Wednesday, February 09, 2011



We have been making our way through the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews. And in verses 32-40 the writer begins to make some general swipes over the history of faith. And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. (Hebrews 11:32-40) Wow! Who wouldn't want to have these experiences of faith? This list is amazing!

God specializes in using ordinary people and producing extraordinary results through them! Gideon (Judges 6:13-14) believed the promises, but was pretty shaken up as to how God does His work! Barak (Judges 4:5-6) believed, but wouldn't go into battle alone! Samson (Judges 13:24;16:28-31) believed but his strength became his weakness! Jephthah (Judges 11:9) was a son of a harlot, but was a valiant warrior! David (I Samuel 16-17) was a young lad whom God mightily used to stop the giants! All of these are illustrations of ordinary faith!

Now, let's go on in this list. The writer shifts gears at this point and continues with people who have the same kind of faith, but in each of the experiences now listed the results are all negative, filled with pain and heartache. This sort of result is rarely referenced. Listen to this: and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; and others experienced mockings and scourgings, yes, also chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were tempted, they were put to death with the sword; they went about in sheepskins, in goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, ill-treated (men of whom the world was not worthy), wandering in deserts and mountains and caves and holes in the ground.

Then, in summary of these faithful people with the same faith as those he listed earlier, he says: And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be made perfect. So these people who walked by faith didn't receive the ultimate answers to their prayers that were to be culminated in the coming of the Messiah. But now that the Messiah has come, we who place our faith in Him are actually completing their faith. We are partners in this walk of faith.

This is spelled out more completely earlier in this same chapter in verses 13-16. All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.

In the next chapter we find out how ordinary faith is exercised. Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

This faith-walk with God is all about being in a race-the race of life. You are already entered in this race. There is no way to back out. It's a win or lose kind of race. To be a winner you must exercise your faith and trust in God.

There are four observations here I want to make: FIRST-There are already a lot of winners who stand as witnesses, all testifying that it is winnable and the victory is worth all the effort spent in the race.

SECOND-To win you must follow certain racing procedures. You must put off all encumbrances that might weigh you down in this race. Marathoners don't run in combat boots or heavy clothing. Also, you must put aside that sin-that weakness-that so easily entangles you.

THIRD-Fix your eyes on the best example ever in this race of life-Jesus. All that Jesus did and said can become your model for racing well in this life.

FOURTH-Count on God to turn the results of your faith-whether positive or negative-into something meaningful and extraordinary.

Your ordinary faith will allow God to produce extraordinary results with eternal value to your life. It's ordinary people living by faith, leaving the results completely in the hands of the God of gods that will make life extraordinary. You know what this faith-walk really comes down to? God doesn't want to change your circumstances until he changes you! So, God's work is all about you after all!