Read His Words Before Ours!
As my friend appeared amidst the crowd of other runners, I could see she was struggling. She was around twenty miles into her marathon, and exhaustion was kicking in.
As she came closer, we began cheering! She looked up, and her face brightened. She stopped to chat for a few minutes, and, spurred on by our encouragement, she ran on with fresh energy.
The next day she told us she had been on the verge of giving up, but knowing we were there, cheering her on, had given her the strength she needed to finish the race.
This is the imagery of Hebrews 11 in describing a “large cloud of witnesses” cheering on the believer in Jesus. The Christian life is described as a race requiring endurance, and we all need support to keep going at times. I love how both Hebrews 11 and the song “By Faith” provide us with encouragement by pointing us to the lives of believers in Jesus who have gone before us.
As we glance through the list of Old Testament characters in Hebrews 11, we see inspiring acts of faith, radical obedience, willingness to follow God into the unknown, hope in the seemingly impossible, and courageous choices to do what is right rather than what is easy.
We also see some of the amazing results of those acts of faith. By faith, seas part, walls fall, kingdoms are overthrown, and seemingly impossible promises come true.
It seems the key to faith is steadfast focus on the One who cannot be seen.
“Faith is the reality of what is hoped for,
the proof of what is not seen.”
Each of these people walked daily in faith because they steadfastly looked beyond their present circumstances to the certainty of coming Hope. Instead of being fixated on the here-and-now, they “confidently looked forward to a city with eternal foundations… a heavenly homeland.” (Hebrews 11:10, 16 NLT)
In times of war, famine, persecution, slavery, and various other challenges of life, they found hope by focusing on God and His promises.
“By faith the prophets saw a day
When the longed-for Messiah would appear,
With the power to break the chains of sin and death
And rise triumphant from the grave.”
While it’s inspiring to read these examples of faith, it can also feel daunting. We read, “without faith, it is impossible to please God,” (Hebrews 11:6) and it’s easy to wonder if our faith is enough. How can we possibly measure up to these great heroes?
It’s important to remember that, despite their faith, none of these people were perfect. Abraham had amazing faith, but he also had his moments of doubt. Gideon was fearful. Samson was impulsive and reckless. Each of these “heroes” were flawed and sinful, but because God worked in their faith, they “gained strength in their weakness.” (Hebrews 11:34) Their stories aren’t about them; rather they tell of the mightiness of God!
“By faith we see the hand of God…
…In the lives of those who prove His faithfulness.”
The work of faith does not all depend on our faith,
but on God’s faithfulness to us.
This is astounding!
It is not about how much faith we have, but Whom our faith is in. Even faith the size of a mustard seed has great power if placed solely in Jesus. (Luke 17:6)
Hebrews 11 tells how faith gives no guarantee of an easy life, reassuring us that trouble and suffering are not evidence of absent faith.
While many faithful heroes saw God working through their faith, sometimes in miraculous ways, for others the results were drastically different as they “experienced mockings and scourgings, as well as bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawed in two, they died by the sword, they wandered about in sheepskins, in goatskins, destitute, afflicted, and mistreated.” (Hebrews 11:36-37)
Despite the trials they faced, they persevered by trusting their God while He carried them through. Their faith may not have led to earthly rewards, but they knew the finish line made every difficulty worth it!
Hebrews 12:1-2 urges us to let these examples encourage and spur us onward in our own journey of faith, always remembering it isn’t in our strength we are called to finish the race, but by keeping our eyes on Jesus, “the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
“We will stand as children of the promise
We will fix our eyes on Him, our soul’s reward
Till the race is finished and the work is done,
We’ll walk by faith and not by sight.”
Embracing God’s fullness in our lives is rooted in scripture and memorizing His word is vital to our continued growth and depth with Jesus. Tap and hold from your mobile device to download this week’s verse and make it your phone’s lockscreen!