13 All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth. 14 People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15 If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. — Hebrews 11:13-16 NIV
We, like the prophets and leaders of the past, should consider ourselves foreigners and aliens here on earth. We need to hold onto the things of earth very lightly and be ready to let them go at the slightest urge of the Holy Spirit. God puts people in our path and gives us resources for a reason and a season. The why, what, when and where are His prerogative. Our love for Him requires us to allow Him to use us for whatever purpose and plan He has for us. It is our “reasonable sacrifice” to mortify our flesh and focus on Jesus. We walk in faith and live in the hope that we are headed for a country and a city not made with human hands. We have confidence in our hope because it is based on the same faith that Jesus had that He would be resurrected. Because of His resurrection and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, we are assured that our hope is not just wishful thinking but a fact guaranteed by our Lord and Savior.
13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory. —Ephesians 1;13-14 NIV
When soldiers are fighting a battle in a foreign land, the hope that keeps them going is the thoughts of returning home. They talk often of the day they will be leaving their post and you can believe there are smiles on their faces during those conversations. We should live our lives with that same anticipation of the fulfillment of every promise of God realizing that the joy we have when we receive earthly blessings are only small samples of the joy we will have when we get home.
8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. — Hebrews 11:8-10
Abraham responded to the call of God in faith and started on a journey to a distant land not knowing where he was going. He didn’t ask God for a map of the whole journey, he just obeyed day by day. We keep asking God for His will for our life when all we really need to know is what does He want us to do right now. Does that mean that we live haphazard, unprepared lives? No, we can see that Abraham immediately prepared to go on a journey He packed up everything and started in the direction God told him. He prepared his family and himself for the journey without knowing the way or when the journey would end. Like Abraham, we don’t know the path or the amount of time we will be required to travel on the journey. God wants us to be like Abraham, prepare and pack for the journey but trust Him to direct our paths. Trust Him to take us to the Promised Land. Just as Abraham was sometimes disobedient and got off the straight and narrow path so do we. Through all of Abraham’s errors and sufferings, God was faithful and brought him back to the path. He does the same thing for us and more. He is living within each of us giving us directions constantly if we are listening and praying. When we fall, He picks us up, forgives us, loves us and encourages us to go on. We live in tents of flesh here on earth and some day we will shed those tents and take our final segment of the trip that leads to the city “whose architect and builder is God” where we will receive our inheritance along with Jesus. Focus on Jesus and keep our eyes on the prize!
17 Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. — Romans 8:17 NIV
32 Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. 33 Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34 You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. 35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. – Hebrews 10:32-36 NIV
As Christians living in the “free” countries, we need to be very thankful that we do not have such memories of persecution as the writer of Hebrews has listed here. At the same time, we need to be cognizant of the fact that our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in other nations are enduring these kind of persecutions right now. We need to suffer along with them as they are beaten, driven from their homes and imprisoned under false charges. Some of them stay in prisons for years awaiting a trial date and suffering things that we can’t even imagine. We need to be faithful in supporting them in our prayers and other ways that are available to us. These brothers and sisters have beautiful testimonies of how God strengthened and sustained them through these times. The ones that were not executed speak of the joy they received because they were counted worthy to suffer with and for Christ. They have and are persevering and their reward will be great. We also need to be cognizant that such times are approaching for us in our own “free” countries. When we go through these times, are we prepared to “count it all joy”? Will we persevere and be awarded crowns in heaven to cast at our Savior’s feet? Or will we stand before our Lord empty-handed and receive few or no crowns to cast at our Savior’s feet?
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. – James 1:2-4 NIV
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. – James 1:12 NIV
19 Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds — Hebrews 10:19-24 NIV
God did not promise us that the way would always be smooth. In fact, Jesus told us just the opposite that we will have troubles in this world. He also told us that in Him we could have peace in the middle of all the troubles.
33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 NIV
We have our God living inside of us to assure us that we can never be alone, He is always with us. God is faithful to fulfill every promise He has ever made. As Christians, we have a hope that no other belief system has. All the other so called gods and leaders are dead. Our God is a living God who has eyes to see, hears to ear and hands to touch and heal. Even more than that, He has a heart overflowing with love for His children. Because He has this incomprehensible love for us, He watches over us constantly. He speaks to us and carries us through the hard times. He doesn’t always deliver us from trouble as quickly as we would like but, He always delivers. Don’t talk to God today, talk with Him. After you have praised and prayed, listen for His words to you. He wants to hold you, love you and shelter you under His wings.
4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday. — Psalm 91:4-6 NIV
I’ll Never Walk Alone
23 Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. 27 Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins,and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.— Hebrews 7:23-27 NIV
Under the Old Testament law, the priests were required to make specific sacrifices at specific dates throughout the year. One of the sacrificial rites was for the forgiveness of their sins, both intentional and unintentional. The high priest would slay a bull to atone for his sins. Then he would sacrifice a goat for the sins of the people. The blood of both the bull and the goat would be sprinkled on the atonement cover and the horns of the altar. He would then lay both hands on the head of a live goat and confess all the sins of Israel. The goat was then taken outside the camp and released into the wilderness. This was done year after year, over and over again. But, thank God, we have a better covenant, a better Priest and a better Sacrifice. Jesus died once for all of our sins making the way to salvation very simple for us. But we still need to examine ourselves daily and ask God to forgive us of our sins, intentional and unintentional. Yes, we are saved and our salvation is secure without any further blood sacrifice. We just need to keep the Temple clean by admitting our failures and we can only do that if we follow the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us. — 1 John 1:-10 NIV
11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? 12 For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. 13 He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe,and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. — Hebrews 11:7-14 NIV
Perfection could never come through man. The law that established a human priesthood was given to show us that we could never live up to the standard that God required — perfection. Knowing this, the Trinity, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, set in motion a plan for our redemption. A new priesthood wherein the new Priest would not come from the tribe of the Levites, but rather through the tribe of Judah. This Priest would not be ordained by man but by the Creator of heaven and earth, God Himself. This Priest would lay aside his royal garments and become like man in every respect. He would be tempted and suffer persecution but still remain obedient, even unto death on a cross. He was and still is our Shepherd and our Savior. He has every right to expect us to allow Him to be Lord of our lives. We do that by following His example under the leadership of the Holy Spirit. Our allegiance is changed completely. Once we walked in darkness on a path of constant chaos that led only to eternal death. Now, we walk in the light on a path of peace that leads to life everlasting in our Father’s house. Every day, from the day we accept Christ as our Savior until we arrive in heaven, we are on our way, we are going home.
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”— John 14:5-7 NIV
10 God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. 11 We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. 12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. — Hebrews 6:10-12 NIV
Accepting Jesus as our Savior is the first step on a journey from here to heaven. We know our destination and we know that our arrival has been secured by the blood of Jesus. The huge difference in this trip and one that we might plan to take here on earth is that we don’t know the specifics of the route. Generally, we know that it is ever onward and upward, but what does that entail on a minute by minute basis? We are facing a great unknown and we must take every step by faith.
17 For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” — Romans 1:17 NIV
So we must study the gospel to know the way. There is no earthly GPS that is going to lead us to heaven. But, God, in His great mercy and love for us installed a guide within us when we accepted His Son as our Savior. We must learn to listen to the Guide to stay on the path. The way will not always be smooth and level. It can get rocky and there will be valleys and mountains. Just remember that every valley has two mountains and we travel from mountain to mountain not knowing what is over the next one. The important thing to KNOW is that we are never alone and if we get lost on the journey, the great Shepherd will leave the flock, come find us and carry us back to the straight and narrow path.
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight.— Proverbs 3:5, 6 NIV