God reveals Himself to all people—through His work in creation, through the Bible, and through the person of His Son, Jesus. Scripture, in fact, tells us that “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith” (Romans 12:3).
Why, then, do some believe and follow Christ and others walk away from the revelation they’ve been given?
It is because, while faith in God involves the intellect, it does not arrive through knowledge alone. The finite cannot comprehend the infinite. Just as God cannot be disproved or honestly disavowed through reason, He cannot be apprehended only through reason.
Saving faith, Pastor Adrian Rogers says, is the heart’s response to the character of God. The Lord calls to us and our hearts respond. As the Psalmist said in Psalm 27:8: “When You said, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to You, ‘Your face, LORD, I will seek.’”
Those who do not arrive at saving faith say “no” in their hearts. They reject God’s character—His sacrificial love, His grace, His holiness, His sovereignty, and His supremacy—in favor of their own self-sufficiency.
Those whose hearts respond “yes” to God’s character develop faith that God uses to transform the ordinary into the extraordinary. The ordinary person, the ordinary day, the ordinary duty, surrendered to God in faith, becomes extraordinarily and eternally significant.
There is no problem for which faith is not the answer in some way.
Worry, loneliness, guilt, disobedience and every difficulty we face in life can be remedied by faith—the confidence that rests in the certain knowledge that God is “for us.” To learn more about what faith is, read this article: Do You Live by Faith?
Let’s take a look at several biblical characters referred to as “champions” or “heroes” of faith in Hebrews 11. They are champions because they learned how to rely on God in battle until they won the victory. They are heroes because, while they are all flawed, they provide examples we can learn from and emulate.
We will look at Abel and his faithful worship, at Noah and his faithful work, at Abraham’s obedience, at Jacob and the way he learned to lean on God in faith, at the trusting faith of Moses’ parents, Amram and Jochebed, and at Rahab, the harlot whose faith transformed her, saved her entire family from destruction, and placed her in the lineage of the Savior.
As children, we hear the story of Cain and Abel and come away with a simple understanding that Cain was jealous of Abel so he killed him, ushering the crime of murder into human history for the very first time. And while this is true, the deeper meaning of the story is a testament to Abel’s faithful worship.
Cain and Abel both grew up in the household of Adam and Eve. They both knew of the forbidden fruit in the Garden. They both knew that when Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves—and their sin—with fig leaves, God required something much more costly. We read in Genesis 3:21 that “the LORD God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.” God required a blood sacrifice to cover the sin of Adam and Eve as a picture pointing forward to the redemption of the world through the perfect sacrifice of Christ at Calvary.
Abel understood what happened in the Garden. He looked forward with the eyes of faith to the One (Jesus) who would remove his sin forever. He was obedient to worship God by bringing as an offering a lamb from “the firstborn of his flock” (Genesis 4:4). Cain, on the other hand, dismissed true worship in favor of a lesser sacrifice.
The need for blood sacrifice as a picture of Christ’s redemption ended with Calvary. Now true worship is a response of gratitude for Jesus’ perfect and final sacrifice. We demonstrate faithful worship when we, like Abel, bring the best we have to God—the best of our time, our finances, our talents and abilities, and every resource we possess.
For more about Abel’s faithful worship, read the article, Do You Worship God?
The Apostle James asked this question in James 2:20, “But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?” Faith is not merely attitude. Faith is action. When God told Noah to build an ark because a great flood was coming, Noah had never before seen rain. No one had, in fact, seen rain. Prior to Noah, “The LORD God had not caused it to rain on the earth…but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground” (Genesis 2:5b-6). Can you imagine the derision Noah must have faced as he began work on the ark?
The word “believe” comes from the old English phrase, “by live.” What we believe, we live by. Noah believed God, so he got to work.
He did not make excuses. Though he lived in a fallen society, Noah stood for righteousness.
Here’s how Jesus, who confirmed Noah’s Old Testament story with a New Testament reference, described Noah’s time: “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37-39).
Jesus referenced Noah’s culture while discussing the coming judgment. Noah lived in wicked times. Here’s how Genesis 6:5 describes Noah’s culture: “Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Do not think that, because we live in difficult days—wicked days even—we are to sit still and wait for the Lord’s return. Our faith rests in Jesus’ work on the cross on our behalf, but it also works on His behalf for as long as He gives us breath.
For more about Noah’s hard-working faith, read the article, Do You Have Unsinkable Faith?
When we look at the life of Abraham, we see a man who developed obedient faith. Like all of us, he stumbled at times. After obeying God and leaving home (Ur) to go to a land he had not yet seen, Abraham tripped over himself during his travels with his beautiful wife, Sarah. Out of fear for his own life, he told people Sarah was his sister because, he said, “I thought, surely the fear of God is not in this place; and they will kill me on account of my wife” (Genesis 20:11).
Later, God promised Abraham and Sarah a son would be born to them. Both became impatient. They engineered their own solution. Abraham slept with Sarah’s handmaiden Hagar, who indeed bore a son, Ishmael. He was not the son of God’s promise, though God cared for both Hagar and Ishmael.
Through these sins, Abraham learned the hard way that God is in every place and that He always keeps His promises. This knowledge would serve him well when the ultimate test came—a test Abraham passed.
In Genesis 22, God had given Abraham the promised son, Isaac, who was now a young teen. God tested Abraham by commanding the unthinkable, saying, “Take now your son…and offer him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you” (Genesis 22:1-2).
