In his exposition of justification by faith and not by works of the Law, the apostle Paul turns to the prophet Habakkuk as a witness to this teaching under the old covenant (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17). This same prophet also exemplified faith when he confessed his trust in the Lord, even if field and flock were to produce no yield (3:17–19). Without question, the prophet teaches us that authentic faith tenaciously grasps the promises of God in times of plenty and in times of hardship.
This theme is expanded upon by the author of Hebrews in today’s passage. Starting with Moses, the overwhelming focus is on those who proved their faith by not running from danger, choosing instead to suffer for the kingdom. Moses himself chose “to be mistreated with the people of God” instead of enjoying “the fleeting pleasures of sin,” considering “the reproach of Christ greater than the treasures of Egypt” (Heb. 11:24–28). Amazingly, this Hebrew prince of Egypt decided to be exiled into the Midianite wilderness and later to oppose Pharaoh at risk of death all because of his great faith (Ex. 2:11–12:32). It would have been much easier and comfortable to just cut himself off from the covenant people for the sake of gaining wealth and worldly prestige. Yet Moses, recognizing that the pleasures of sin are not eternal, wisely chose to forego them for eternal happiness. He could do this only by faith.
Moses’ own difficulties would be repeated and intensified for many in the history of Israel. Torture, flogging, stoning, dismemberment, poverty, and homelessness would mark the lives of the faithful (vv. 35–37). Yet while most would not think such things wise, the writer tells us “the world was not worthy” (v. 38) of these faithful. In this age, followers of Jesus will suffer, and those of faith will have to endure troubles, in varying degrees, precisely because of their faith.
In adversity, the faithful do not turn away. The godly do not act godless when mocked. The righteous do not abandon their confession when threatened with death. Like Christ, those who believe the Lord hold fast to His promises in the face of suffering (12:1–2).
Around the world, many worship in fear of the government killing them for their faith. If that is your situation, continue holding fast to God’s promises. In other places, standing for Jesus may mean befriending the social pariah, disciplining your children even when it is hard to do so, or refraining from joining in the lewd jokes of co-workers. Be encouraged in your faith if you are doing the right thing, and if not, stand firm for Christ this very day.