32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. 35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated–38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.(Heb 11:32-38 NIV)
A politician recently was quoted as saying that when he decided to enter politics his mother advised him to “be tough, but don’t become hard.” She gave him good advice. One definition of tough is “Able to withstand great strain without tearing or breaking; strong and resilient.” This is the quality that, according to Hebrews 11, faith imparts to human lives. Not just faith in something or anything, but faith in God, the creator and redeemer. Faith in God makes people tough, enables them (us) to withstand great strain without breaking or tearing. Godly people have been able to endure pain, grief, and loss of every kind imaginable, and not just endure, but triumph over it, because of their certainty that God is there and he cares. By faith, Christians are equipped for survival. Characters like Abraham, Sarah, Rahab and Gideon faced a dangerous and often ugly world with winning toughness. They could face dangers, losses, and radical changes in their world and go on, because they had faith, and faith made them tough.
It’s good to be tough strong and resilient.
No one ever was tougher than a man named Jesus. His original disciples and those who’ve come to him through the ages have learned from him to be tough, to say like Paul “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” and “I can do all things through him who gives me strength” (Phil. 4:11b, 13). Nevertheless, being tough doesn’t mean not caring and it doesn’t mean not hurting. Followers of Jesus do not learn from him to be hard impenetrable, uncaring or unfeeling. Jesus was tough enough to deal with the cross, but was deeply affected by the pain and isolation of his suffering, and soft enough to take care of his mother and forgive his tormentors. He was tough, but not hard. He still experienced all the pain of his situation, and coped with it, and he still cared about crucified robbers and confused followers.
Everyone needs to be tough strong and resilient, and no one should be hard uncaring, unfeeling,impenetrable. And Christians have the resources to be both tough and caring. Like the followers of God in other eras, our weakness can be turned into strength (Heb. 11:34) and we can become powerful.The same God who made them tough toughens still. The same faith that transformed them transforms still.
One Tough Lady
Rahab is mentioned in Heb. 11:31 as an example of faith. She’s also mentioned in James 2:25 in a similar context coupling faith with action, and in Matt. 1:5 in the genealogy of Jesus. She was the mother of Boaz who married Ruth, the great-great-grandmother of King David. Her position of honor in scripture is remarkable, especially considering that she is first introduced to us as a Canaanite prostitute living in a condemned city (Joshua 2). In fact, despite her cooperation with Joshua’s spies and her expressed confidence that Israel would win the coming battle, which greatly encouraged the morale of Israel (Joshua 2:8ff, 2:23ff), Rahab was not readily accepted into Israel, but was treated as an unwelcome foreigner, a second class person who didn’t belong in the camp of God’s people (Joshua 6:22-23), an outsider. But Rahab, the untrained woman of faith with the unacceptable background, was tough enough to turn her back on her whole world, tough enough to reject Jericho and embrace God, and tough enough to face a skeptical and cold reception from those she had joined. Rahab was tough enough to provide for her family (Joshua 2:12-13 & 6:22-23) at great personal risk. Tough enough to face days of uninformed confinement as she waited for Israel’s victory (Joshua 2:19) and keep the secret required of her. Tough enough to face, not a hero’s welcome, but unfriendly rejection from those she’d aided. And tough enough to stick it out and start a new life among the Israelites who didn’t want her, earning their respect and establishing a family of her own with a tribal leader from the family of Judah. Rahab was one tough lady, tough because of her faith in God, and tough (not hard) because she cared about her family and her own future.