3. Handling Shame
King David implored, “let no one who waits on You be ashamed”. It is true that defeat and ridicule at the hands of the enemy brings shame. It is as true in a spiritual battle as it is in a physical battle. Not only is the shame itself a concern, but there is the concern from the risk of becoming ashamed. It is this risk of being ashamed that has the potential of holding people back from trusting in God.
Paul could see the issue in shame when he wrote to the Romans. In the first chapter of Romans, he spoke of his preaching.
Rom 1:15: So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. 16. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." NKJV
He was very quick to point out that he was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ”. Given the writings of Paul, this is no surprise, but it emphasises that people could be ashamed of it.
A great example of this type of shame can be seen in Peter at the time of the crucifixion. Before the event Peter and the other disciples were confident and supportive of Jesus. They claimed that they were ready to die for him:
Matt 26:30.: Peter answered and said to Him, "Even if all are made to stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble." 34. Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you that this night, before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." 35. Peter said to Him, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" And so said all the disciples. NKJV
History shows that, for better or worse, they failed. Once the movement had started to condemn Jesus, his followers were in jeopardy. It was no longer healthy to be a follower of Christ. At a minimum, you would suffer shame at the defeat of your leader, and at worst you could suffer the same fate. Against this context, Peter is reluctant to admit association with Jesus. During the trial, he denies this association.
Matt 26:73.: ...those who stood by came up and said to Peter, "Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you." 74. Then he began to curse and swear, saying, "I do not know the Man!" Immediately a rooster crowed. NKJV
As Jesus had predicted, the prophecy had come true:
Matt 26:31: ...'I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.' NKJV
This was perhaps a situation where the temptation to deny Jesus was very great, but these were also very great men. It shows that there is a very real risk of allowing shame and fear to get in the way of trust in God.
In Romans 1, Paul also connected this idea to the Old Testament quotation “The just shall live by faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4) Paul claimed that it was his faith that kept him from being ashamed. Perhaps more correctly, he knew that gospel was not something to be ashamed of, through his faith. The reason why it was not shameful is that it is the power of God to salvation.
Rom 1:16: For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "The just shall live by faith." NKJV
If it were not really the power of God to salvation, then it perhaps could be something to be ashamed of. In other words, people could justifiable think you were foolish in believing the following the gospel, if the power of God were not in it. It could be a really silly thing, if it were not for that one thing. The truth, power, and salvation are in the Gospel - and for that reason we should not be ashamed of it.
Paul linked the concept of endurance to faith, quoting the Habakkuk passage. The writer to the Hebrews also builds on the Habakkuk message, talking about faith. In this case, the faith is linked to endurance:
Heb 10:35.: Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36. For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise: 37. "For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry. 38. Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him." NKJV
So here we have confidence, endurance, and faith. It is saying that:
- You should not cast away confidence
- Instead you need endurance, or patience.
- The just shall live by faith, and will not draw back.
“Casting away confidence”, and “drawing back from faith” here refer to very similar concepts, and both require endurance. It was this endurance that was displayed in David and in Job. The book of James confirms this for the case of Job. In chapter 5, he speaks of the endurance of the prophets:
James 5:10.: My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience. 11. Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord -- that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful. NKJV
In this case, James was recommending these experiences as examples to the followers of Jesus. It was to show that suffering and the need for patience were to be expected. Indeed he alludes to the blessing for those people who do endure.
After introducing faith in chapter 10 of Hebrews, the writer the devoted the entire eleventh chapter to examples of faith. After speaking of the faith of people such as Abel, Noah and Abraham, the statment is made that their faith appeared to be in vain.
Hebrews 11:13.: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. NKJV
This statement was possibly referring directly to Abraham and his family, but it is also applicable to the faithful before, and after him. Specifically, they had died without receiving the promises that they had received. Their great actions had been motivated by their faith in these promises, yet they never received them. Not only that, but each of these people had seen that the prior faithful had not received these promises.
This raises the question of what visual evidence they used to maintain their faith. It is very difficult to have faith in something if you have not been given any evidence to suggest that it is true.
The subsequent verses form an explanation for this anomoly:
Heb 11:13. : These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. 15. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16. But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them. NKJV
The reason for their faith was that they could seen the promises from “afar off”. They knew that the promises were not for that time, and were content to wait for them. They were content to wait, because they knew that what the promises offered was a future that was much better than the present day of their time.
As in many other psalms, in psalm 68 there is a reference to the mighty acts of God. In the context, David refers to these acts as evidence of the power of God.
Psalm 68:4.: Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name YAH, And rejoice before Him. ... 7. O God, when You went out before Your people, When You marched through the wilderness, Selah 8. The earth shook; The heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God; Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel. NKJV
These examples show that there had been evidence for God. This evidence, however, in part stretched right back to the time of Moses and the release from the Egyptians. Even at the time of David, the exodus was considered one of the great works of God. However, it had been a long time ago. Even though it was only a few books ago in the Bible, it had been hundreds of years between the Exodus from Egypt and the time of David. In terms of provability those events were possibly no closer to them at the time than they are to us now.