Seeing with Different Eyes (A Study in Hebrews)


Hebrews 11:19-40

At a young age, I had to learn to see with different eyes. The ones I had weren’t working too well. So Mom and Dad took me to the eye doctor who in turn prescribed glasses, which in the 1960s carried with them nothing but ugly frames. With these new eyes, the world I couldn’t see before opened up. Things I couldn’t see, I now could. Blurry objects were now clear.

Believers see with different eyes as well.

Christians See More Than the Present

“Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead” (Hebrews 11:19 NLT).

Sam couldn’t see beyond the present, and it almost cost him his happiness—and life. His dad had left the family for another woman when Sam was a small child. Now, ten years later, his mom decides to re-marry. The guy is okay, but Sam cannot focus on anything but his real dad. All these years, he’s dreamed his mom and dad might get back together. Her present marriage seals the coffin. Not only is she marrying, but he and his siblings will be moving to another state with a different culture. New school, new church, new friends. Sam doesn’t adjust well. He needs something to help him get through. When one of his new “so-called” friends offers him a pill to help him do just that, he takes one. And later, another. One day, he takes too many and finds himself in the hospital. He just couldn’t see beyond the present—and the picture was murky.

By faith, Abraham had the ability to see beyond the present. He and his wife had waited for years on the son God promised. Now Isaac is a young man, and God is asking Abraham to do the unthinkable: sacrifice his son. Abraham knew God’s promise, however, and could see beyond the untenable moment.

I’m often more like Sam than Abraham. Life’s troubles bottle up and cloud my vision: finances, relationships, employment, kids, friendships. Life seems to require every bit of energy I have just to get through the day. I’m consumed with fighting daily battles and worrying about how it will all pan out tomorrow.

Only by a confident faith and trust in God’s guidance over our lives in the present and his concern for our future can we see beyond today. By faith, we can let him hold tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.

Christians See Sin as Only Temporary Pleasure

“He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Hebrews 11:25 NLT).

My childhood was no different than most. Parents and grandparents bought me toys for birthdays and Christmas, and sometimes for no special occasion at all. Most were probably something I had pointed at when I was small or told them I wanted when I was older. Things I thought would bring me pleasure…perhaps for a long time.

As with most children, the new wore off quickly. Soon my toy was tucked away in a closet, stored in a trunk, or sold at a yard sale. I moved on to something else.

Becoming an adult hasn’t changed the scenario a great deal. I still see things I think will bring me great enjoyment. As my childhood toys did, they all fail me. The pleasure is momentary, and soon I’ve discarded them for something else.

As a child, Moses was snatched from his childhood tent home and deposited in the grand palace of a foreign king. The riches of Egypt were at his disposal—riches that brought with them a sinful lifestyle. When he matured and recognized who he was, he chose to leave the sinful pleasures behind and identify with the oppression his people were experiencing as slaves.

God isn’t against me enjoying the pleasurable things of this world, but he does expect me to stay away from those that are sinful. Satan has a long history of taking innocent things and dressing them up in sinful wrappings. The fruit Eve ate in the Garden of Eden wasn’t sinful; the act of disobeying God’s command to eat it was. Things that are outright and obviously sinful don’t usually concern me. Rather, it’s the momentary and innocent pleasurable things I struggle with. The newest smart phone. The latest laptop. The most up-to-date iPad or video game. Things that in the short run provide pleasure but that in the long run could steal my attention from what God has in mind for me.

Sin promises a lifetime of pleasure but only delivers short term benefits. Sometimes, we just need to put aside some things so God can give us something better.

Christians Can See Walls Tumble Down

“It was by faith that the people of Israel marched around Jericho for seven days, and the walls came crashing down” (Hebrews 11:30 NLT).

Jerome and his wife Ashley built a wall. When they married, Ashley brought to the marriage an unfortunate habit: meth. Jerome had never delved into the drug world before, but having a wife who was using it made it easy. Before long, he was using it as heavily as she was.

In time, two children were born—both with mild disorders due to their mother’s drug use. Neither Jerome nor Ashley could hold a job, yet always needed money for the next fix. Local child management authorities were notified, and their children removed from the home and placed with a grandmother.

This seemed to be their wake up call. They cleaned up, found steady jobs, and for a while did well. But the old calling haunted them, and they eventually gave in. Their children were taken again. Jerome found himself in jail, accused of assault and battery, kidnapping, and possession of meth. The wall in their life was steep and solid.

Jericho was the first city the Israelites needed to conquer when they entered the Promised Land. The city’s walls were high and solid and prevented the Israelites from experiencing victory. God told them the method they were to use to see them fall. His technique seemed senseless, but they followed it by faith and enjoyed a great triumph.

Walls come in a host of varieties: drugs, fear, worry and anxiety, rebellion, addictions, unhealthy relationships, procrastination, unbelief, financial bondage, illegal activities. Most, if not all, of my walls have been built by me and not imposed by someone else. Either way, walls prevent me from moving forward in my personal life and can also stymie my spiritual walk.

Faith is required to destroy these walls—faith to do what God instructs us to do so we can experience victory. Others may see the symptoms of our walls, but only we can accurately diagnose the root cause. Whatever it is, God will help you bring it down if you ask and trust.

Christians See Better Things Ahead

“For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us” (Hebrews 11:40 NLT).

A good friend kept telling me, “There are better things ahead,” but I couldn’t see them. Losing a job and a career when you’re over 50 is tough. Few employers want age 50 and over employees unless they are of retirement age or are just looking for a few part-time hours to supplement their Social Security.

I didn’t need a supplement. I needed a full-time job that would pay the bills. Rejection after rejection came. Over qualified. Under qualified. Though they wouldn’t say it, prospective employers didn’t want to spend their time training me when I’d be retiring in a few years or perhaps moving back into my preferred profession.

I kept the faith, and eventually things did get better. I found a job doing what I loved. God knew all along things were going to improve; I simply had to trust he did.

The catalogue list of what has happened to believers throughout history is extensive: sawn in two, fed to the lions, beheaded, imprisoned, beaten, ridiculed, burned at the stake, stoned, slain with swords. But they endured because they believed something better was ahead.

When the walls of life crumble, faith is required. Perhaps I’ll never find myself being subjected to some of the early methods of persecuting Christians, but the challenges remain. Trials will come. How I view them will determine my response and possibly the outcome. Faith in God will help me keep my focus that he’s in control of the trial, its length, and its purpose.

God’s gift of faith and strength gives me an inner fortitude I can’t find anywhere else but that only comes one day at a time. I can’t see the better thing that’s ahead, but I’m confident it’s there. God’s agenda is different than mine. He makes his own hours and formulates his own calendars without asking for my help.

The tunnels of life can be dark, but there’s always an opening at the far end with a brighter light than existed at the entrance. Trust God’s promise that there are better things ahead.


Martin Wiles
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