November 2, 2009
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight… others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated…wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground. Hebrews 11:32-34, 36-37
This Saturday, November 7, will be a special day in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Seven years after Congress authorized its creation, the Flight 93 National Memorial will finally break ground.
This site will overlook where United Flight 93 plunged into a remote field on September 11, 2001, while its passengers and crew fought to resist a terrorist attack on our nation’s capital. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar heads the delegation of elected officials, relatives of those who died, first responders and National Park Service representatives who will gather for the solemn occasion.
What took so long, you might ask? Well, as a National Parks Traveler post notes, there were all kinds of problems getting to groundbreaking day. The severely criticized master design had to be reworked. Fundraising is still $20 million short of its goal. Land acquisition hit many snags. September 11, 2011—the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks—is the memorial’s hoped-for Dedication Day.
Family members at Saturday’s event will undoubtedly be flooded with both comforting and difficult memories. Speeches about the bravery of the forty people on board Flight 93 will most likely be included. They will be called heroes, and rightly so.
When I think of heroes, I’m always reminded of the “Hall of Faith” in Hebrews 11. An interesting exercise is to read through the entire chapter, then go back in the Old Testament and read about each person and episode cited. But beginning at verse 32, the details change, and no more specific names and stories are mentioned. As The Wycliffe Bible Commentary puts it:
The writer [the author of the book of Hebrews remains uncertain] resorts to piling
up examples, because of the impossibility of taking each case separately. The list
is impressive including some of the Judges, the greatest of Israel’s kings–David,
and one of her greatest prophets–Samuel.
The list of deeds is equally impressive. In some cases the incidents referred to are
well known; in others they are more obscure. In each instance, however, something
typical of those who live by faith is brought out. The faith that makes such deeds
possible, deeds of valor, might, courage, or perseverance. And those are the
kinds of experience that those who live by faith are called upon to endure.
WHAT? We should expect being sawn in two?? Not necessarily—unless, of course, you become a magician’s assistant. Seriously though, the sobering, uncomfortable truth bluntly stated by the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:12 still stands: everyone who wants to live a godly life in Jesus will be persecuted. Sure, most of us may never be subjected to the mistreatments recounted in Hebrews 11—thrown into a den of lions, tortured, beaten or put in jail, or forced to live in a cave because of our faith. (If you’re like me, when you hear about the trials and tests of fellow Christians in other parts of the world, you pray for them, wonder how you would react in the same circumstances, and then pray again that you’ll never find out!) But Scripture is pretty clear that we should be prepared for some kind of negative consequences as we follow Jesus.
Oh, but there’s a memorial in the works for those who stand firm in the faith! It may seem like a long time coming, but it’s on the way, says the apostle John:
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated on it…
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne,
and the books were opened. Another book was opened, which was
the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had
done as recorded in the books…Nothing impure will ever enter [heaven]
nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those
‘whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.
(Revelation 20:12, 21:27 )
Whatever we are called upon to endure in serving the Lord, whatever deeds of valor, might, courage or perseverance we might perform in His service, let us press on for this highest honor, the most fabulous heroes’ welcome we could ever imagine, straight from the mouth of the Hero of Heroes:
“Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21, 23)