help me to live by faith and die in faith, not in unbelief, in Jesus’ name. Let my faith in You not fail. Concerning the faith, I shall not suffer shipwreck. Holy Spirit, help me to endure to the end and be saved.
(For over 600 in-depth and powerful messages by T. O. Banso, visit: www.cedarministry.org).
T. O. Banso is the President, Cedar Ministry International, Abuja, Nigeria.
Phone No: +2348155744752, +2348033113523
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