I love reading and watching biographies, because people have done such amazing things with their lives. Whether it’s innovative ideas, overcoming surprising odds, amazing commitment to friends and family, or heroics to achieve a positive outcome. Biographies are great. They’re inspiring. Hebrews 11 is a chapter filled with mini biographies of God’s people, telling some of the things they have done through the Bible. How do we make our life count and make the kind of impact that God destined us for?
Glimpses Of An Unstoppable Life
When I first became a follower of Jesus in my early 20’s, I was captured by God’s Word and the impact it had on my life. If there was any way that I could get that word into the lives of others, I was keen. I strongly resonated with the apostle Paul when he said, ‘it has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not know’ (Romans 15:20). I wanted to bring to others the blessing that I’d been brought.
But of course as we set out in life to pursue our dreams, sometimes we get bogged down. Life is hard. Reality is not always as shiny as our dreams and visions. How do we keep going towards the things that God has laid on our hearts?
The Temptation To Shrink Back
For the first audience of the book of Hebrews, reality had become so gruelling, that they were tempted to give up. The writer warned them, ‘do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded’ (Hebrews 10:35). Maybe you feel a bit like that at times. You feel like it would easier to keep your head down, get through each day with minimum fuss and to avoid ruffling too many feathers by going after your dreams. What could get us going forward, if we’ve been tempted to shrink back?
In the book of Hebrews, the key response to all that God is done is to have faith in the promises found in Jesus. The writer defines faith this way:
‘Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.’ (Hebrews 11:1)
We are called to hear God’s Word and to listen and act based on His voice, even before we see any tangible evidence of it being worthwhile. We believe that God is real (11:3) and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him (11:6). We get clear examples of faith, through Hebrews 11, as the author brings forth example after example of those from the Old Testament who lived by faith.
One pertinent example is Noah:
‘By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.’ (Hebrews 11:7)
It’s fascinating to think about Noah building his ark. 135m x 23m x 14m. Cypress wood, covered inside and out with tar. Obviously this is not that impressive compared to todays coal ships which can be 200 to 250 m long and 18m deep. Yet, it always takes great faith to be the first one to do something. Further, Noah wasn’t building his boat to go straight in the water. He was building it because he believed what was unseen. That God had spoken of a coming flood. Imagine the resources that Noah poured into this boat, by faith. Yet, when the rains finally came, his faith was vindicated.
We are to be like Noah and believe what God says. We are not rely on what our eyes can see. But how do we build that kind of faith?
How To Build Faith
The simple answer to this question that the author to the Hebrews gives, is to look at others who live by faith in the unseen. We get to see the unseen as others trust God words and then we see the outcome of their lives. And if we want the greatest example of faith, we look at Jesus Christ, who even faced death itself, with faith that he would be raised again from the dead - forever.
'Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.' (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Jesus lived by faith perfectly. He endured suffering, shame, mistreatment - all while trusting that there was a better end to His story. And so He was rewarded by the God who is unseen. He was raised to new life and now sits at the right hand of the Father. The more we look at Him and consider His life and the outcome of His life, the more our faith will grow and we will be able to take God at His Word, and not give up.
Continuing In Faith
The writer puts our job very simply:
‘You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised… we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.’ (Hebrews 10:36, 39)
We are to continue to trust God’s Word, to believe what he says and not what the world around us shouts at us. In doing this we will be richly rewarded, in this life and the next. We will live the life we’ve been made for.
About the Author
Jai Wright is a Christian Minister, who founded and leads MAKE Church in Mackay, Qld. He recently published the book, Life Plugged In: Connecting with the Source of Peace, Power and Purpose.
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