It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. AND SO a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead – a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them (Hebrews 11:11-12).
Oh, I’m so glad Sarah is in my cloud of witnesses! I relate to Sarah. I relate to God’s gift of faith helping me through a time when my body would not cooperate with the desires of my heart. A fertility specialist said there was nothing he could do to keep me from miscarrying every pregnancy. Today my heart overflows with thankfulness for the three beautiful girls God has given us. Sarah had faith AND SO… Sarah believed God keeps his promises AND SO…
By faith, Isaac blessed the future of his sons, Jacob and Esau. By faith, Jacob blessed the future of his grandsons (Joseph’s sons). By faith Joseph spoke confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt one day. Each of these men could not see into the future of their descendants but they knew the God who keeps His promises would be there watching over them.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race marked out for us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2a).
When Pharoah was killing all the Hebrew baby boys, Moses’ parents did not cower in fear. No, they ran with endurance, hiding their son for three months. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s commands (Hebrews 11:23b).
Moses stripped off every weight that would slow him down and the sin that would so easily trip him up:
It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter. He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin. He thought it better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward. It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. HE kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible (Hebrews 11:24-27).
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:2a).
By faith, the people of Israel ran with endurance the race marked out for them – first when they crossed the Red Sea as though they were on dry ground and then when they marched around Jericho for seven days causing the walls to fall down. The race marked out for them resulted in victory and triumph over their enemies.
By faith, Rahab walked away from her people who refused to obey God because she had a champion who had initiated and perfected her faith in Him. This same faith can be found in the lives of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. God did great things through them and they received what God had promised. Consider this huge crowd of witnesses to our life of faith.
They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death.
But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.
All these people earned a good reputation because of their faith, yet none of them received all that God had promised. For God had something better in mind for us, so that they would not reach perfection without us (Hebrews 11:33b-40).
Okay, no more feeling sorry for ourselves. I don’t think any of us have a testimony quite has harsh as this crowd of witnesses. Yet, they ran the race with endurance. We also have something they did not have, the new covenant relationship with God made possible through the cross.
We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not given your lives in your struggle against sin (Hebrews 12:2-4).
THEREFORE, since we have this incredible crowd of witnesses surrounding us as we live this life of faith, let’s strip off every weight that slows us down (whether it can be called sin or not) and let’s get rid of the sin that so easily causes us to trip. Let’s run this race with passion, with endurance, with faith – knowing that God keeps His promises and keeping our eyes fixed on our Champion who is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne! He has initiated our faith (we did not come up with it on our own) and He daily perfects our faith. Thank you, God, for these examples. Thank you, Jesus, for enduring the cross for me. And thank you for this growing gift of faith. Amen!