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Be willing to suffer disgrace for Christ

(Written by Pastor Tim Redfield)

Hebrews 11:24-26 – By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.

 

In chapter 11, the author of the letter to the Hebrews is taking us back to many Old Testament examples of faith. These faithful men and women were willing to suffer many things for the sake of their coming Savior. God had given them a strong trust in his gospel promises. Even when they were threatened, they stood up for their faith. Verses 24-26 remind us of the life of Moses. If we look at the verse 23, we read this, “By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict” (Hebrews 11:23). Moses’ parents were a good example of faith.

The pharaoh at that time had made a decree that every baby boy born to an Israelite woman was to be put to death. Moses’ parents were not going to obey this edict. They knew that it was important to obey God rather than this decree. They hid Moses for three months and then they put him in a basket coated with tar and pitch and placed it in the river. Pharaoh’s daughter discovered Moses and had compassion on him. That was when Moses’ life of luxury began. He was brought into Pharaoh’s house and he was given a royal treatment. He received the best education and he was exposed to all the treasures that Egypt could offer. All of this was leading up to the time when his faith would move him to serve his Lord full time.

Moses needed to decide if he was going to continue to live in all the luxuries of the Egyptian palace or was he going to be recognized with his blood relatives. Verses 24 and 25 tell us, “By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.” Moses could have lived the good life by Egyptian standards. He could have had great wealth and much earthly happiness. He could have had an Egyptian wife and many children. But in order to do that, he would have had to turn his back on his people. He would have had to turn his back on the mission that the Lord wanted him to carry out.

Even though Moses lived approximately 1500 years before Jesus, he understood the words of Jesus would speak in the future. Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Luke 9:23). Moses denied his sinful desires to have great earthly wealth and a comfortable life. He knew that he needed to be mistreated along with God’s people because God had called him to lead the exodus out of Egypt. When Moses approached Pharaoh to ask for the Israelites to be let go, it led to much suffering for the Israelites. Pharaoh made the work load much more difficult. And yet this was all necessary so that God could be glorified. God showed his great power by delivering his people from Egypt.

If we scan through the pages of the Bible we can find many more examples of believers being oppressed because they were following God’s Will. One such example is taken from the life of Joseph. Joseph had already gone through suffering when his brothers had sold him into slavery. When he was in Egypt, living his faith led to more suffering. He had been put in a position of authority in Potiphar’s house. He was the chief servant. While he was carrying out his responsibilities, Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. Joseph responded by living his faith. He said, “How can I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9).

Joseph’s faithfulness didn’t stop Potiphar’s wife. She tried to seduce him again. When she failed she went to her husband and accused Joseph of being the one who was trying to tempt her into sexual sin. Potiphar responded by having Joseph thrown into prison. Joseph suffered because he stood up for God’s law. God used Joseph’s imprisonment to eventually put Joseph into a position of great authority in Egypt. God used Joseph to protect his believers during a time of great famine.

What is our response when we are tempted with the pleasures of sin? Do we respond like Moses and Joseph or do we fall into temptations? The temptations before Moses and Joseph were temptations toward great wealth and temptations involving sex. Certainly these temptations are very common in our world today but we know that there are many more sins before us all the time. It is very easy for us to look the other way when it comes to sin. It is far easier for us to just indulge in these sins. If we indulge our sinful nature, there will be many people who support us. Unfortunately, these are not the people God wants us spending our time with.

God wants us to give up the pleasures of this world. This is incredibly difficult to do. People are going to oppose us. People are going to think that we are strange for wanting to be different. They may even try to harm us when we haven’t even done anything wrong. Just look at what happened to Joseph. We are going to suffer for following God’s Will. And unfortunately, there are going to be many times that we fail to give up the pleasures of the world. We are going to mess up. We are going to sin. And then the world will make us suffer even more because we weren’t perfect like the law demanded that we should be. So we’ll suffer when we follow God and we’ll suffer when we sin.

Why then do we go through this suffering? If we are going to suffer for following Christ, then why not just give in to the world? We are willing to suffer for Christ because our eyes are focused on the eternal reward.

Verse 26 reminds us why Moses endured suffering. It says, “He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.” Moses had his eyes on the prize. He knew that God was planning to send the Messiah. He knew that God was going to bring all his people safely to the eternal kingdom. Any earthly suffering was going to be temporary. All earthly wealth will eventually perish. The real and lasting joy is found in God. God keeps his promises.

In Luke 9 Jesus tells us, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life” (Luke 9:22). Jesus endured the greatest suffering and he did it all for us. Jesus never questioned this suffering. He willingly went on trial. He willingly offered his back to those who beat him. He endured the agony of the cross. He accomplished our forgiveness. His suffering gives strength to believers of all ages to endure suffering.

During the time of the Apostles, Christians were strongly persecuted because of their faith. Unbelievers would create false accusations against Christians so that they could imprison them or even put them to death. Most of the apostles were executed in some way because of their faith in Christ. Some Christians were forced to go into the Coliseum in Rome simply so that hungry lions would devour them in front of the crowds. These Christians stayed strong because of the power of Christ working in their hearts. These Christians knew their eternal reward.

Still today there is strong persecution of Christians. The only way that Christians around the world can endure persecution is through the grace of our loving God. The Holy Spirit works in the hearts of his believers to keep our focus on the eternal reward. We understand that we cannot always resist the temptations of the world. That is because of our sinful nature. But the only way that we can endure, the only way that we can follow God’s Will is through the love of Christ working in our hearts. Every response of faith worked in us is a gift of the Holy Spirit. He keeps Christ at the center of our hearts and minds. He keeps the message of the cross in front of us.

Jesus’ incredible love for us motivates us to endure suffering. There will be many kinds of suffering. There will be ridicule directed at us for holding to all the truths of God’s Word. There is always the possibility of physical persecution because of our faith. Just because it hasn’t happened yet is no guarantee that it won’t happen in the future. The eternal home in heaven helps us to endure everything in this world. Jesus won the prize for us and he gives us the reward.

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