Whenever you feel complacent a good antidote is to turn to Hebrews 11. This historical narrative, filled with characters of every kind and inclination, is so rich with stories of God’s intervention, provision, and providential kindness that it is nothing short of breathtaking.
To read about them is like gazing in wonder at Rembrandt’s enormous 3m x 4m painting, “The Night Watch.” There is shape, shadow and colour everywhere; brightness and light, shadows and foreboding. There is no avoiding the elephant in the room — we know every person mentioned committed some misdeed, but we also know about the wonder of grace — we don’t fully understand it, but we have also experienced it.
The “who’s who?” list
I think we all (or at least I hope we do) want to replicate what we have read and imagined from the wonderful story, and take time to pause, reflect and enjoy the fact that they were all “men and women like us” (James 5:17)? What is interesting, even here in the narrative of Hebrews 11, is the message of grace. It’s subtle but overwhelming once you see it. It is an unapologetic record of those who pleased God,
“By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice;”
“By faith Enoch was translated;”
“By faith Noah built an ark;”
“By faith Abraham went out into a place that he should afterwards receive;”
“By faith he sojourned in the land of promise;”
“By faith Sarah bare Isaac;”
“By faith Abraham offered up Isaac;”
“By faith Moses gave up the wealth of Egypt;”
“By faith Isaac blessed Jacob;”
“By faith Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph;”
“By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departure
of the children of Israel;”
“By faith the Red Sea was dried up;”
“By faith the walls of Jericho fell down;”
“By faith the harlot Rahab was saved;”
“And what more shall I say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gideon, and of
Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthah, of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets.”
Those names matter!
You will have undoubtedly skipped over a few of the names, but these people’s names matter – God is commending them for their faith. And there were others. In the face of great power, they saw God’s remarkable answers to prayer, and some, despite not seeing what they expected, showed great faith by remaining faithful, refusing to turn away from God’s promise. Yet not one of them is commended for their faithfulness. That magnificent award is kept for God alone. It is God who keeps and watches over us. He is the Rock that never moves. Jesus does not appear in the list of these outstanding people, but he is the one behind their stories.
I want greater stories of God’s interventions, greater miracles, greater healings and a greater sense of God’s Presence in the Church. This is not a prescriptive rule; we can’t force things to happen, but I think that’s when faith makes a difference.
God has not forgotten the Church – it’s time for an unprecented move of God – whether you’re ready for it or not!
Remember Moses just casually feeding sheep and then everything changes; a bush, a fire, a voice and then a commission?
Remember Jacob going for a walk and suddenly finding himself wrestling with God all night?
Remember the thief sentenced to death and suddenly being given eternal life in Paradise?
Remember the day you woke as a sinner and went to sleep reconciled to God, justified, holy and blameless?
Remember, remember, remember …
What time is it?
Are we hearing great sermons that are inspiring, intellectual, full of alliteration, with clear, creative, and challenging messages today in our predominantly middle-class churches whilst sadly losing the radical edge – signs and wonders accompanying the word?
I’m convinced it’s time to see some changes, time to step out in radical faith, and time to see God move. Time to see the gifts of the Spirit lavishly flowing amongst God’s people in an expression of His tidal wave of grace
The apostle James told us to draw near to God, and He would draw near to us; our problem is finding Him, so we can draw near to Him. In looking back at biblical characters and even the recent, historical figures who saw God’s moves and works, it soon becomes apparent that there is a single common trait; a level of trust and obedience expressed in faith.
Follow the leading of the Spirit
The starting point to seeing and experiencing these things is being obedient to God’s word and the leading of the Spirit – “Whosoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21)
Our intimacy with Jesus will grow through obedience to Him. If we want to know the Father, it’s not enough to simply love Him; we must also obey Him. The Bible is explicit that we need to know the Father through His Word, and if we want to be a part of what the Father is doing and to be able to see where He is going, we must not only be biblically literate but biblically obedient. That’s not something that comes easily or as a default position, but it is something we endeavour to grow in.
Obedience – Trust and obey!
Trust in the Lord with ALL your heart
Trust and obedience must go hand-in-hand and that means in difficult, awkward and hard-to-understand circumstances, we choose to trust. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
That is one of the most important texts in the Bible for us – trust is also an obedience issue. We are commanded to trust the Lord. Therefore, total commitment to Jesus means trusting even when we don’t know the whys or how’s of what’s happening all around us daily.
It is encouraging to read about all the people mentioned in Hebrew 11 who were marked by trust and obedience, but it is also encouraging to note that like us, many of them had their mistakes.
Hebrews 11 is not a benchmark for us, but it is a reminder that all things are possible if we trust God; faith is having confidence in what we hope for and assurance regarding what we do not see.
My confidence is we will see an unprecedented surge of people turning to the Lord across the entire nation as a result of a major outpouring of the Holy Spirit. My assurance is that we are going to see that happen!