MAY ALL WHO COME BEHIND US FIND US FAITHFUL



This summer we lost two heroes of the faith. Though they are no longer with us, their testimonies will live on indefinitely. Most people knew who Billy Graham was. Some might not be as familiar with the other one, Chuck Missler. Nevertheless, he had a huge following and impact on the world for Christ. Both had a tremendous impact in the world for evangelism and discipleship. It’s interesting as I write this, I see that in the twofold commission that Jesus gave his disciples that Billy Graham was most impactful in evangelism, while Chuck Missler’s call and passion was for discipleship. Chuck’s work can be found on his website khouse.org. I would urge everyone, if you are not familiar with Chuck’s Bible studies, to check them out. They have been most meaningful in my growth as a disciple of Christ. What is so significant about these two men and their ministries, is that their witness, impact and fruit will continue long after they are gone. This is true of so many, for example, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Sunday, C. S. Lewis, Corrie Ten Boom, Watchman Nee...we could go on and on, not to mention all the heroes of the Bible. This is what we should strive for. That our legacy, our witness, our impact, our testimony will continue long after we leave this world and into the Kingdom. Our goal is to be found faithful to the end so that our witness is eternal, as is the witness of the ones who have gone before us. Let’s look at these witnesses and how we can be found faithful as they were.

I will be using the Amplified Bible and the New King James for this study, along with The Blue Letter Bible and Strong’s.

Hebrews 12: 1 “Therefore then, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses [who have borne testimony to the Truth], let us strip off and throw aside every encumbrance (unnecessary weight) and that sin which so readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us, and let us run with patient endurance and steady and active persistence the appointed course of the race that is set before us.” Amplified Bible

Every good Bible student knows that when you see the word therefore, you need to find out what the therefore is there for. So if we go back to Hebrews 11, we see the famous chapter called the Hall of Faith that talks about the Old Testament saints who demonstrated their faith and were found faithful. They were the originals who left a legacy and their testimony continues to bear fruit, long after their time on this earth.

The hall of faith chapter begins in verses 1-2 with, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony.”

The Amplified Bible defines faith as this, “by that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom and goodness.” I like that. The Greek word we translate as faith is pistis which the Blue Letter Bible says it means “conviction of the truth of anything; belief in the New Testament of a conviction of belief respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it. Fidelity, faithfulness.” Strong’s defines it as “persuasion, i.e. credence; moral conviction (of religious truth, or the truthfulness of God, especially reliance upon Christ for salvation; abstracting constancy in such profession; by extension, the system of religious (Gospel) truth itself. Assurance; belief; believe, faith, fidelity.”

The word substance in the Greek is hypostasis and means

    A.  setting or placing under

        A. thing put under, substructure, foundation

            2. That which has foundation, is firm

                 A. that which has actual existence

                      1. A substance, real being


    B. the substantial quality, nature of a person or thing

    C. the steadfastness of mind, firmness, courage, resolution.
         Confidence, firm trust, assurance

Things hoped for is the Greek word elpizo and means “to expect or confide.”

Evidence in the Greek is elegchos and means “ a proof; that by which a thing is proved and tested. Conviction.”

A question to ask ourselves: “Is faith visible?” I would say, definitely yes. As we live our lives out in faith it will be visible to those watching. The Lord is giving you and me an opportunity to obtain a good testimony (to be a witness) in this life that can live beyond our years like those who have gone before us. Will we be a witness or will we give the enemies of God an opportunity to blaspheme His holy name by not being the witness we should be. Jesus called us to be witnesses by the way we live our lives. Edward A. Guest wrote a poem entitled “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day.” That is the idea of our witness. Then when we are afforded the opportunity to speak, it means something.

Let’s look at those in the hall of faith to see what we can learn from their testimonies. I think we can see a composite of what the life of a believer should look like here.

Abel is the first one mentioned in verse 4: “By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and through it he being dead still speaks.”

Abel was obedient. He understood that true righteousness comes from the shedding of blood. His testimony lives past his life because it says, “being dead still speaks.” I think this also speaks to the dying of self which is necessary for a stellar testimony.

The next is Enoch in verse 5, “By faith Enoch was taken away so that he did not see death, ‘and was not found, because God had taken him’, for before he was taken he had this testimony, that he pleased God.” Another word used for because God had taken him up is translated and is

metatithemi in the Greek. It means “to transpose, to transfer, to change two things, one of which is put in place of the other. To transfer one’s self or suffer oneself to be transferred.” This also is a picture of dying to self, of exchanging our lives for His, of knowing that trying to hold on to our soul life will result in loss of our real lives, and in dying to ourselves, we find life.

Before Enoch’s translation he had the testimony that he pleased God. Genesis 5 tells us that Enoch walked with God for 300 years. The next verse in this Hebrews 11 chapter, verse 6 says “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”

A rewarder is one who pays wages, and to diligently seek is to seek out, investigate, scrutinize.

