We continue our examination of the theme “Success or Perfection” vs Maturity”. Looking at Success or Perfection from God’s point of view.
Heroes of faith do wonderful, mighty exploits like raising the dead to life, conquering new lands, being willing to sacrifice everything for God. They are always winners, aren’t they? Well let’s look at what the Bible has to say in the most well known passage on this topic. Let’s see what God has to say on this matter. What does a faith hero look like?
According to Hebrews 11:32-35 faith heroes do the following sort of things:
I could go on and on, but I've run out of time. There are so many more--Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets. . . .
Through acts of faith, they toppled kingdoms, made justice work, took the promises for themselves. They were protected from lions,
fires, and sword thrusts, turned disadvantage to advantage, won battles, routed alien armies.
Women received their loved ones back from the dead. There were those who, under torture, refused to give in and go free, preferring something better: resurrection.
Now that sounds like the definition of a faith hero we are used to doesn't it? There are no surprises there Ian. How is God’s perspective different from ours?
Well look at the following verses:
Others braved abuse and whips, and, yes, chains and dungeons.
We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless--
the world didn't deserve them!--making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world.
Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised. (Heb 11:36-39)
You could be forgiven for thinking that the people in this second list were failures. That's how we would view them these days. They are not heroes in the eyes of the world. Right, but the world doesn't see things as God does as I said last month. These two lists are juxtaposed to give us the contrast. Not one of these people in the second category “got their hands on the promise”. Even though they were exemplary! We would see their efforts today as “failure” and insist they had sin because they didn't have the formula for success. God sheds light on these two categories when He inspired the writer of Hebrews to pen these words in conclusion.
God had a better plan for us: that their faith and our faith would come together to make one completed (perfect) whole, their lives of faith not complete apart from ours. (Heb 11:40)
What is being said here? God has designed life so that both of these situations are needed for perfection. Stop and think about this a moment. If everything was success all the time we would never learn anything. Our faith would not be faith in God because it hadn’t been tested with mystery and enigma. We would be locked on to the formula. We human are so prone to seek for the formula to life or success. But there is no formula, only God. You can’t have faith in a formula. God did not design life so you could just punch in the numbers and push the button and presto success . . . maturity . . . perfection emerges.
No life doesn't happen that way. It is not the way the Designer of Life made it to work. My mother used to tell me often – “All sunshine produces a desert; sweet and sour makes the best dessert.” I think I finally get it. I thought I got it before but now I realize I didn't understand the fullness of it all. That is why God inspired Hebrews 11:40 to show us that all of life is designed to work this way.
If on the other hand it was formulaic we would quickly forget God. I know me, I know humanity and I know it is true. God would not be needed if we could just follow the steps. But life is unpredictable, God made it that way for your good. That is the message of the Bible in the Books of Judges, Kings, Job and much of the Wisdom literature. No formulas; just God. The Israelites got into trouble when they treated the Lord and His Word as a formula.
Learn to trust no matter what is happening. He knows exactly what is best for perfecting you to be what He intended you to be. As Steve Saint says, God doesn’t waste a hurt if we let Him write the story. Steve’s father Nate Saint was martyred in 1956 by the Auca Indians (Waorani) in Ecuador, which in God’s plan led to the salvation of the Waorani and many of the tribes around them. Success through martyrdom; now Who would have conceived of that?