I had a brief conversation with someone yesterday who “had to admit” their faith was being shaken somewhat by the suffering being experienced by various people within our church family. I empathized with her empathy for those who are dealing with present hardships as well as an uncertain future. But I tried to encourage her that while these things are without question hard things, they can also be faith-building things if they draw us deeper into abiding in the Savior.
Something I read this morning in Hebrews has me wondering if perhaps one of the reasons hardships can be spiritually unsettling is because we’ve been led to believe, either explicitly or implicitly, that the good life the good news promises should be realized now. But what if there’s a different expectation we should have of our salvation?
For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
(Hebrews 9:13-15 ESV)
The promised prize is an “eternal inheritance.” Something we enter into now, but which we fully realize in the future — when our mortality gives way to immortality. If we’re looking for “the good life” this side of heaven, then we’re going to be disappointed, our faith shaken even, when bad things happen to people who we think were saved for the good life.
But the writer to the Hebrews says that the blood of Christ redeems us to serve the living God. That’s what we were saved for. To exchange dead works sourced in a dead soul for good works in service to a living God.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t expect blessings this side of heaven, our God delights in giving good gifts to His children (Mt. 7:11). But I guess I’m reminded that if we’re saved to serve the living God, then that means we’re to do so in whatever season, through whatever circumstances, for however long He’s determined our days. And that through serving Him — especially in hardship, even when walking (whether ourselves or with others) through the valley of the shadow of death — the greatest prize, that of knowing Jesus experientially and deeply as we come to depend on Him more and more desperately, is ours to realize. That far from shaking our faith, it really can deepen our faith.
Not wanting to be overly simplistic. Hard stuff is hard, for sure. But His grace is sufficient, equally for sure (2Cor. 12:9). And in experiencing the reality of mercies that are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23) there is daily an encounter of the divine kind which can only lead to a deepening relationship with a God who is able to, and faithful to keep us from falling and present us blameless before the prize of His presence (Jude 24).
Saved to serve the living God and in that to know the living God. That’s a blessing here and now. Amen?
By His grace. For His glory.