By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Heb 11:24-26)
So here is an example of an extreme kind of faith: faith that leads you to choose suffering when you don’t have to. To choose the hard path rather than the easy path.
Not to toot my own horn (because it really doesn’t deserve much tooting in this arena), but I have experienced an occasion of this. The month before we started our first year of homeschooling, my eldest and I were at each other’s throats. She was extremely trying and I was maddeningly impatient, and I was genuinely afraid I would kill her by February. Every day, I pondered how easy it would be to send her off to school again that Tuesday after Labor Day. Why was I doing this to myself? But ultimately, I had faith that God really had called me to do this, that he really was going to teach us how to get along, that this really would be the best thing for our whole family in the long run. By the next September, I watched the school bus drive by on the first day of school and was so grateful that my daughter was not on it.
But this can hardly touch what other people choose to endure for the sake of Christ. There are converts in other countries who are killed because they refuse to deny their Lord. But even if we look closer to home and less to the extreme – there are people who choose to give up easy, luxurious lifestyles to live in impoverished areas to minister to the people there. I recently heard a friend tell about a medical mission trip she went on where a couple of the volunteer medical personnel were accidentally exposed to HIV-positive blood. They knew going in that they were taking that risk – but they chose to go anyway.
And here I’m proud of myself for choosing to spend all day in my comfortable house with my own difficult daughter. Psshhht.
Going back to the beginning of this chapter, to the definition of faith: faith is being sure of what is hoped for, certain of what is not seen. The passage above says Moses willingly endured what he did “because he was looking ahead to his reward.” What he hoped for, what was not seen, was the reward waiting for him at the end of his trials. And there’s where I have trouble having faith, I think. Believing that there will be a reward at the end of my suffering (wimpy suffering, though it is), and that the reward will be better than what I’m giving up.
Many years ago, there was a book out (the title of which escapes me) about a "Christ-centered approach to weight loss". At the end of one of the chapters, the author described a moment of weakness she experienced where she so desperately wanted to stuff her face with something sweet and fattening, and she cried out to God, “Lord! Show me You can satisfy better than these!”
That’s my cry. “Show me You can satisfy better than these!” Again, what I’m constantly reminded as I’m writing this series of posts is that I don’t really have faith that God can satisfy unless I choose to give up other candidates for my satisfaction. Faith is not faith unless it is acted on.
And now it occurs to me that choosing the hard path isn’t maybe as extreme a kind of faith as I thought. Maybe it’s the essence of faith after all.