Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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If you find yourself going through a hard time, it need not be that you have erred and are being punished for it. In fact, it may well be that you have been doing so well that your heavenly Father has judged you worthy of a trial that will perfect your faith and bring you closer to Him! Job suffered, and before his suffering, God Himself described Job as “a perfect and upright man.” Jesus suffered horribly, and we know he was sinless. What are such things telling us?
In times of disappointment or any other kind of earthly suffering, one secret of surviving and doing well spiritually is to hold on to the things you know are true. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus, for example, were extremely disappointed that Jesus was killed. They were dejected as they walked along the road home. When the Lord appeared to them along the way, but did not allow them to recognize him, they expressed their disappointment, saying that they had once been sure that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus’ death seemed to have proved them and the other disciples wrong; it certainly dashed their hopes.
But it is the other thing that they told Jesus, still not realizing that it was he to whom they spoke, that showed them to be the kind of people God loves. They were crestfallen because of Jesus’ death, but they refused to deny him as being sent from God. In spite of the danger involved (after all, they might still be arrested as being his followers), they plainly said that Jesus was sent from God and that he was a “prophet mighty in word and deed before God and all the people.” They might have given up hope that Jesus was the Messiah, but they stubbornly clung to what they knew in their hearts; namely, that Jesus was good, not evil, and that he most certainly was sent from God to Israel.
They were disappointed; they were hurt; and they were embarrassed. It seemed that their faith had been misplaced by thinking Jesus was the Savior. Still, they would not deny what they knew in their hearts. Jesus was sent from God! These two humble men were the kind of people God loves. Even when they were confused, ashamed, and grieving, they were faithful to what they knew.
God doesn’t demand anything more from any of us than to be faithful to what we know. What we think might be, or what we hope, we can safely question. But those whom God loves are those who refuse to deny what they know in their hearts is true.
The blind man Jesus healed in John 9 is one of my favorite characters in the Bible for just this reason. When put on trial for being healed, he pretended to possess no more knowledge than what he actually had. He, too, was the kind of man God loves.
When the envious elders condemned Jesus and pressured the healed man to condemn him as well, he refused. And he refused, not because he knew Jesus was good but because he didn’t know whether he was good or evil. He suspected that Jesus was a man sent from God, but he did not know him, and so, he couldn’t say. And he had the nerve to stand up against the men who tried to force him to say what they wanted him to say. He happily and boldly confessed in court, “Whether this man is a sinner or not, I don’t know. But one thing I do know. I was blind, and now I see!”
They excommunicated him.
But God loved him, and when the terrifying word spread through Jerusalem that someone had been cast out by the elders, Jesus heard of it, and he searched for and found the man (Jn. 9:35–38):
And Jesus said, “Do you believe on the Son of God?”
He answered, “Who is he, sir, so that I can believe on him?”
Jesus said to him, “You have now seen him, and he is the one talking with you.”
Then he said, “Sir, I believe,” and he knelt down before him.
The important thing to remember in this story is that just an hour or two before Jesus, the mighty Son of God, went looking for this rejected man, the man had said of Jesus, “Whether he’s a sinner, I don’t know.” Why is this significant? Because it shows that God is not touchy. He does not require us to pretend to know more than we really know. And at the same time, the healed blind man confessed openly what he did know; namely, that Jesus had healed him. Look at his pure heart! The despised man refused to let go of what he knew Jesus had done for him, even though it meant being cast out of the congregation of God!
It is critical to your future happiness that you recognize the difference between what you know and what you believe. Preacher Clark tried to get this point across to us long ago when he told us, “Anything you believe could be a lie, as far as you know.” That is true, and it is Ok with God for you to admit it. It’s Ok to be completely honest with yourself and others. God is not offended by it. Men often are.
Those whom God loves are the ones who “speak the truth in their heart.” That means that they are thoroughly honest with themselves, willing to be wrong about anything they believe, and refusing to deny before men anything they truly know.