Editorial: Faith’s Victors and Victims

Bad things happen to Christians. Frequently, the advice they are given by well-meaning believers is to “just trust God.” No better advice could be given – but what do we trust God for? Is it the successful end to the problem? Everything working out “happily ever after?” Or do we learn to trust God in a different manner? It brings into focus the question, “What is faith?”

Most minds turn, and rightly so, to Hebrews 11 when any discussion about faith is raised. It is the chapter of the heroes and heroines of faith. As the writer runs out of room to detail the lives of those he would like to include, he lists a long group of people in a general way, without mentioning all their names (Heb 11:32-38). The list contains victors in their conflict with the world (vv32-35a), but it also contains a list of those who were victims to the world (vv35b-38). It tells of those who were homeless and never recovered their homes. It recounts some who were slain and tormented, who wandered in deserts and mountains. They were never vindicated; they were far from being “victorious” in the eyes of the society in which they lived. Were they deficient in faith? Were they somehow marked by less faith than those who were in verses 32-35? There was no happy ending to their trials!

All of this helps to bring into better focus what faith and trust really are. We do not trust God to bring about the ending of a trial in the manner we would like. We have no basis for such faith. Faith always requires a word from God (Rom 10:17); it is believing what God has said. He has not told me that my trial will end in glorious victory to the awe and astonishment of all who look on. I have no Scripture to promise me that the storm will end in dramatic fashion. He has assured me that anything that comes into my life comes with the potential to make me a better Christian (James 1:3, 4). Faith, then, is primarily in the Word of God and in His character.

Trusting God in the storm means that I am content to leave all in His hand. I may emerge a victor or a victim. But in either case, I am actually a victor. God can use any and every trial, regardless of how painful the circumstances, to bring about spiritual good for me. It may not initially come packaged as such, but trust in God assures me that, in the end, His wisdom and skill will triumph.