Hebrews chapter 11, sometimes referred to as a biblical “Hall of Faith” is a chronicling of ancient heroes who possessed spiritual confidence so robust they were able to “see and welcome” what had been promised to them by God, though their life circumstances forced them to welcome them “from a distance.”
They died without fully realizing the effects of the promises. The “distance” was profoundly, and often, painfully felt. This “distant” dimension of God’s promises is not reserved just for those crusty old saints; sometimes it is part of our story as well.
Like the faith champions of old, we must come to acknowledge that this world is not our true home and must accept our “alien” status in it.
But there is more to say about our everyday lives here and now in a “foreign” country, for we must not conclude that all we are left with is drudgery and “hanging on by our fingernails” until we reach our final destination. Nothing could be further from the teaching of Christ and the abundant life he lived and promised to his apprentices, us included.
He proclaimed that his reign was here “at hand,” and his kingdom was going to take root and emerge among people and in places that often appear to be unreachable by God. This is the divine conspiracy: the kingdoms of the world being displaced by a heavenly invasion, though it is often hard to recognize the assault in the fog and friction called our ordinary lives.
What embolded the Hebrews 11 pilgrims to flourish with such great assurance? It was their audacious belief in the holy, loving and nurturing rule of God in their personal lives. This deep confidence enabled them to be make peace with the fact that their lives were hard. But to say that they were just “okay” with their hardships is to cheat and diminish their resolve as something “less than” and weaker than it truly was.
Their experiential knowledge of God and his kingdom – in their “here and now” lives – surrounding them, even engulfing them at times – brought to them the abundant life that Jesus had promised. There was no “woe is me” (contemporary translation: “my life sucks”) mindset or posture for them – at least not when they were thinking clearly about it.
This can be our experience as well. Admittedly, we do not always live and love as we should in the prosperity of the kingdom. It is not always easy to even think about it clearly, let alone live it out; we are easily duped by competing voices from within us and our world. But as image bearers of God, we are fully capable of thinking clearly about it. The kingdom of Christ is always available to us.
Like yeast spreading its way throughout bread, may the presence and rule of Jesus have its way with us – as individuals and as the Body of Christ; may it overwhelm our hurts with gratitude, supplant our regrets with trust, and displace our brokenness with joy.
These traits – our faith – give evidence to the things we hope for and that which we cannot yet clearly see. This is our time.