The Two Chairs and Christianity's Better Way
In Hebrews 11, the author gives example after example of what faith looks like. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. But faith does not guarantee an easy life. An easy life isn't the point. The point is getting to Jesus. We often look to this chapter for the encouragement to keep pressing on, and we should do just that. But unlike what the prosperity gospel preaches, the life of faith is not always blessed in this life. It doesn't always take the shape of big bank accounts and sculpted bodies. It very often looks rather scrawny and full of scar tissue. But behind the veneer of shame is the weight of glory.
As the author nears verse 32, he runs out of time to continue his string of examples. So he sums the rest up.
And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
Notice the results are not the same for all. Some are victorious in this life. Others aren't. This is not a difference of faith but a difference of circumstance. The faith is the same because the faith is put in the same God. God has no obligation to give us happiness, material wealth, good circumstances, and so on in this life. The blessing of God is primarily future-oriented. True faith sees beyond circumstances. No matter what happens – in victory or in defeat – faith reaches into heaven and draws salvation from the throne of God.
Francis Schaeffer uses an illustration of two chairs.
“According to the biblical view, there are two parts to reality: the natural world-that which we see, normally; and the supernatural part…I would suggest that this may be illustrated by two chairs. The men who sit in these chairs look at the universe in two different ways. We are all sitting in one or other of these chairs at every single moment of our lives. The first man sits in his chair and faces the total reality of the universe, the seen part and the normally unseen part, and sees truth against this background. The Christian is a man who has said, ‘I sit in this chair.’ The unbeliever, however, is the man who sits in the other chair. He sees only the natural part of the universe, and interprets truth against that background. Let us see that these two positions cannot both be true. One is true, one is false. If indeed there is only the natural portion of the universe, with a uniformity of natural causes in a closed system, then to sit in the other chair is to delude oneself. If, however, there are the two halves of reality, then to sit in the naturalist’s chair is to be extremely naïve and to misunderstand the universe completely…
“However, to be a true Bible-believing Christian, we must understand that it is not enough simply to acknowledge that the universe has these two halves. The Christian life means living in the two halves of reality: the supernatural and the natural parts…
“Being a biblical Christian means living in the supernatural now, not only theoretically but in practice. If a man sits in the one chair, and denies the existence of the supernatural portion of the world, we say he is an unbeliever. What shall we call ourselves when we sit in the other chair but live as though the supernatural were not there? Should not such an attitude be given the name ‘unfaith?’ ‘Unfaith’ is the Christian not living in the light of the supernatural now. It is then Christianity that has become simply a ‘good philosophy.’”
The question Hebrews 11 asks is this: is Christianity a good philosophy or is it a wholly new way of life? Faith in Jesus causes us to leave behind the shadow of the Old Testament and cling to the realities of the New Testament. Our journey is not to an earthly promised land, but to a heavenly home prepared for us by Jesus. Will we believe in the promises of God and let those promises inform and transform our lives, or will we live as if what Jesus accomplished is a good thing but ultimately insufficient?