In my opinion, Hebrews 11 is built around Hebrews 10:39. Maybe it’s a fine line to discuss, but let’s run with it for a bit. Bible students know that Hebrews is written to those Jewish believers who were being lured back into lawkeeping and away from the Jesus who delivered them in grace. The encouragment of the letter is to never leave Jesus because you would always be leaving for something or someone inferior. And one reason we shouldn’t leave is because we’re not like those who shrink back …we believe.
I was thinking about some of the heroes I had as a kid. One was a preacher … his name was Richard Travis. Richard and Nancy were young in the ministry in Luling, Louisiana. Richard took me visiting with him. He got me a speaking gig at Rotary Club. I still have the notes on “Why I Love America”. In true Lads to Leaders fashion it was an acrostic. Richard is the one who had me up in front of the church praying, preaching, leading songs … he invested a lot of time in my young spiritual life. I lost touch with Richard during my freshman year in college and haven’t heard from him since. I wish I knew how he was.
Outside of church, in the comic book world, Spiderman was definitely my hero. You can have Batman with his pointy ears and Superman with his red-drawered-suit (Sorry Neil and Mason) … but I’ll always take Spiderman. Peter Parker was my hero. Other heroes? In the wrestling ring….nevermind we don’t need to go down that road….besides, the Junkyard Dog is no longer with us.
I bet you have heroes … and that list in Hebrews 11 doesn’t fall short. Abel, Enoch, Abraham, Moses…it’s a very WOW list. I think the part starting with verse 13 characterizes the list for us:
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
These were people who did not shrink back … they held on to God and were saved! They knew that something was happening that they couldn’t see … but they accepted it anyway. Some have to have everything spelled out in black and white, syllogisms, conclusions … science … but ultimately we take a step and suppose that there is something underneath the foot. Off in the distance is God’s ultimate work, and we accept it as it is. That is faith.
But look at this list closely. “By faith the prostitute Rahab…” What in the world is SHE doing in this list? This is for HEROES! Upon closer look the list loses some of it’s gloss. Noah – the ark dude – big hero, right? Nobody ever talks about DRUNKEN Noah – and that’s after the flood. And LIAR Abraham who even tried to make God’s promises come true by having an ADULTEROUS LIASON with Sarah’s handmaiden. Gideon who just couldn’t believe God … two times … three times. Samson who was so wrapped up with Delilah he lost all of his strength and ultimately his life. ADULTEROUS David who wasn’t above a convenient lie. MURDEROUS Moses who hid the body in the sand. Oh yes, they conquered enemies and led powerful lives but it was not their personal power and charisma that made them people of faith. In spite of their faltering steps they were heroes of faith because they did not shrink back, they believed and were saved.
I notice four things that Heroes of Faith do:
- They Always Hang On
- They Always Look Up to God for help
- They Always Come back when they wander from the Father
- They Always Believe even when it seems unbelievable
You may think that this fantastic chapter is about someone else, but it is about you friend. You belong in this chapter. You’ve been through the wringer … and sometimes it was of your own doing … but you’re a Hero in God’s Kingdom. I think you have powers you haven’t even discovered. You won’t run into a phone booth and come out with a cape. You can’t destroy your Enemy with a web shooting from your wrist. You can’t swoop down from the shadows to rescue the innocent. But I know two things you can do. Stand firm in your faith – do not shrink Back. And believe God. In your weakest moment when belief seems so small, hang on to it … and ask God to help you believe even more. He will answer your call. He loves his army of flawed Heroes.
“…anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)