Rarely, I think, have I entered the Hall of Faith without a sense of a holy hush as I again consider the “by faith” exhibits. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Without faith it is impossible to please God . . . for only those who believe He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him will press on to draw near to God (11:6). Want some examples of what faith looks like? Read on. Walk through the hallowed halls of faith. Consider afresh every vignette portrayed on the walls.
This morning I went from staring at the universe to considering an old man married to an old woman with a young baby. Tent dwellers living in a foreign land. They weren’t exactly “living the dream” but they were pursuing the promise. The promise of a better country.
If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:15-16 ESV)
They had left the familiar. They had abandoned the status quo. As good as their hometown was, they set out in pursuit of a land of promise. Even though they didn’t have a GPS . . . or even a location to punch into a GPS . . . they went out not knowing where they were going (11:8) . . . “considering Him faithful who had promised” (11:11). And the promise became, in fact, a pilgrimage. The land, at the end of it all, was but a plot. If they had compared where they had been only to where they were at, they’d be scratching their heads wondering if it was worth it. But, with faith as the assurance of things hoped for, they died knowing that they were heirs of a better country.
They were looking forward to “the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God” (11:10). A place prepared for them . . . a heavenly place . . . a better country.
And isn’t that the secret to pilgrimage? Isn’t that the fuel for the fire of faith? Isn’t that what keeps us keepin’ on? A better country? I’m thinkin’ . . .
If the goal is to be reached here on earth, then we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment and frustration. If the prize is in the material things of what this world offers, then, at best, it’s fleeting. Why bother? But if it’s all about a better country . . . a city built by God . . . a promise given by Him who is faithful . . . then onward Christian soldier! Let’s do it.
Isn’t that why Paul exhorts us to “seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” and to “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2)? Don’t look down at the ground you are now holding, says Paul. Don’t even look at the horizon to the ground you might be able to gain in the future. But look up . . . look WAY up! . . . and see the city . . . and focus on that better country.
It’s the pilgrim’s motivation. It’s the tent-dweller’s sense of permanency. It’s the thirsty traveler’s energy restoring water. It’s faith that results in conviction and pleases God.
There IS a better country. He who has promised IS faithful. Those who are faithful WILL KNOW the promise.
We’re not home yet . . . but we will be . . . count on it!
Because of grace . . . and for His glory.