“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..” (Hebrews 11:33-34).
That is an impressive list of accomplishments. Yet as I read back through the chapter I am equally impressed with the following:
They were Unexpected Heroes
Many of the individuals who are listed as great heroes or examples of faith in this chapter did not appear to be impressive when we first encounter them in the biblical record:
- Rahab is a Harlot when she is first introduced in the Biblical record.
- Gideon (11:32) when we first meet him; describes himself in the following manner: “How shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house” (Judges 6:15).
- When God sent Samuel to the house of Jesse to anoint the next king of Israel, David was not the prime physical specimen in the household. In fact, God reminded Samuel who was thinking that one of David’s older brothers was the obvious choice, “Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7). In fact, when David arrives on the scene where Goliath is taunting the Israelites, David is not viewed as a deliverer, but as a pest (1 Kings 17:28), and completely unqualified to face Goliath on the field of battle (1 Kings 17:33).
In Many Cases the Circumstances Were Against Them
What I mean by this is that very few of the individuals on this list were raised in what we might call “ideal circumstances”, i.e., raised by godly parents in an environment surrounded by godly people.
- Abraham came from a family of idol worshippers (Joshua 24:2).
- The ark was completely empty of Noah’s parents, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces or nephews.
- Joseph grew up in a very dysfunctional family, was betrayed by his brothers and spent years away from any kind of godly influence (Hebrews 11:22).
- The same was true for Daniel and his three friends (11:33-34). For the bulk of their lives they lived as isolated believers in the true God and were surrounded by unbelievers in a strange land. False ideas and concepts surrounded them on every side.
- Moses had been raised by Pharaoh’s daughter and Egypt had done her best to indoctrinate him into the Egyptian way of thinking (Hebrews 11:23-26; Acts 7:22 “educated in all the learning of the Egyptians”).
Unlikely Choices for a Godly Life
Sometimes people falsely think that they are not cut out to live the Christian life. This is especially true of men. Over the centuries too many men have viewed the Christian life as being more suited for the bookworm, the person who doesn’t like the outdoors, lacks the physical strength to help you move your piano, is “nice” to the point of never confronting anyone or a man who has no interest in the opposite sex. Yet look at the list in this chapter:
- Noah built an ark – some 450 feet long. That had to include a lot of backbreaking physical labor.
- Abraham led his servants into battle (Genesis 14).
- Moses killed an Egyptian in hand to hand combat (Exodus 2:12).
- Samson is on the list – and we know that he definitely liked women (or the wrong kind of women) and on one occasion killed 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:16). In addition, Samson’s last act was praying to God and requesting one last dose of strength so he could pull down a temple upon himself and his enemies.
- King David had a passion for God, prayer, the word of God, public worship, the opposite sex and for battle.
What this means is that if there is a scary side to you… that can be used for God’s glory. That can be channeled into something good.
Am I Preparing?
Faith and spiritual growth are not things that instantly come upon a person. Consider the following observations:
- Noah was already living a godly life before God called him for a specific task (Genesis 6:8).
- Joseph already had a godly character before he is betrayed and sold (Genesis 39:9).
- Daniel had his head on straight before he is taken to Babylon (Daniel 1:8).
- David had already fought both a lion and a bear prior to Goliath (1 Samuel 17:33-36). These words spoken by David followed Saul’s hesitation to allow David to face Goliath because Goliath had been a warrior since his youth. Yet David reminds Saul that he has not be lying around, sleeping in, and thus squandering his precious youth.
What this means, is if I am unwilling to tackle or face any “lions and bears” in my youth I will probably be unprepared for what God really wants me to be doing with my life. So consider the following personal questions to ask ourselves at this point:
- Am I seeking to evade responsibility and doing the hard things?
- Do I have the attitude of “let someone else take the heat?”
- Do I try to keep a low profile?
- Do I tend to opt out of being bold – when boldness is needed?
- Am I looking for the comfortable, the soft and easy path, or do I long for adventure, accomplishment, and personal growth?
In years past a number of young men, even as young as 12 or 14 would leave home and went off with the clothes on their back and a little money in search for adventure, whether it was sailing the oceans, hunting in Africa or India, exploring remote places on the face of the earth, or enlisting in the French Foreign Legion or some other army. I am not recommending those specific courses of action, but my question is, is that spirit still alive in the human race?
Not Playing It Safe
As far as I can tell, none of the people on the list of Hebrews chapter 11 opted to play it safe. None of them kept a low profile, that is, kept their views or convictions to themselves.
- Abel confronted his brother: 11:4
- Abraham broke with his extended family.
- Joseph called sin by its right name, even before the powerful, and those who could really make his life miserable for a while.
- Moses opted out of a comfortable life that was ready to receive him with open arms (11:24).
- Rahab put her life on the line to protect God’s people.
- Gideon destroyed his father’s false altar.
- David ran and faced Goliath.
- Daniel kept praying even though such brought a death sentence from the state.
What could I Become?
If it has dawned on you that if you continue on your present course that your life is going to be very uneventful, maybe even rather boring, you can always change course. Notice the language, “from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war” (Hebrews 11:34). Their decision to fully trust God changed the direction of their lives. Maybe it has also dawned on you that history does not remember those who sat in the stands, who played it safe, and who routinely opted for the comfortable and easy choice.
Mark Dunagan | email@example.com
Beaverton Church of Christ | 503-644-9017