God had never before requested or even allowed human sacrifice. Why would He ask such a thing?
Pastor Adrian Rogers says, “The devil tempts us to do evil, to cause us to stumble. God tests us to do good, to cause us to stand, to make our faith strong and pure.”
Abraham understood God’s character by this point in his life. He obeyed God in faith, telling his servants, “the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5). Abraham didn’t know how God would do it, but He trusted that God would somehow preserve Isaac even on the altar of sacrifice.
Sure enough, God had a plan to provide a substitute—“a ram caught in a thicket by its horns” (Genesis 22:13). Abraham’s trust and obedience enabled him to see an Old Testament picture of Christ—the thorn-crowned lamb on the cross—as THE substitute sacrifice for all mankind. Abraham put God first and saw the Messiah.
How is your obedience? Pastor Rogers says the Christian’s obedience must be informed, intentional, immediate and impassioned. For more on Abraham’s faith and obedience, read the article, God Will Test Our Faith. For more about how the story of Abraham and Isaac in the Old Testament foreshadows the sacrifice of Christ in the New Testament, read the article, Dress Rehearsal for Calvary.
Just as Abraham stumbled, Jacob, his grandson, began his faith walk on shaky footing. He started out as a schemer, tricking his twin older brother out of his birthright and tricking his father into giving him the blessing normally reserved for the firstborn.
Regarding the end of Jacob’s life, however, we read this in Hebrews 11:21, “By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, and worshipped, leaning on the top of his staff.” How does the deceiver become the patriarch who worships God and blesses his grandsons?
He learned to lean. The lesson came from God Himself, who broke Jacob that He might bless him.
God engineered for Jacob to be left alone. Pastor Adrian Rogers said. “We do not want to be alone with God because we cannot look God, or ourselves, in the face.” While alone, Jacob was visited by the “Angel of the Lord.” He experienced a pre-incarnate meeting with the Lord Jesus Christ. During that meeting, described in Genesis 32 as a wrestling match, Jacob, who had finally come to the end of himself, begged God to bless him. In fact, he told the Lord, “I will not let You go unless You bless me” (Genesis 32:26).
God indeed did bless Jacob, even going so far as to give him a new name, but first He broke Jacob by dislocating his hip during the wrestling match. This injury reminded Jacob for the rest of his life to check his own pride and self-sufficiency and rely instead on God. His faith learned to lean. And with that faith, he gained a legacy to pass on not only to his grandchildren but to an entire nation that would take Jacob’s new name—Israel—and to an entire world that would forever worship the name of one of Jacob’s descendants—Jesus.
For more about Jacob’s faith, read the article, Learning to Lean on God.
We cannot control the destiny of our children, but we can follow the example of Amram and Jochebed, trust God in dangerous times, and influence the destiny of our children.
When we are tempted to despair over the stress of raising children in a corrupt culture, we can look at what these Hebrew parents faced in Egypt under Pharaoh. They were not merely restricted in the raising of their son; their son was condemned to death at birth! The government mandated that all newborn Hebrew boys be thrown into the Nile River.
Moses’ parents hid their beautiful boy for as long as they could, then devised a way to keep him safe long enough to see what God would do to help them. Through eyes of faith, they saw Moses as a child of promise. God made a way for them to be involved in the raising of their son. They were faithful year after year to teach Moses about God. When he was old enough to decide for himself, Moses rejected the wealth, comfort, and power of the Egyptian palace in favor of life as a nomad following the God of his fathers and leading his people from bondage to freedom.
For more about the ways in which Amram and Jochebed trusted God, exercised faith, and raised a champion, read the article, Faith for the Family.
Adrian Rogers said, “Faith has incredible power to change someone. Christians are not just nicer people; they are absolutely new people.”
“Newness” in Christ is particularly evident for people who previously lived publicly sinful lives. Such was the case with Rahab, a prostitute, living in Jericho at the very time God came to judge that city. Because Rahab believed God, Pastor Rogers said, “Rahab married a prince of Israel and became the great, great-grandmother of King David. She is part of the bloodline of our Savior. (Read Matthew 1.) No longer walking the back streets of Jericho—now she is walking the streets of gold in Heaven.”
Rahab’s faith was brand new—she came to saving faith when two of God’s messengers came to Jericho—and her obedience was immediate. She believed the messengers’ word about God’s judgment. She kept the messengers safe, extracted a promise from them, helped them escape, and hung a scarlet cord outside her window to mark her household against destruction.
The scarlet cord is a reminder of the scarlet thread that runs throughout Scripture. Like the Israelites before her, who painted their doorposts with lamb’s blood to escape God’s judgment of Egypt, Rahab trusted God to pass over her family when judging Jericho. It is the same for us today: when we hang the scarlet cord by putting our faith in God, His judgment is exchanged for grace.
Rahab’s heart loved God and was washed clean. For more about how faith transformed Rahab’s life, read the article, God Transforms Broken Hearts.
As you think about the heroes of faith we’ve examined, consider your own response to God’s character. Have you used the lack of “proof” available to your five senses to excuse yourself from answering God’s call to trust Him? Think instead for a moment about His character—His unconditional love and forgiveness, His unending faithfulness, His sacrifice on your behalf! Is today the day your heart needs to respond to the love you can’t find anywhere else in the Universe except in Jesus Christ?
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