These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
Desiring Something Better
Albert Brumley wrote, “This world is not my home, I’m just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue. The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door, and I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.” Life can be hard, unfair, without answers and frankly a time of great trial. It is not a dilemma that man has never experienced. When Noah and his family walked among the multitude of humanity, there was almost no righteousness except their own. Watching the world be annihilated by the waters of the flood must have been an impossible sight for the eight souls in the ark to witness. Just over a year after Noah’s family entered the ark, they stepped out into a world with only eight people. Life was changed and it was a harsh reality.
The nation of Israel rose to be great and prosperous and for one-hundred-twenty years, stood as a beacon of God’s love and grace to the nations surrounding them. Because of rebellion fueled by the wickedness of the carnal spirit, the nation was destroyed. First, the ten tribes of the north plunged into ungodliness and were destroyed in 722 B. C. by the Assyrian armies. Then, 116 years later, the Babylonian empire came against Jerusalem and began its bondage as decreed by the Lord. Life changed dramatically for those who lived during the turbulent times of the divided kingdom. Many died and many more were taken as captive slaves never to return to the land of promise. Daniel and his three friends were taken away from their homeland never to return. Life was different. Could they have imagined how their lives would have turned out? Seventy years would pass before a remnant would return. For many who were taken in captivity, life was hard, unfair and remained a mystery.
When the early church began to increase in number persecutions arose to dampen their spirits. Saul of Tarsus began a reign of terror seeking all those of the Way to imprison and torture and execute death sentences. Then the Roman government began a period of persecution lasting more than two-hundred years. Families have broken apart, friendships dashed, lives filled with suffering and death and for many their lives consisted of wandering about in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. Early Christians were tortured, jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. Life was a tragedy of misfortunes because of their faith.
The annals of God’s people are filled with stories of suffering, trouble, torment, and disappointment. Life can be hard for many reasons. Famine and floods are not respective of what a man believes. Disease will take the lives of the righteous as well as the unrighteous. Economic depressions impact the bank accounts of the Christians and the non-Christian. Fear and uncertainty can fill the hearts of any man. Pandemics do not concern themselves with a certain group of people in a certain local for a specific purpose. The Black Plague and the Spanish Flu killed millions of people without regard to gender, age or beliefs. Life is the reality the sun rises on the just and the unjust. To all men fall the trials of life. What makes a difference is not the event of life but how one deals with the events of life.
God’s people suffer but what makes a difference for them is how they view suffering. To die in faith is to look for a promise outside the realm of what can be seen. Christians know this world is not their home. They see something afar off and they have the assurance of God’s promise of eternal life allowing them to embrace a higher calling and confess hope in that which is greater. People of God are looking for a homeland. Whatever happens in life is temporary. Seeking another homeland takes the eyes of fact away from the reality of life to become eyes of faith seeking a home beyond the vale of death. The desire of the heart is a heavenly country. Desire is a strong emotion of appealing to the true nature of the child of God. It takes away the pain of this life and places the hope of joy in the promise of God of eternal life. There is joy for those who seek a better country, a heavenly home. What a man desires will be his guide. Seek those things above where Christ is. Pray. Live. Look. Desire.