Question: Is Faith a Gift or a response? If it is a gift why are we responsible for exercising it?
Dr. R. C. Sproul and Dr. John MacArthur:
Question: Is Faith a Gift or a response? If it is a gift why are we responsible for exercising it?
Dr. R. C. Sproul and Dr. John MacArthur:
The doctrines of unconditional election and predestination and effectual calling tend to root out all boasting and pride and self-reliance. If you ever get gripped by these things, you will be a broken person. You will not take one ounce of credit for your salvation: neither the provision of it in the cross, nor the application of it in faith. You will give it all to God and you will humble yourself before him.
“Could it be that many of the struggles in our lives are owing to the fact that we never knew how we got saved?”
Now here again, in talking with my friends who don’t agree with me, this is one of the things they say. They say: Piper, you don’t need to say that faith is a gift in order to eliminate boasting. You don’t need to say that God gives faith. All you need to do is say that salvation is by faith, not by works, because faith itself rules out boasting. And then they quote Romans 3:27, which says: “[Boasting] is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.” And they say: See, faith all by itself excludes boasting. You don’t need to be driven by logic to say that faith is a gift in order to rule out boasting.
To which I respond, two-fold: One, I am not driven by logic to say faith is a gift. I am driven by exegesis. It is taught in the Bible. It is icing on the cake that it happens to smash pride. But that is not the reason I invent it. It is taught in the Bible that faith is a gift. We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). Nobody would ever believe and perform the most beautiful act of morality that can be performed, namely faith, if God didn’t enable us to get rid of our hard hearts and have a heart of flesh. But that is not the main response.
My main response to this criticism is: Yes, yes. Faith eliminates boasting by itself. Why? Because faith in the New Testament is faith in all of salvation, not only a piece of salvation. New Testament faith is not just faith in God to provide us with the cross. It is faith in God to work in us that which is pleasing in his sight. Faith in the New Testament doesn’t just say: I choose you, Christ. Faith in the New Testament says: I rest in you, Father, to draw me to Christ. Of course faith rules out all boasting. It is faith in everything the Bible says, not just a little piece of what the Bible says.
Suppose that you were drowning in a lake and the Son of God were standing on the beach and he saw you drowning and he tossed you an inner tube and it landed in your vicinity and you flailed your way over to it and got hold of it and paddled your way to the shore, gasping. You’d thank him for the inner tube at least.
But suppose that you were dead at the bottom of a lake and your family was dragging the lake for you, missing you since the morning. And you had been an enemy of the Son of God all your life, rejecting him and spurning him. And he walks up and says: You can put that stuff away. I will find him. And he swims out and dives down and pulls you up and pulls you to shore, lays you down, kneels down, and works on you all day, all afternoon, works and works. And all of the sudden, there is a twitch of life and you breathe and you are alive again. And he falls at your side exhausted.
And you get up on your knees and you look down at his face with tears of love streaming down your face, and you hear a voice from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son. With him I am well pleased. Rise, my Son.” He comes up and he stands up and he looks down at you and you see in his face more personal affection for you than you have ever seen in any face in all the world. He puts his hand down very gently and yet very firmly takes your hand and pulls you up and looks you in the face and says: “Follow me and I will work everything together for your good all the days of your life.”
Which way did you get saved? Did you flail your way over to the inner tube and kick your way to heaven? Or did you get raised from the dead? How are you going to give God glory today? How are you going to sing “Amazing Grace”? He threw the tube and I swam to it, 50 percent to God and 50 to me — 90 to God and 10 to me — you name it.
Brothers and sisters, could it be that many of the problems and struggles in your life today are owing to the fact that you never knew how you got saved. And therefore you have never known Christ. You lived a half life with God. You thought it was half yours and half his. And this morning maybe all of the sudden you can wake up to what he did for you so that you could start loving him with an appropriate affection, so that you could be humbled to the dust. Could it be that this would be the day you would be awakened to life because you heard the gospel for the first time in its power that it was God who slammed to the bottom at the cost of his Son’s life and pulled you up — and not just heaved you an inner tube or waited for your self-determined flailings to get you onto the boat?
Many in our day equate bold faith with a kind of claiming that does not allow for God’s Sovereignty regarding the outcome; the idea being that real faith will ALWAYS produce the most desirable results, namely healing, promotion, deliverance, rescue and financial gain.
There is no doubt that many scriptures promise such things. However, we must always understand that even with those promises, we should factor in the Sovereignty of God, knowing that He is Lord over exactly when these promises are fulfilled.
For some of God’s precious saints, the deliverance and rescue will be experienced in this world. How we thrill when this happens! What mercy and favor we see in this!
