Ten years worth of stellar performance reviews. You gave yourself to your job and your company. Needed somebody to work overtime? You were there. Last second projects that needed doing? You were all over it. Deadlines? You ate lunch at your desk to ensure you met them. Employee of the month? Yep, multiple times. In fact, your boss singled you out as the poster child of dedication and commitment to “a job well done.”
But here you are, in human resources and sitting across the desk from the personnel director.
“I’m sorry, but we have to let you go.”
That didn’t go as expected. Sometimes, being a great employee doesn’t guarantee a positive outcome.
Unfortunately, Christians often employ a similar logic when dealing with the circumstances of life. We too often believe our challenging circumstances will get better because we have faith. It’s okay to hope for the best, but here’s a healthy dose of (biblical) reality: Having faith does not guarantee the outcome of the circumstances of our lives will turn out well. In fact, Jesus guarantees trouble for His followers. “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows” (John 16:33; NLT).
Trials and sorrows like … terminal cancer, job dismissal, rebellious children, broken relationships, tragic accidents, victims of violent crime, depression, loneliness, battles with sin, chronic health issues, ostracism, and many global Christians still experience the reality of religious persecution that leads to death. And on it goes.
The biggest question you face in your life in the midst of trying circumstances is not, “What will be the outcome?”
The biggest question you face in the midst of those circumstances is, “Will I remain faithful to Jesus Christ?”
That’s the question that rises to us from Hebrews 11. We see the litany of faithful Old Testament personalities who, “through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle,” and more.
Great! Praise God for His strong deliverance and mighty power exercised through our faithful predecessors. However, there is a second group who “received trial of mockings and scourgings … chains and imprisonment, were stoned, were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented … wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth.” Things didn’t turn out so well for them in this life, but it is obvious they were commended for their faith.
There are at least three absolutes we can draw from Scripture: 1) As people of faith we will face hardships, 2) Jesus promises His constant companionship and presence through the hardships, 3) by remaining in faith until the end we will experience deliverance from the hardships of this world and simultaneously experience eternity with a loving God.
However, our calling in the midst of the trials and suffering of this world is clear. Jesus calls us to — by faith — “run with endurance the race set before [us],” regardless of the outcomes. We are to make it to the finish line.
This issue of the Baptist & Reflector features a number of people who have suffered greatly, some to the point of death. Their circumstances weren’t necessarily made better because they were people of faith; their faith in Jesus pulled them forward through tough times. No clichés, no religious platitudes or catchy churchy phrases, just a resolve that, come what may — pain and all — they were going to settle into a pace and run with endurance the race in which they found themselves.
Our purpose in featuring these brothers and sisters is not to elevate them above their circumstances or to show how they, “pulled themselves up by bootstraps.” It is to encourage you in your faith to remain faithful to Jesus by featuring a Savior who delivers on His promise to remain faithful to you.
Hang in there. All of us here at the Tennessee Baptist Convention encourage you to “fix your eyes on Jesus,” and run your “race” with endurance.
Let’s finish well, together.