“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). So Noah built the ark by faith. Abraham left his country by faith. The Israelites passed through the Red Sea by faith. Many “through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised” (33).
Then the mood changes: Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword” (35-37). “These were all commended for their faith…” (39). Some had faith to live; others had faith to die. Faith is a friendship, not a formula.
Herod “had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also” (Acts 12:2,3). God had other plans for Peter. The same God who received James by death designed a jailbreak for Peter that beats any escape we see on TV. James had signed on to drink the cup of suffering (Matthew 20), and he became the second martyr. He bore witness (meaning of “martyr”) to Christ’s life through his death, just as Stephen had.
The sons of thunder had found someone worthy of their zeal, and James poured out his life unto death for Jesus. He received a crown for being faithful unto death, while Herod was trying to win a popularity contest and worms ate his body when he died shamefully. We do not order up what we want by faith; we walk with God into His desired end. For some in the great faith chapter they were allowed to overcome; for others they were given faith to endure.
“If you just believe, you will be healed.” Maybe.Faith is not in faith; it is directed to a personal God who knows the outcome. We exercise faith and trust God for the results. Faith is surrender, not demand. It does not tell God what to do. It joyfully submits to the will of a gracious God.
Some people are walking “through the valley of the shadow of death.” That looks different than the green pastures and the still waters. Instead of the faith to rest they need the faith to persevere. Same God–different environment. Faith is not automatic, because God is a person, not a machine. We do not put a coin in the slot and down comes the result. We put faith in a loving God who has called us into relationship with Himself.
Jesus did not teach the disciples to be men of technique but men of the Spirit. He didn’t write a book on the art of healing, but we have a record of how He ministered to people. Some He healed with a word. Ten lepers were cleansed “as they went.” One was healed from blindness with a second touch. A paralytic was healed when it did not appear that he had the faith. We have no record of Jesus healing anyone else that day. God is a healing God, and Jesus is a healing Savior. How and when and with whom He does it remains in His sovereign hands.
This is not meant for a moment to discourage passionate and aggressive faith. It is meant to keep our hands off the control panel. We have no idea what is coming two minutes out. God sees all of history in the eternal present, and He is wise and good.