For others, physical deliverance will not take place this side of glory. Their rescue will be seen in the world to come.
There, in heaven, we will be free of all pain, hurt and insufficiency.
There, no blindness or short-sightedness will affect us. Our eyes shall see the full beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ in all His regal and majestic splendor.
There, no deafness will diminish our ability to hear Christ’s soothing voice calm our inner-most fears.
There, no physical restriction will afflict us. No blood bought saint in heaven will be confined to their bed or wheelchair for even a moment. Each of us will dance for joy in the presence of the King. As the hymn writer put it, “what a day of rejoicing that will be!”
All of these earthly and heavenly blessings were purchased by the Lord Jesus Christ as part of our great salvation and redemption, and He is the One who determines when this should take place in the life of each believer.
Think of the three Hebrew children, in Daniel chapter 3. Sentenced to the fiery furnace for their refusal to bow before the image of Nebuchadnezzar, we read, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.” (v. 16-18)
Did you catch that? They were saying (in so many words), “God WILL deliver us. We believe He will protect us miraculously even in the fire, but here’s the deal…. EVEN IF HE DOES NOT we will not bow to the image.”
That is biblical faith in operation – clinging to the promises He has made while at the very same time, leaving the results completely in God’s Sovereign hands.
We see the exact same thing in Hebrews 11 in what is sometimes called “the faith hall of fame.” These are the champions of the faith. But notice what their faith did for them.
For some: GOOD THINGS
“who through faith conquered kingdoms (good), enforced justice (good), obtained promises (good), stopped the mouths of lions (good), quenched the power of fire (good), escaped the edge of the sword (good), were made strong out of weakness (good), became mighty in war (good), put foreign armies to flight (good). Women received back their dead by resurrection (good).” (v. 33-35)
For others: HARD THINGS
Some were tortured (hard), refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life (hard). Others suffered mocking and flogging (hard), and even chains and imprisonment (hard). They were stoned (hard), they were sawn in two (hard), they were killed with the sword (hard). They went about in skins of sheep and goats (hard), destitute (hard), afflicted (hard), mistreated (hard)— of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts (hard) and mountains (hard), and in dens and caves of the earth (hard). (v. 35-38)
Those who endured the harder things IN NO WAY possessed a lesser faith than those who experienced the good things. In both cases, their great faith in God is noted and applauded. Faith allowed some to see dramatic and positive answers to prayer, even the miraculous, while others endured the harshest possible experiences of life and even the cruelest kinds of death, with their trust and hope in God still intact.
That, my friends is true, biblical faith. That is why Revelation 12 reads the way it does. Faced with the threat of martyrdom, a direct result of the devil’s opposition, we are told that the believers “conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Rather than being delivered and rescued in this world, their faith kept them true to Christ, even when it meant certain death. They were not defeated. This was a massive victory. They overcame the devil even at the cost of their lives. What a testimony to the keeping power of God!
God answers every prayer that is based on His promise to us. Sometimes His answer is “yes”, sometimes “no” and sometimes “wait a while.” When we see immediate answers to our prayers, we rejoice in God’s provision. When no immediate answer seems to come and we are therefore asked to wait, it is with faith and patience we inherit the promises (Heb. 6:12).
In 2 Corinthians 12, we read of Paul’s thorn in the flesh. We are told that in order for Paul to not be filled with excessive pride a messenger of Satan (a satanic angel) was sent to buffet him. God allowed this in order to fulfill His purpose for Paul – character being more important to Him than temporal comfort. Whatever the exact nature of the “thorn in the flesh”, obviously Paul did not like it one bit. He repeatedly asked God for deliverance from it. We read:
“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (v. 7-10)
When sometimes, the answer is “no”, as was the case here with Paul’s thorn, may we look to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith, and find all the strength and grace we need to endure. The Christian knows that in every situation, good and bad, God is working out His purposes for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28), and His grace to us is sufficient, whatever it is we encounter in this world. All things occur through the loving sieve of His Sovereignty. True faith believes that, and therefore endures, seeing Him who is invisible, who is always watching over His word in order to perform it.
