Read Hebrews 11
Hebrews 10:39, the last verse of Hebrews 10 says, “But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.” That verse was the conclusion of the warning passage in Hebrews 10; here in chapter 11, the author of Hebrews wants to clarify what faith is and how it is essential to following Christ. The reason why we “do not shrink back” from following Jesus is that we “have faith.” It is our confidence in the promises of God and the rewards that God gives for persevering that cause us not to “shrink back.” So it is important for us to understand what faith is (v. 1) and how it has operated throughout human history (v. 2).
That’s why Hebrews 11 exists and why it was written at this point in the book of Hebrews. In addition to being encouraged by these great and famous men and women of God throughout history, it is important for us to understand what it means for us to stand in league with them. All of us are linked by our faith in God’s promises. But, as verse 13 says, “All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth.” In our age, there are many promises made on behalf of God from preachers and teachers that pertain to this life. Most of the best known “ministers” of Christianity will tell you that if you follow Jesus you will be happy. They will tell you that if you follow Jesus and give to his (their) work, God will make sure they get that fancy house, that luxury car, or whatever. Materialism drives so much of what is called Christianity these days in the United States. But the people in this chapter died before they got any of the promises God made to them.
The call to follow Jesus, then, is a call to live for eternity, not for your best life now. Like Moses who “chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (v. 25) we may be giving up much in this life in order to walk with God. And Moses didn’t even make it into the promised land! Do you think he felt gypped? I don’t think so because, according to verse 40, “God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”
There are, of course, benefits in this life to following Jesus. He gives us relief from guilt and the ability to know and love God. He gives us the power to change and grow to overcome the sins that ultimately hurt us and others. He gives us joy even in the heartaches of life. So it isn’t like being a Christian is all heartache and pain but it is important to realize that there is a price for discipleship in this life but a much greater payoff for it in eternity.