Verse 7, “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.”

Noah, as we have studied in the past means rest. He rested in God and had godly fear, which is “to act cautiously, circumspectly, to beware, fear, to reverence, stand in awe of.” And the Lord warned Noah of things not yet seen, just as He warns through His Word of things we need to know. It says he condemned the world and became heir. Condemned is katakrino and means “by one’s good example to render another’s wickedness the more evident and censurable.”

Hebrews 11: 8-10, “By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” Again, we see obedience. And we must always keep our perspective that this world is not our home. We are just sojourners, passing through, but it’s while we are sojourners that we obtain and hone our testimony.

Hebrews 11: 11-12 “By faith Sarah herself also received strength to conceive seed, and she bore a child when she was past the age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised, Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born as many as the stars of the sky in multitude—innumerable as the sand which is by the seashore.”

Sarah received strength from the Lord just as we receive strength from Him. The word is dynamis and refers to the same power of the Lord that raised Christ from the grave. That Holy Spirit power lives in us and strengthens us and empowers us to live a godly life. And again, the theme of death to self, Abraham being as good as dead, was the father to more heirs than the sand which is by the seashore.

Sarah judged the Lord faithful. I’m reminded of 2 Timothy 2: 11-13 “This is a faithful saying: For if we died with Him, we shall also live with Him. If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He will deny us. If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.”

Hebrews 11: 13 “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

I have heard it said, probably from one of the well known Bible teachers, but I don’t recall which one, “If I err, let me err on the side of belief.” That is a good word. It’s better to believe and trust and even die, not receiving our promises yet, than to die in unbelief and miss our rewards. Again, we have to keep the kingdom perspective.

Hebrews 11: 17-19: “By faith Abraham, when he was put to the test [while the testing of his faith was still in progress], had already brought Isaac for an offering: he who had gladly received and welcomed [God’s] promises was ready to sacrifice his only son, [Gen 22: 1-10.] Of whom it was said, Through Isaac shall your descendants be reckoned. [Gen. 21: 12.] For he reasoned that God was able to raise [him] up even from among the dead.l Indeed in the sense that Isaac was figuratively dead [potentially sacrificed], he did [actually] receive him back from the dead.” I like the insight the Amplified Bible gives to this passage. We look back at Abraham and see the finished results, but the Amplified notes that Abraham acted in obedience while the testing of his faith was still in progress. Dear Ones, that is what the race is all about...the testing of our faith. It’s what happens during this testing, how we respond to the trials and testings that will result either in loss or reward.

Let’s continue in the chapter. We see Isaac, Jacob and Joseph all believing the promises given them. Then we come to Moses. First we are told that Moses’ parents concealed him for three months because they saw how comely he was and were not afraid of the king’s decree. Then Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, instead preferring to share the oppression and suffering and shame of the people of God rather than the fleeting pleasures of a sinful life. I love verses 26-27: “He considered the contempt and abuse and shame [borne for] the Christ (the Messiah Who was to come) to be greater wealth than all the treasures of Egypt, for he looked forward and away to the reward (recompense). [Motivated] by faith he left Egypt behind him, being unawed and undismayed by the wrath of the king: for he never flinched but held staunchly to his purpose and endured steadfastly as one who gazed on Him Who is invisible. [Exodus 2: 15.] (Emphasis mine.) As we run the race, let’s not be afraid of the enemy but keep our gaze on Him Who is invisible.

The chapter continues with more of Moses instituting the Passover and crossing the Red Sea, of Rahab and because of her faith, the walls of Jericho fell down, and of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets. Let’s pick up with verses 33- 36: “ Who by [the help of] faith subdued kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promised blessings, closed the mouth of lions, [Dan. 6.] Extinguished the power of raging fire, escaped the devourings of the sword, out of frailty and weakness won strength and became stalwart, even might and resistless in battle, routing alien hosts. [Dan. 3.] [Some] women received again their dead by a resurrection. Others were tortured to death with clubs, refusing to accept release [offered on the terms of denying their faith], so that they might be resurrected to a better life. [1 Kings 17: 17-24; 2 Kings 4: 25-37.]”

The chapter continues telling of the sufferings and trials, mockings and scourgings, imprisonments, stonings, even being sawn asunder. Verses 38-40 “[Men] of whom the world was not worthy—roaming over the desolate places and the mountains, and [living] in caves and caverns and holes of the earth. And all of these, though they won divine approval by [means of] their faith, did not receive the fulfillment of what was promised, because God had us in mind and had something better and greater in view for us, so that they [these heroes and heroines of faith] should not come to perfection apart from us [before we could join them].