Truly God answers all our prayers. He delivers us from all our afflictions. But as to exactly when He fulfills His promise, faith leaves in His Sovereign hands and remains content to do so.
but is the fruit of spiritual regeneration.” – John Calvin
“The entire work of salvation is God’s work exclusively; nothing derives from humans, it is all pure grace.” – Herman Bavinck
“The reason that the brilliant minds do not accept Christianity is that all minds are blind, unless they are regenerated.” – Edwin Palmer
“If I was not a Calvinist, I think I should have no more hope of success in preaching to men, than to horses or cows.” – John Newton
“The Arminian says ‘I owe my election to my faith.’ The Calvinist says, ‘I owe my faith to my election.’” – J. I. Packer
Acts 13: 48; 16:14; Eph 2:8, 9; Phil 1:29
Text: Ephesians 2:10
What is the nature of true saving faith? How can we tell the genuine from the counterfeit?
but, she said, “I wouldn’t go back up north to save my soul.” I said: “Well, you and I differ at this point. I have no desire to go back north either, but if it meant the saving of my soul, I wouldn’t hesitate to go.
When we say, “I wouldn’t do this or that to save my soul,” we’re speaking in a jocular fashion. I dare say those who use that phrase have not given any real thought to the literal meaning of their words. They are not making any kind of statement about their souls. They are simply using a popular expression.
But in the seventeenth century, the church and people in the wider culture were very much concerned with the salvation of the human soul. The Westminster Confession of Faith manifests this concern, setting forth the biblical requirements for salvation in some detail. In chapter 14, the confession lays out the key prerequisite for salvation. The title of the chapter is “Of Saving Faith,” and it begins with these words: “The grace of faith, whereby the elect are enabled to believe to the saving of their souls, is the work of the Spirit of Christ in their hearts… .”
Take careful note of those first four words. The confession does not simply speak of faith. Rather, it calls our attention to “the grace of faith.” It calls faith a grace because it comes to us as a gift from God—something that we cannot buy, earn, or merit in any way. The usual definition for grace that we have in theology is “God’s unmerited or undeserved favor.” So faith is a manifestation of the grace of God. Simply put, those who are saved are enabled or empowered to believe to the end of the salvation of their souls. Faith is not seen as an accomplishment of the human spirit. In fact, faith is not something that is naturally exercised by a fallen human being.
Herein lies the crux of the matter that provokes so much controversy in theology. On the one hand, God requires faith, and yet on the other hand, Scripture says that no one can exercise saving faith unless God does something supernaturally to empower or enable him to do so.
In an article entitled “Faith Has Its Reasons” Dr. R. C. Sproul writes:
Christians from every theological tradition have for centuries confessed their faith by reciting the Apostles’ Creed. Elsewhere I have taught on the actual content of this creed, but if there is one aspect of this confession that we often fail to reflect on, it is the creed’s opening words: I believe.
Here I want to consider faith in relation to what are often seen as its opposites—reason and sense perception. Epistemology is the division of philosophy that seeks to answer one question: How do we know what we know, or how do we know what is true? Reason, sense perception, or some combination of the two have been among the most common answers to this basic question.
Our minds function according to certain categories of rationality. We try to think in a logically coherent manner. Our judgments and deductions are not always correct and legitimate, but our minds always look for logical, intelligible patterns. Some people say that we find true knowledge exclusively within the mind. These “rationalists” stress the mind and reason as the sources of true knowledge.
The mind processes information that we acquire with our five senses. Our minds act on what we see, hear, feel, smell, and taste. Perception is the experience of being in touch with the external world, and “empiricists” emphasize sense perception as the true basis for knowledge.
The scientific method combines sense perception and reason. In scientific experiments we gather facts with our senses. Our minds then draw conclusions, reasoning through what our five senses discover. Some want to oppose this way of learning to faith, but I don’t find in Scripture the idea that faith is irrational or anti-sense perception. According to God’s Word, reason and sense perception form the foundation of knowledge. Faith rests on this foundation but takes us beyond it.
We live in the most anti-intellectual age of history, and even many Christians believe we can compartmentalize faith as a way of knowing completely separate from sense perception and reason. Yet as Augustine told us centuries ago, how could we receive knowledge from God if it were not accessible to the human mind? Could we say that “Jesus is Lord” without some understanding of what the term Lord means, what the verb is indicates, and who the name Jesus refers to? We can’t believe the gospel without our minds understanding it to a degree.
Christianity also features a book—the Bible—that is designed for our understanding. Why would God give us a written document if faith bypasses reason entirely? Moreover, sense perception is key to the biblical story. Luke wrote down those things to which he had eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:1–4). Peter said the Apostles didn’t proclaim clever myths but what they saw with their eyes and heard with their ears (2 Peter 1:16). The biblical writers tell us about actual events in history that they experienced. Christianity isn’t ahistorical. God reveals Himself with reference to history: He is “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob” (Ex. 3:16).
Faith never requires us to crucify our minds or deny our senses. It’s not virtuous to take a “leap of faith” if that means we plunge into irrationality. The Bible never calls us to leap into the darkness but to leap out of the darkness into the light.
