All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
The heroes in Hebrews 11 weren't heroes because of their achievements. They were heroes because of their faith. Today there is a new hero in the faith hall of fame. Last night my beloved friend Claire went home to be with the one who loves us so much more than we ever could know. I have introduced Claire to you before on the blog. She was diagnosed several years ago with terminal liver cancer and God worked a miracle. Her story is here.
Not too long ago, I had an email to say her markers were up and they were concerned the cancer was back. Her liver was fine but they discovered she had adrenal cancer. Things weren't going too well. Several weeks ago, I awoke with an overwhelming sense that I needed to go home and see Claire, that she would not be around at Christmas (when I would next be home), so I took some personal leave and flew home. We had a great visit - several visits. I did not tell my friend I came home for her, as she was clinging to life and believing for healing. I had a strong sense that her time was short.
Claire to me, is one of the heroes of faith that Hebrews talks about. She saw the promise, she believed for healing. She knew God could heal, she chose to believe he would heal and she clung to him ... as the storms raged, she turned her face towards his ... as the waves shook, the ground trembled and more bad reports came ... she clung to her loved family, and she clung to Jesus. Claire saw the promise from afar, and died without having attained it.
Our last conversation was full of God ... full of love and full of grace. I could see that she wanted so desperately to live but my sense was God was calling her home. This past week as I would think of her and pray for her, I had a picture of two trapezes - the point where they come together and the trapeze artist moves from one trapeze to the next. However in my minds eye, I could see Claire with a hand on each trapeze ... clinging to life, her loved family ... and the other trapeze calling her away from them, to let go and go with God. I cannot imagine her journey. I cannot imagine what it is to be 39 years old with a husband you love, boys you love, a life that you love, and have to let that go. It seems premature, but maybe a month ago, I was comforted with the scripture in Phil 1:6 "being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will see it through to completion in Christ Jesus". I felt that God was saying that when Claire's race was finished, his work would be complete. It is not premature. Her journey was complete. God's work in her was complete.
The thing with death is that it is a lonely journey. In Claire's case, she had huge support from her church and family ... but still in the end ... this transition is one that only each of us can walk. Our friends and family cannot make that walk with us until it is their time. As I meditated on that, I was thinking how it is not a journey we make alone. We have a saviour who walked that road. I thought of Gesthemane and how Jesus faced that journey ... he didn't want to go there either. He knew the difficulty of making that transition and has walked it. I thought of my friend and prayed that God would show her the way, walk beside her, ease her pain and help her to make the transition. I prayed that if God would not heal her, that he would ease her suffering and take her home. And God has. And I am sad.
That is the difficulty for those who are left behind. We grieve and we mourn and we have a huge hole. Please pray for Richard and James, Tom and Sam, along with their extended family and friends as they are left grieving the loss of their dear one.
I want to close with Claire's own words:
As I lay sick in my bed for months I simply reached out to God himself and He touched me. I sought the healer rather than the healing. I learnt to live in His presence and He comforted me. I knew joy in the midst of turmoil, peace that passes understanding and His love being poured out over my life ... God walked with me hand in hand. I communed with Him and entered into the ‘holy of holies’. When God walks with you, you have no fear. Even though I looked death in the face it had no sting, as the bible says. I had no fear of dying because I knew where I was going and who I was going to be with, if I was to die. Whether God healed me or not I would win.
Claire ... You won. You ran an amazing race. I thank you for the good times, for the love, for the joy of being with you on the mountaintops and the privilege of walking a tiny part of the way with you in the valleys. Run free my friend and enjoy being able to sit at his feet and gaze upon his face. He has you. We will miss you.