Recently, I was commenting on a blog that was talking about the power of influence. As I rambled a bit, not my worst ramble by far, I found myself talking about walking by faith, Hebrews 11…and my “comment” got longer than I planned.
I decided to follow my thoughts here. After having a post nearly ready to publish, it just didn’t sound like me. Well, maybe it sounded too much like me before I edit! There were too many details, too much vague-osity and it just didn’t hang right. No matter what I did, it couldn’t be edited. I had to start over again! I am now officially collecting myself!
THE HALL OF FAITH
Take a few minutes and read Hebrews 11:1-12:2. It will set the tone for our conversation as well as give you a considerable amount of food for thought. Yes, I could write a “devotional” about all the things I get from this fantastic passage that are immensely encouraging…but how do you learn best?
By hearing/reading predigested material from someone else, or by reading it, thinking about it, what it means, and how it applies to your life today? Personally, I do better with the latter. The truths I find may not be as profound as those found by a commentator, but what I hunt for and find for myself whets my appetite to know more and understand more about the truth I come across in Scripture. Then I read and study.
LEARNING FROM OTHERS
That isn’t to say that I don’t have plenty to learn from teachers, pastors, writers and commentators. I am just saying that often reading a devotional book isn’t all that helpful to me. I am often distracted by the non-applicability of their application or comment to my situation…or even to the passage.
Yes, I’m unlikely to write a devotional book. I won’t say “never” because that would almost guarantee that it would probably happen someday! But at this point in my life, I can’t picture it…at all!
Now that I have rambled so far from my point, let me focus and get back to it! The Hebrews 11 passage on faith. Another title for it could be “Faith, What it Looks Like”.
WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM HEBREWS 11?
I won’t begin to tell you all the interesting things I thought of to ask myself as I was reading this chapter. I think my brain can manufacture questions at an alarming rate! Here are a few observations I made based on the passage. How about you?
- These were ordinary people. When we read their stories in Scripture, we learn how ordinary they really are!
- They were not perfect people. I think it is safe to say that their flaws were clearly obvious. No fakes here!
- Some of the people mentioned weren’t even particularly “good” people! They failed miserably at times, but God’s assessment was that they were people of faith. When I see a man like Samson (immoral) or Gideon (fearful) on the list, I am very encouraged!
- Part of the definition of faith mentioned in verse 1 is that it is “…the conviction of things not seen.” For many of them, the “not seen” part was a large part of the promise. Take Abraham’s “not seen”. The promise was that a great nation would come from him, yet that wasn’t even close to being fulfilled in his lifetime.
The promised Messiah coming through that same people? Almost an impossibility to imagine! He never saw anything close to a nation yet. But he died in faith. He still trusted the faithful God who had kept His promises so far, so he would continue to trust Him to keep not only that promise but the even more important one of sending a Redeemer through the people of Abraham who would bring redemption to the world.
- Along with these observations, comes one that almost goes without saying. But it is the realization that faith does not come naturally to us. Look at Abraham. He is described as a man of faith, yet look at all the times his faith failed.
He didn’t have “enough” faith to believe God could protect him and Sarai both in Egypt and with King Abimelech…so he lied about his relationship to her saying she was his sister. He put her in great jeopardy of course, but in the end, God protected both of them. His faith also failed when he agreed to use Hagar as a surrogate of sorts…since it seemed like God wasn’t coming through with His promise.
- The last point I’ll make here, but probably the most important, is that faith has less to do with quantity, and more to do with the object of it! Walking by faith as we trust the Eternal God who created the Universe, who is Sovereign over all things, yet who loves us, is merciful and kind but has all of that in balance with His justice.
This is a dependable God I can trust. He is powerful. He is not taken by surprise when an event happens because He knows all about it. There is nothing that happens when He is taking a nap or looking the other way! He knows all things. Yes, it can be very disturbing when something happens that is heart-breaking, but in the end, it is comforting to know that it didn’t take Him by surprise. This is a God I can depend on to keep every promise He makes…He has the ability to keep ALL His promises.
As I try to write about faith, I find it difficult. But the faithful God who guided Abraham, Noah, Moses and the people of Israel, He is the one we can trust. Even when faith is so unnatural for us. Trusting is not easy. We are prone to want to prove ourselves. We want to show that “I do it” (as my almost 2 year old grandson says…even when he really can’t). We have that innate desire for independence. We want to show that we can be good enough for God.
But the only reason we could be so wrong is because we don’t stop to consider the holiness of this God. As my friend Mike says, “He is the sun. We are an ice cube. In His presence, the ice cube cannot continue being an ice cube!” That is a great picture of a holy God compared to me, a sinful person. I melt! I can’t exist in the same form.
The only One who could bridge that gap was the Holy God-man, Jesus. Not only did He have to provide a means for me to exist in His presence (justification) but He had to give me the faith to believe (turn on the lights so my spiritually blind eyes could see).
How great is it that we worship a God who is so HUGE! And He calls us to walk with Him, providing what is needed for us to do just that. What Amazing Grace!
photo: © Anthony Furgison | Dreamstime.com