32 What more can I say? I would run out of time if I told you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. 33 Through faith they conquered kingdoms, brought about justice, realized promises, shut the mouths of lions, 34 put out raging fires, escaped from the edge of the sword, found strength in weakness, were mighty in war, and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Others were tortured and refused to be released so they could gain a better resurrection.
36 But others experienced public shame by being taunted and whipped; they were even put in chains and in prison. 37 They were stoned to death, they were cut in two, and they died by being murdered with swords. They went around wearing the skins of sheep and goats, needy, oppressed, and mistreated. 38 The world didn’t deserve them. They wandered around in deserts, mountains, caves, and holes in the ground.
39 All these people didn’t receive what was promised, though they were given approval for their faith. 40 God provided something better for us so they wouldn’t be made perfect without us.
9 However, we do see the one who was made lower in order than the angels for a little while—it’s Jesus! He’s the one who is now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of his death. He suffered death so that he could taste death for everyone through God’s grace.
14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he also shared the same things in the same way. He did this to destroy the one who holds the power over death—the devil—by dying. 15 He set free those who were held in slavery their entire lives by their fear of death.
Daniel was the only Old Testament book that specifically spoke of something much like the New Testament hope of the resurrection (cf. Daniel 12:1-3). The (unidentified) writer of the New Testament letter to the Hebrews clearly had Daniel in mind in writing about those who through faith “shut the mouths of lions.” But in the violent Roman Empire, the writer realistically noted that not every story of a person loyal to God had a happy earthly ending, that God didn’t always shut “lions’ mouths” in this life. Which was why, earlier in the letter, the writer said Jesus had “set free those who were held in slavery their entire lives by their fear of death” (Hebrews 2:15). That willingness to face death rather than give up their loyalty to God puzzled and frustrated the Romans who tried to stamp out Christianity as a threat to the Empire. But history tells us it moved and inspired people, so that the faith grew rather than shriveling under Roman persecution.
Lord Jesus, I want to live a life of inner quiet and trust, no matter what storms may rage around me. Hold me safely in your arms to and beyond the end of my earthly life’s journey. Amen.
* Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Discovering our Hidden Life in God. HarperSanFrancisco, 1997, p. 66.
The summer before my junior year of high school, I read a book titled Mountains Beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, a Man Who Would Cure the World, by Tracy Kidder. The book recounts Farmer’s life as a doctor and infectious-disease specialist who devoted a majority of his life to serving the people of Haiti, Cuba, and Peru; not only did he save lives by fighting against the spread of HIV, AIDS, and tuberculosis in impoverished communities, but he also impacted thousands more by providing the resources necessary to improve the towns he served in. I highly recommend a quick read of the book if you find yourself with free time. It is a story rooted in the human condition’s ability to rise above challenges and fight for the hope of a brighter future.
As I read the story, a question arose in my mind that I still find myself coming back to from time to time: How did Farmer see the horror and sadness in death for years on end and never break his stride in the fight against disease and poverty? Though I am not sure if Farmer believed in God during his time as a doctor, I do believe the answer to my question lies in how Christians are called to live-–to find hope in despair and never lose trust in the promise of a better tomorrow. The world and the multitude of problems that the human race has created for itself will always be scary to face. However, when we choose to put our faith in God and believe that death and suffering will never have the final say, we find the strength to overcome our fear and be the light of Christ in the world. The promise of peace after death ensures us that we can use our time on Earth to lessen the pain of others and leave the planet better than we found it.
As we like to say at Church of the Resurrection, the worst thing is never the last thing.
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