Hebrews 11:33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
One cannot read the stories of these great men and women of God and not be inspired. Through the power of their faith, many have done many wonderful things. Through faith Gideon and his army of only 300 turned to flight an army of over 100,000. Through faith the shepherd boy David stood up to the giant Goliath and slew him. Through faith the three Hebrew children withstood the flames of the fiery furnace.
Through faith many have done many wonderful things. But others have also done many wonderful things through the power of faith; things far different from the group just mentioned. Through faith they have remained strong during a time of great difficulty.
Hebrews 11:35 …and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 36 And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: 37 They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; 38 (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
I have often wondered which of these two groups gave the greatest demonstration of faith. Was it the ones who through faith were delivered from death, or was it those who through faith, faithfully endured death? The Bible says that through faith, some have escaped the edge of the sword. But the Bible also says that through faith, others have been slain by the sword. How could being slain by the sword be a demonstration of faith?
First we must consider ‘why’ they suffered. They were being tortured and imprisoned because of their love for God. Often we refer to such individuals as someone who is a ‘martyr.’ A Christian martyr is someone who suffers, and perhaps is even put to death, because of their faith in Jesus Christ.
Secondly, we must consider ‘how’ they suffered. Rather than kicking and screaming and begging for deliverance, they embraced death as a way to declare their faith. Consider this passage from the book of Acts.
Acts 5:40 …and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.
Whether in death or in life, faith can give us the victory. In closing, consider these important words from our brother Paul-
“I expect and hope that I will not fail Christ in anything but that I will have the courage now, as always, to show the greatness of Christ in my life here on earth, whether I live or die.” (Php 1:20 NCV)