Hebrews 11 is always the faith Chapter. The writer of that letter details each great believer and their demonstration of faith. There is no question that their faith is above reproach but there are two more that have always struck me and for what some may call strange reasons. These men are Paul and Peter.
Both demonstrated great faith at many times but two things strike me, and it is specific times they were in prison. I doubt that many of you have been in jail, but I am sure that at one time or another you have been in trouble with your folks or someone at work or a friend or family member. Whatever that situation might have been you probably lost a little sleep over it if not a lot of sleep wrestling with a solution; I know I have. But Paul and Peter did not seem to struggle.
Instead of struggling, Peter slept like he was dead and Paul wrote four letters of encouragement that have been documented in the Bible. To me, these two men demonstrate faith in a way that encourages me. Look at what Peter does.
Acts 12: 1-5
I have always heard that the only man that can sleep in jail is a guilty man. Well, Peter showed me that a truly innocent man with unwavering faith could also sleep in jail. James had just been killed, and Peter was imprisoned.
Acts 12:1-5 (ESV)
1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.
He was delivered over to 4 squads of soldiers, and it was Harrods intent to hold him until after Passover and then kill him as he had killed James. This situation had the whole church on their knees praying for Peter.
Now the part that amazes me is while he was imprisoned the guards are so fearful that he might escape they chain him up with two guards. They are all three bound together, and an angel shows up to save Peter. The thing that gets me is the seeming trouble that the angel has waking Peter.
Acts 12:6-11 (ESV)
6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands.
Excluding the two guards waking Peter reminded me of waking my son and daughter when they were in High School. Once they started moving, I had to tell them every step to take.
Acts 12:9 (ESV)
8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”
Even as Peter was lead out of prison, it seemed a dream to him. He did not realize it was real until he was outside, and then it was a struggle.
This guy was preparing to be executed in a day or two, and he slept with no fear. How is that possible unless you have total faith in God. Peter trusted Jesus Christ. He knew that he would live or die and either was fine with him. He was no crazy man. He believed and put all his faith in God. He did not have to say anything for me to get it. That sound sleep told me everything. He was content. He was not alone in this faith. Paul was the same.
Paul demonstrated his great faith as well in every trial he endured. But for me, the best example is his “Prison Letters.” Paul wrote Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon while he was imprisoned, and every one of them is filled with encouragement and guidance. I love all of them, and as I read them I can see the love in his heart and the joy leaping off the page as I go through each passage.
He never wavers in his faith or hope for the churches that he began praying for them always. One of my favorite passages in his prison letters is in Philippians 1.
In this passage, Paul is discussing his life and whether he might live or die. He speaks of the prayers of the Philippians and the help of the Spirit of Jesus is his deliverance.
Philippians 1:18-26 (ESV) To Live Is Christ
Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
For him it is all about service and his trust is completely in Jesus. He does not waver. He holds fast.
Both these men had such great faith just as the ones in Hebrews 11 and just like those people in 11 they were human. No different than you or I in our basic makeup. Their faith is within our grasp. It is not so far that we cannot reach or so difficult that we cannot achieve it. God has put it within our grasp. All we need do is repent of our sins, believe in His Son and be baptized.
Romans 10:9-13 (ESV)
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. 11 For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
When we deeply commit to these things God kindles a fire in us that cannot be quenched. Life does not get easier. But you are not alone the Holy Spirit is with you. Over time your passion for the world is replaced by the passion for God and His Holy Word and fear is replaced with Joy.
2 Timothy 1:6-7 (ESV)
6 For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, 7 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
I think of this passage and realize that our faith is not one of fear. But of power and love and self-control. A flame that we must fan, and what better way to fan that flame than with God’s Word and Prayer!
Father. Thank you for the examples of true faith in you. Thank you, Lord, for giving us people to see that have the same struggle as we do yet still cling to Jesus. Thank you for your Word and the hunger you have placed in my heart for it. I am humbled, and I pray all this in Jesus name. Amen!
As I was finishing this up, I received word that I lost a dear friend last night. He had fought the good fight and was a believer. He had been a good friend to me these past few years, and I will miss him, but I know that his passing is our loss and his gain.