The New Testament defines faith as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things unseen (Heb. 11:1). This doesn’t mean faith is against what we see. We are called to trust Him whom we haven’t seen—God—but He hasn’t remained wholly invisible. We have seen the Lord’s handiwork in this world, which Calvin called “a magnificent theater of natural revelation.” One day we’ll see Him directly in the beatific vision of His glory, but until then, He has not left Himself without a witness in creation.
Revelation is the third category of knowledge. Christianity is a revealed religion. The Christian God is not mute. When we talk about faith as the evidence of things not seen, we’re talking about believing the Lord who has spoken. Not just believing in God but believing God. Believing God for things we cannot see now is the essence of faith, but it’s not an irrational or unscientific faith. God makes it very rational for me to believe He’s there. He’s shown Himself in the created order. He’s broken into time and space. Jesus came in the flesh, was seen, and rose from the dead in history. The Apostles testify to these events in Scripture, recording those things they witnessed with their senses.
It’s not irrational to believe in the One who vindicated Himself as the incarnation of truth. This is not blind faith but faith that embraces testimony. The real opposites of faith are not reason and sense perception but credulity and superstition. Credulity, or naive believism, believes something that has no basis in reality. Superstition believes in magical things that have nothing to do with Scripture.
We find superstition and credulity throughout the church. That’s why we continually measure our faith by the Word of God and make sure we are assenting to the reasonable, historical testimony of the prophets and the Apostles to the triumph of Christ. Faith is not mere intellectual assent. We aren’t saved simply because we affirm the truth of certain facts but because we trust the Person whom those facts reveal. So, faith is definitely more than knowledge. But it is not less.
In an article entitled “Helpful Questions for Discerning a Credible Profession of Faith” Jeffery Smith writes:
Ebenezer Morris was a powerful preacher in Wales, little known about today. He lived and preached during times of great revivals there and went home to be with the Lord at the age of 56 on Monday, August 15th, 1825. There’s a whole chapter devoted to his life in Volume Two of The Calvinistic Methodist Fathers of Wales, (reprint 1897, trans. John Aaron 2008 [Carlise, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2008]).
A couple of days before his death two young preachers came to him seeking his advice. What he told them included a very important caution. Before I quote it let me explain that the term “seiat” was the Welsh term for a Welsh Calvinist society meeting. These were organized societies of converts gathered for prayer, teaching and mutual exhortation. They were really, in essence, local churches, operating outside of the established Anglican church of the time. Morris told these two young preachers:
“If you two are allowed to live long then no doubt you will see a period for religion when hardly any new convert joins the seiat. At that time, do not drag unexercised men into the church but wait for God, and seek him, who in his own good time will succeed the work. God gave a promise to Abraham of a son, but Sarai felt the time was long and despaired that she would ever have the privilege of becoming a mother, and so she gave Hagar to Abraham, and Ishmael was born. He was not the son of the promise and this brought much sorrow to Sarai afterwards. So also, you must wait for God’s promise, and not go after the flesh, unto the children of the promise are found for the Church.”
This is very wise counsel, counsel much needed by many of us who are pastors. It speaks to the necessity of requiring a credible profession of faith before receiving a person into the membership of the church. In our church we have what we call a membership interview with any one asking to become member, as do many of you. Below I give a sample list of suggested questions that can be helpful in charitably discerning the credibility of a person’s profession insofar as we are able and required to do so as men who cannot see the heart. In fact, we have actually sometimes given these questions to younger converts and asked them to take them home and write out brief answers to bring back to us in a subsequent meeting. I’m not suggesting that all of these questions should be asked in a membership interview or that all, or any, of them should be handed out to take home to write out answers. I just mention these to give some ideas of the kinds of questions that might be asked. Good, carefully thought out, questions can go a long way in helping us discern where a person is and in guarding the church from the danger Ebenezer Morris spoke of in the quote above. Perhaps, pastors reading this blog might find these helpful. Some of these have been picked up from the suggestions of others. In cases where we actually hand out a document with these questions for a person to take home, at the top is the following introductory paragraph:
Please take the time to think carefully over these questions and answer them in your own words. These are not trick questions so don’t be nervous or worried. We simply desire to know about your understanding of the gospel and what God has done and is doing in your life and to encourage you to think about these things. This will also help facilitate profitable interaction in our membership interview.
Here are the questions that follow:
Are you a sinner? What makes a person a sinner?
Have you ever felt that you deserve God’s wrath and punishment because of your sins? If so why do you think that?
Besides outward sins what are some sins in your heart that you’ve been guilty of that God has shown you?
