The Sacred Text in Hebrews chapter 11 describes what we Christians call the "Heroes of faith". There is a listing of familiar Biblical characters. Characters we all use to teach profound lessons in faith and hope. The chapter even begins with; "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not yet seen". Its powerful. The characters are powerful. The illustrations are ones we can lean on. Ones we can live our lives by.....and yet, there is very small phrase almost no one talks about.....speaking of all the heroes just listed; "All these died not having received the promise".
What? These heroes died without having seen the promise they hoped for? Really? I am supposed to take some sort of comfort from this? I think not.....I want to see the promise now. What exactly was the promise they were looking for? It is simple, they had been promised a Savior. Someone that would rescue them from the curse of sin......and they rejoiced in the promise......and never saw it in their lifetimes.
Dr. Crabb draws this conclusion from the passage; "Apparently God is pleased with people who suffer terribly; whose lives never straighten out, but who keep on trusting".
This is a little difficult to swallow. God is pleased with my suffering.....the suffering of others? I'm having trouble with this concept.....it goes against my belief that I am here to have a good time....or at least have good feelings most of the time. I want to feel alive, full of passion and romance. I want to experience my kid living out a godly life. I want to feel significant in the lives of others. In fact, I believe I am called by Papa to do just that...be significant in the lives of others.....its a good calling.
So I buy into the convention we Christians have contrived to support our view that we are here for a good time. We call these things "biblical"...strategies for seeing to it that all our dreams come true. We call them models for Christian living, of godly parenting and principals of financial stewardship. All designed to give me a legitimate good time. Whats wrong with this? Dr. Crabb says its driven by a deeper motive to feel something no human will ever feel until they are with Papa in heaven......the need for completeness....the need to enjoy God....buried deep in our souls by the very one we long to enjoy......God.
What I want to feel. What I want to hope for....I want for things to be better. Now. In this life. Right now. Papa makes no such promise.
Dr. Crabb says; "When I seek fulfillment in this life. When I desire to feel soul pleasure more than soul pain, then God becomes a means to an end. An object to use...never a subject rightfully demanding a response, never a lover to be enjoyed". That's harsh. But true. I have used God to fulfill my dreams. I have not enjoyed Him. I have not responded to His love in a way that it deserves. I have abused my position as a son and demanded my own way instead of allowing Him to lead me in the direction He wants. It has been my desire to use Him rather than enjoy Him.
Dr. Crabb states that; "Shattered dreams are the greatest blessing. They help us discover our true hope. But it can take a long, dark time to discover it.....Shattered dreams open the door to better dreams, dreams that we do not properly value until the dreams we improperly value are destroyed. They help us discover true hope. We need shattered dreams to put us in touch with what we most long for, to create an appetite for better dreams. And living for the better dream generates a new, unfamiliar feeling we eventually recognize as joy".
I am coming to this conclusion myself. That my dreams while good, are not the best He desires for me. In fact, they are often the lowest form of dreaming. They are self centered. Nothing inherently wrong with this....some of these dreams are of me and my family helping others. Nothing wrong with this.....the Bible tells us we should....BUT if I pursue this at the expense of enjoying Papa, then those dreams will become nothing and I will never realize them. So my hope is becoming different......
I have in fact, given large sums of money...this money helped people that can never repay me....and I don't want them to....but I felt good about it....and proud as well....and I told others about my generosity.....I wanted to feel good and I wanted others to admire me for my generosity.....selfish dreams.....the Scripture says of those that do such things "If you do your alms before men, you already have your reward". In other words, the feeling of pride and admiration is all I will ever get from that generosity. Papa is under no constraints to reward me for that like He promised to....but if I "Do my alms secretly, the Papa will reward me openly before men". His way is better.
I'm rambling here but I'm just recording things as they come to me at this point. A few days ago, Papa spoke to me about fasting. I had wanted to fast like my friend Eric but due to physical restraints, could not. So Papa said to fast from something I loved. You may remember me speaking of this earlier. So I vowed to do so. I tell you, its been the hardest thing I've ever tried. And I have felt distant from Papa during this time. Of the 7-10 days or so since I "started" this fast from work, I think I have kept it only a handful of times. But beginning tomorrow, I'll be back on my fast. Work til 8:30, wrap up until 9:30 at the latest and then spend time with Papa.....
As I am going through this workbook, I am beginning to feel like a complainer. The author asks questions that draw out my complaints. Its starting to smell bad. I don't like it. but if anything is true about my flesh, its that it likes to complain. I suppose I've never really seen myself that way before, but its true. I complain about many things. Its my old nature.....through this workbook process, I am coming to see that gratitude is lacking in my life. I am thankful to be sure of certain things but I complain about much more. Time to give that to Papa and let Him take care of it like He promised.
Today my prayer is this; Papa, help me to be filled with gratitude for all the blessings you have already given. To look with awed reverence on the ones that are to come, knowing they are simply a gift from a loving Papa. I long for your voice to fill me and to feel your embrace today. Draw me close to you....never let me go.....I know its a song, but its my prayer as well.....Papa, as never before, I love you. I sense your presence with me right now....I know you are close......I am in awe.....and filled with hope......you are holy....