These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off,
and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and
confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
Hebrews 11:13 (NKJ)
To persevere requires one to continue despite difficulties, opposition, or discouragement. This requires not only spiritual power but also faith. Our friends and family try to reassure us by telling us to “hang in there” or “tough it out” but unfortunately, encouraging words do not always succeed in moving us forward.
That is where “persevering faith” comes in. Not “saving faith” that we associate with our initial salvation, but the ability to see through difficulties and press forward for the prize (Phil. 3:14). I’m talking about “the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Faith that perseveres looks to the future and visualize the promises of God, in all their fullness. It was this “forward looking faith” that helped the Faith Hall of Famers to persevere.
“Having seen the promises afar off.” The word “promises” is a metonymy—a figure of speech in which one word is substituted for another with which it is closely associated. The word “promises” is a metonymy for the “things promised.” Literally, the Faith Hall of Famers “had received” their individual promises—whether it be deliverance from destruction, children to a barren couple, or a future homeland (vv. 10, 14,16). The “things promised” were the spiritual blessings of the Gospel dispensation and the future heavenly inheritance. Each one died in the firm expectation of the promised Messiah and in believing views of the heavenly glory. In their “mind’s eye”, they had an inner awareness of what the promises meant—in all their “fullness.”
“were persuaded of them, and embraced them.” To be “persuaded” means to convince someone to believe something and to act on the basis of what is recommended. In this case, it is God who provided the promises. The Hall of Famers confidently believed based on the veracity of God. To “embrace” means to salute or greet. Based on God’s assurance, they “eagerly welcomed” (versus acquiesced to) their destiny. They moved forward with full confidence.
“confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” To “confess” implies expressing openly one’s allegiance to a proposition or person. The Faith Hall of Famers desired more than this world had to offer, especially after seeing the promises afar off. They fixed their eyes on those things which are above where Christ is seated (Col. 3:1). If they regarded themselves daily as earthlings, they would not have retained the vision of faith and may have been tempted to turn back.
The order of the aforementioned verbs teaches us an important practical lesson on developing persevering faith. First, we must envision the promises of God. Then, based on the Giver of the promises, we confidently accept, believe, and rest on the reliability of God’s word. It is here that our faith becomes grounded. Lastly, faith “sees” with understanding, is “persuaded” in the heart and “embraced” by the will.
In a society where instant gratification is the norm, faith that perseveres requires a daily commitment to “forward looking” faith. This letter to the Hebrews was to press upon them and us, the critical need for a faith that would last, wear, overcome obstacles, and endure until the end. Like the Faith Hall of Famers, the eyes of our heart must see the blessings God has promised and be persuaded that in due season, they will be ours. We are to joyfully anticipate our future as opposed to present advantages. Faith that perseveres single-mindedly looks to the future with an eye on the Provider who “according to His divine power has given us exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:3, 4).
SELAH: Ask God to share with you His plan for helping you to persevere in your faith. What does God want you to “see” with your understanding, be “persuaded” in your heart, and “embrace” in your will?