When Jesus died on the cross what was he doing that has to do with the salvation of sinners?
Can God just forgive sinners or was it necessary for Christ to die on the cross for God to do that? If so why was it necessary?
Are there any good works that you have done that you believe make it right for God to receive you as his child and take you to heaven? If not what are you trusting in for acceptance with God?
What are some verses of scripture that give you hope and comfort when you think about your sins and your relationship to God?
Do you ever pray and read your bible? If so how often?
What are some ways God has changed, or is changing, your attitudes and behavior?
What are some things God has been teaching you lately?
Do you desire, with God’s help, to follow and obey Christ in everything with no exceptions?
When God convicts you that you have sinned in some way what do you do?
Are there any problems you have in your relationship to any of the members of the church?
Do you ever get anything out of the sermons? If so could you give an example of a sermon, or of something in a sermon, lately that has helped you? If so how did it help you?
Eph. 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Phil 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake…
2 Pet 1: 1 To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ…
Phil 1: 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
John 6: 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
John 10: 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.
Heb 12: 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…
THE FAITH YOU GAVE ME (A Prayer) by John Samson
I once thought that the grace was your part, the faith my own, but now, through Your word, I see that You gave me faith as a gift – yes, You gave me the gift of trust, the gift of confidence, the gift of an assurance that You are true, that You are all You say you are, and that You will do all You say. Oh, how I thank You for this! Left to myself I would never have come to You, would never have trusted You, and I would never know the assuring, priceless comfort of Your promises. But You did not leave me to myself, but you granted me faith to believe You and when I did so, You justified me forever.
I know that faith is simply a belief in You, a faith that does indeed lead to action on my part. Romantic feelings between couples ebb and flow and my fear was that what I feel about You today may not last forever. How this fear robbed me of sacred and blessed assurance – the assurance of my salvation. Could I keep this thing up? Would I feel the same thing next Friday as I do today? Would I really? Really would I?
Now I know that You complete every project You start. This faith is much more than a feeling, but a sure and steadfast confidence that Your promises are true. You are the ground and depth of my faith. It is You (not me) who began the good work in me and therefore You will bring it all the way to completion. By Your grace I will be found trusting You ten thousand Fridays from now. The faith that You require is the faith You Yourself gave me, and this faith is not a casual temporal interest in You, but a faith that endures all the way to the end. That is its very nature.
Oh, how this knowledge thrills my soul. My faith is not the product of my prone to wandering heart, but the gift of a Sovereign and sure Savior. I once thought that the one thing I brought to the table of redemption was my puny but hoping faith… now I see that this faith I have was something You gave me. It is as strong and eternal as You are, unshakable in the midst of trial… a constant sure thing when all around me fails!
And even when my faith seems to fail… even when I might lose sight of You and even deny You by my words or my actions, and start walking in another direction, like Peter before me, you pray for me that my faith would not fail and I am turned around so that I see You once again. You do this Lord, over and over again, and that is why You never lose any of Your true sheep.
Oh how this truth sets me free… Salvation is truly of the Lord.
Lord, when I feel weak and when faith seems to be failing, I now know that all I need do is look away from Me and look instead to You. You will help me to look up and see You, Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith. Yes, yes, yes, You are the source of my faith. You are faith’s initiator and perfecter. Though frail and tiny, my faith looks to You now and will always look to You to find a God big enough and trustworthy enough to rest in. I do believe You Lord and I know I always will. This is not because of some feeling I have, but because Your word teaches me that my confidence in You is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that for even this, I cannot boast.
Oh how I love You Lord. Oh, how I love You.”
The writer of Hebrews outlines what many have called “the Hall of Faith” in Chapter 11. Here we see the actions of those who have faith, the outcome was very GOOD; for others it was extremely HARD. Any yet in either case, they are commended for their faith.
Hebrews 11:32 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— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms (GOOD), enforced justice (GOOD), obtained promises (GOOD), stopped the mouths of lions (GOOD), 34 quenched the power of fire (GOOD), escaped the edge of the sword (GOOD), were made strong out of weakness (GOOD), became mighty in war (GOOD), put foreign armies to flight (GOOD). 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection (GOOD). Some were tortured (HARD), refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking (HARD) and flogging (HARD), and even chains and imprisonment (HARD). 37 They were stoned (HARD), they were sawn in two (HARD), they were killed with the sword (HARD). They went about in skins of sheep and goats (HARD), destitute (HARD), afflicted (HARD), mistreated (HARD)— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains (HARD), and in dens and caves of the earth (HARD).
Once again – whether the people enjoyed seeing God’s miraculous power or whether they endured terrible hardships, they were commended for their faith.