Which brings us to Hebrews 12: 1, this great cloud of witnesses and these testimonies that surround us. This verse brings a picture to my mind of us all running a marathon, nearing the finish line, but we are so tired and depleted, we are thinking of just giving up. Then just ahead we see all these faithful witnesses who have gone before us, cheering us on, telling us we can make it. Their faithfulness gives us encouragement to be found faithful just as they were. Their testimonies have continued throughout the ages and it gives us hope that if we can just make it to the finish line, our testimonies will go beyond the race. We can learn much from those who have gone before us. One thing to notice—they were all flawed individuals who messed up from time to time. None of them were anywhere close to perfect, as none of us are. In fact, we can read about all their failures and flaws, but those things aren’t remembered in this Hall of Faith. What they are remembered for is their faithfulness. We all will mess up from time to time, but the key is to get back on track and to keep our focus on the One who is perfect.

Let’s dig in further. First, notice that in Hebrews 12: 1 that sin can hold us back, but there are also encumbrances (unnecessary weights) that can keep us from running the race that God has set before us. We all have weights in our lives we need to set aside. They are not sin, but just things that complicate or take time away from what we need to be doing or focused on. It could even be good stuff, but if it’s stuff that takes up space or time from what the Lord really has for you, then it is extra weight. And notice the wording about what the sin does...it readily (deftly and cleverly) clings to and entangles us. It reminds me of cling wrap. That stuff that clings to everything except what you want it to. Sin entangles us. It weaves a web just like a spider and draws us further into. We need to strip it off and throw it aside. Be done with it. Reckon ourselves dead to sin according to Romans 6:11.

Second, notice we run with endurance. The Greek word is hypomone and means “steadfastness, constancy, endurance, a patient, steadfast waiting for, a patient enduring, sustaining, perseverance.”

William Barclay says of the word hypomone “which does not mean the patience which sits down and accepts things but the patience which masters them...It is a determination, unhurrying and yet undelaying, which goes steadily on and refuses to be deflected.”

The Apostle Paul was, I guess you could say, obsessed with enduring to the end and finishing well. His letters are full of verses indicating this, for example: Acts 20:24 “But none of these things move me; neither do I esteem my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I have obtained from [which was entrusted to me by] the Lord Jesus, faithfully to attest to the good news (Gospel) of God’s grace (His unmerited favor, spiritual blessing, and mercy).”

1 Corinthians 9: 24-27: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” (Emphasis mine)

Galatians 2:2 “And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain.” (Emphasis mine)

Philippians 2: 16 “holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.” (Emphasis mine.)

2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

And though we don’t know the author of Hebrews, one of my favorite passages of encouragement in this area is Hebrews 10: 35-38:

“Do not, therefore, fling away your fearless confidence, for it carries a great and glorious compensation of reward. For you have need of steadfast patience and endurance, so that you may perform and fully accomplish the will of god, and thus receive and carry away [and enjoy to the full] what is promised. For still a little while (a very little while), and the Coming One will come and He will not delay. But the just shall live by faith [My righteous servant shall live by his conviction respecting man’s relationship to God and divine things, and holy fervor born of faith and conjoined with it]; and if he draws back and shrinks in fear, My soul has no delight or pleasure in him.” [Hab. 2: 3-4.]

Paul and the author of Hebrews understood, as we must, that we are in a marathon, not a sprint. And we will stand before the Lord Jesus Christ at the bema seat to give an account of how we ran that race. We will receive rewards or experience loss, depending on how we did. (1 Corinthians 3: 11-15 and 2 Corinthians 5: 10 -11.)

Let’s look at the Greek word for race agon which means “generally, any struggle or contest, a battle.” It’s the same word used in Philippians 1: 29-30, “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me. NKJV (Emphasis mine.) All of our races are different, but they all have been set before us. And we do it by looking unto Jesus. The New American Standard says “fixing our eyes on Jesus.” Our eyes need to be locked on Jesus and nobody else. If I take my eyes off of Him and look at somebody else in another lane, I might trip and fall, I might not make it to the finish line the way He wanted me to. Racers who have looked over their backs to see who was behind them have more often than not, lost. And as Paul mentioned several times, we don’t want to run in vain, we don’t want to be disqualified.

As I was studying Hebrews 12, I ran across something talking about doves’ eyes. Song of Solomon has verses spoken both from the bride and groom that mentions the other one having doves’ eyes. As it turns out, doves’ eyes, because of the narrow shape of their heads, can only focus on one thing. Our singular focus should be on our Groom, our Savior. If we are fixing our gaze on our Savior, we are not looking at our past sins, or the things that weigh us down, or the people running alongside us, or the people who have gone before, or the circumstances that surround us, or even the course. We only have eyes for Him. He is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He has written out our story and He will complete it. So let’s run the race with endurance so that we won’t have a loss, but rewards and crowns to cast at His feet. May all who come behind us find us faithful.

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