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…choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin… – Hebrews 11:25

heb 11.25

Moses’ parents’ faith led to his being born, preserved, and used by God to lead the nation of Israel out of Egypt. His faith was instrumental in his decision to leave Pharaoh’s house and live as who he was – a Hebrew. Now we see that not only did he desire to be among his own people and forsake the life he could have been afforded as an “adopted” Egyptian, but even beyond that he was willing, by faith, to choose affliction rather than the passing pleasures of sin. Let’s look at each phrase in this verse and study it to see what faith means in day to day choices.

First, by faith, because he was trusting God, he chose to suffer affliction with the people of God, and secondly in making this choice he was rejecting the opportunity of enjoying the passing pleasures of sin.

Choosing to Suffer Affliction 

As we have discussed previously, often today there are false teachers all over the place preaching and teaching and exemplifying a life without any suffering or affliction. They preach that if we have real faith then we will not suffer. Get that? Here in Hebrews 11, because Moses had faith that was pleasing to God, real faith, he chose to suffer affliction. And yet these false prophets today proclaim that if we have faith we won’t suffer affliction in any area of our lives. What Bible are they reading? 

Moses knew that his people were suffering under the hands of the Egyptians. He knew they were being forced into hard labor and being abused and mistreated. He knew what the life of a Hebrew entailed in that day and time in Egypt. By faith he stepped right into that life. He chose by an act of his own will, informed by his faith, to suffer affliction with the rest of his people. 

Now I do not think that we should react to the false teachers of the day by seeking out suffering as if it were a sign of godliness. In fact, that is another error just as serious as the Word- Faith poison. It is wrong and Biblically ignorant to claim that we will never suffer. It is just as ignorant to want to suffer just because we think suffering makes us pleasing to God. Suffering is uncomfortable and it hurts. Suffering for selfish reasons or self-righteousness does not bring one any closer to God than does sending $1000 to the TV preacher. 

The fact is, we will suffer in this life, and while we may not want it, we know it will come, it is part of God’s will, and it will end up for our good and His glory. The Word of God promises that those who follow Christ will suffer, and that suffering is cause for joy and hope as suffering proves our faith. 

We might need to preach that these days, that following Christ is a guarantee of suffering. Yes, and “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim 3:12). We should encourage people to count the cost. Too many in the church are nothing less than baptized pagans[1] – they have not counted the cost, they are not trusting Christ, they are faithless and hopeless. 

We will suffer, but the Bible is clear, when we do we should check to see that we are suffering for the right reasons:

Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evildoer, or as a busybody in other people’s matters. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter. For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? – 1 Peter 4:12-17

According to the Bible we suffer for a number of reasons – to prove the genuineness of our faith, because we are following Christ, or at times as discipline because we have sinned. But Moses by faith chose the affliction that came with being part of the people of God. He decided to be who God had created him to be, a Hebrew. He chose by faith to suffer affliction with his people.

The Passing Pleasures of Sin 

He did this, by faith, because he would rather suffer with God’s people than enjoy the pleasures of sin for a time. Notice the great truths here. Notice what we learn about sin. We see that sin is indeed pleasurable. That is why it is so tempting. What fun would it be if sin was not pleasurable? If it did not appeal to the lust of our flesh, the lust of our eyes, and our pride of life, what would be the temptation? 

This reminds me – I recall an incident one Fourth of July out in West Texas. A friend and fellow minister of mine had us over with his family for the city’s parade and fireworks after a great cook out in the panhandle town of Muleshoe, Texas. One of his young nephews was out playing with the dogs and was standing near an electrified fence – a fence hooked up to an electrical current used to dissuade cattle from pushing against it and getting loose. The young boy’s dad called out and warned him about the electric fence and told him it would shock him if he touched it. So what did he do? 

Now wait a minute. He thought this out. Really. He told us later that he thought about what his dad said, looked at the fence, wondered if it was true that the fence would shock him and hurt. He trusted his dad but his curiosity got the best of him. So while no one was looking, he decided to see if the fence shocked. But here is the hysterical part of this thinking – he did not want to get shocked so he thought he would see if it shocked the dog. How would he get the dog to the fence, the dog who lived there and knew about the fence? When the dog ran under the fence he lowered his otherwise always wagging tail so as to avoid the shock, but this little boy had it all figured out. 

Suddenly we all heard a dog YELP and a SCREAM. As we turned to see what had happened, the boy had a hold of the fence with one hand and the dog’s nose with the other! He figured if he touched the fence and the dog at the same time then the dog would get shocked. Little did he understand that the current would go through him on the way to the poor pooch. 

Boy – we still laugh about that years later. He was curious and tested it. It hurt. Now tell me, if he knew that the fence would hurt would he have touched it? See, he did not know about the hurt. Hence he was tempted and disobeyed his dad. 

How often do we doubt that sin is hurtful? We know about the pleasure – the momentary fulfillment and satisfaction, the gratification of that minute of pleasure, but the sting of sin is death. Sin hurts. It kills. The pleasure is passing – brief, short, here one minute and gone the next. So we do not doubt that sin is pleasurable. Therein lies the temptation to put self first and do what we want (lust) instead of being obedient and resisting (love). Hopefully as we mature we learn the true danger of sin and see through the counterfeit and false offer of pleasure. Hopefully, we will learn to pass the momentary pleasure of sin for the eternal benefit of obedience. 

That was Moses as he was living by faith. Trusting God. Choosing suffering and affliction instead of the passing pleasures of sin. Do we have that view of sin? Would we rather suffer affliction than enjoy sin? It is easy to say yes to that question, but what does our life show to be the case? Do we chose more often than not to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin or do we deny self, even if it means suffering? 

Do you see sin for what it is? Do you by faith chose to do what is right no matter the cost? Do you trust God and His Word enough to stand against the cheap and passing pleasure of self-indulgence? By faith, do you walk in obedience? Does your faith work?

(tomorrow: Faith for the Future)

 

[1] http://blog.togetherforthegospel.org/2006/03/baptized_pagans.html

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