We all love the heroes' story!
We love it even better when we are the hero!
Or at least we love the idea of heroism, or being a hero.
Most heroes I have known, or have known of, did not have a romantic idea of heroism. Most don't even think of themselves as a hero. They simply did what was required of them at the moment. The circumstances that led to their heroic status often left them wounded, and traumatized in various ways.
In the Bible, we see heroic and miraculous things. Miracles and heroism are not necessarily the same thing. People sometimes get the idea that the Christian life is to be one miraculous/heroic event after another. Did you know that this is not the emphasis of the Bible? The emphasis is never on the miracle or the miraculous. The emphasis of the believer's experience is always on the routine of a regular life lived by faith. Do you ever wonder why? I will tell you in a moment.
THE EMPHASIS OF FAITH
The word faith is found 24 times in this chapter of 40 verses. Let's list them here:
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.
4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.
5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.
6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for the that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.
7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.
8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.
9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.
13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.
17 By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
20 By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
21 By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
22 By faith joseph, when he died, ||made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.
23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.
24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
27 By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
28 Through faith he kept the Passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
29 By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
31 By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them ||that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.
33 Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions,
39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
Have you ever been around a person, or a group, who seems to want to present themselves as larger than life? As somehow more special to God? As more blessed of God? As, plainly put, just better than you? Maybe God's favorite?
The word miracle is thrown around quite glibly these days as though we are to expect them and seek them. An interesting article in my reading brings this matter into a sharper, more biblical, focus.
Speaking on the topic of spiritual gifts, Frame states the following,
"We should recall that miracles are actually pretty rare in biblical history. Hundreds of years pass by in the history of the Bible without any reference to miracles. Evidently, God did not intend to make miracles a regular part of his people’s lives.
Miracles do appear at special times, when God is doing some great deed of mercy or judgment. We read of many miracles in the time of Moses, in the time of Elisha and Elijah, and in the earthly ministries of Jesus and the apostles. In the time of the apostles, the miracles had a special connection with the apostles’ witness to Jesus. They are called “signs of a true apostle” in 2 Corinthians 12:12. In that text Paul appeals to his miracles to show that he was a true apostle. His argument wouldn’t be very strong if everyone worked miracles. Rather, he implies that miracles are a special gift given to the apostles to identify them as God’s messengers all around the world where they preached Christ. Hebrews 2:4 also shows God using “signs and wonders” (miracles) to bear witness to the message of the apostles.
So, it looks as though the more miraculous kinds of gifts were given mainly to apostles in the New Testament period and to prophets like Moses, Elijah, and Elisha in the Old Testament. But the point is probably not that they were the only ones in the world who could work miracles. Rather, the Lord enabled the prophets and apostles to work many, many miracles to show everyone that God had appointed them.
For us the point is that we should not expect God to work miracles for us. They are not a regular part of the Christian life. They may happen, certainly, at God’s pleasure, and we should be thankful when they do. Indeed, as I indicated in chapter 2, there is a sense in which even God’s general providence is miraculous. But we must not demand miracles or become angry at God when he chooses not to work them for us. Even Paul could not work miracles all the time, for the Lord refused his own prayer for healing (2 Cor. 12:7–9)" (1).
I have actually known people in my life who became angry with God when He did not work a miracle in their own life or the life of the one they loved. One particular person said that he became an atheist when God did not respond in the way that he thought He should.
Let's look at the good things that were done, by faith, in and through the lives of God's children as recorded in Hebrews 11.
1. Good Report
2. Offered a sacrifice; 3. Obtained witness that he was righteous
4. Prepared an ark; 5. Became the heir of righteousness by faith
v. 8-10, 17
6. Obeyed and went out; 7. Sojourned in the land; 8. Looked for a city; 9. Offered up Isaac
3. Received strength to conceive
8. Blessed Jacob and Esau
9. Blessed both the sons of Joseph
10. Mentioned the departure of the children of Israel; 11. Gave commandment concerning his bones.
12. Was hid; 13. Refused to be called the son of pharaoh's daughter; 14. Chose to suffer affliction; 15. Esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches. than the treasures of Egypt; 16. Forsook Egypt; 17. Kept the Passover;
4. Passed through the Red Sea
5. Walls of Jericho Fell down
18. Perished not
Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets
19. Subdued Kingdoms; 20. Wrought Righteousness; 21. Obtained Promises; 22. Escaped the edge of the sword; 23. Out of weakness were made strong; 24. Waxed valiant in fight; 25. Turned to flight the armies of the aliens;
6. Stopped the Mouths of Lions; 7. Quenched the violence of fire; 8. Women received their dead raised to life again.
26. Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: 27. And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of 28. bonds and imprisonment: 29. They were stoned, 30. they were sawn asunder, 31. were tempted, 32. were slain with the sword: 33. they wandered about sin sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) 34. they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth
Now then, After looking at this chart, you tell me where the emphasis is to be placed?
The emphasis of the believer's experience is always on the routine of a regular life lived by faith because:
1. Routine and normalcy are the essence of life, which is sometimes hard and requires courage.
2. Most of the time miracles never come.
Consider this unusual report, direct from Heaven.
Someone asks Enoch, "What did you do by faith?" Oh, I was translated that I should not see death."
Wow! That's miraculous!
What about you Abel? What miraculous things did you do?
"I offered a sacrifice."
"Noah, what did you do?
"Well, I prepared an ark and became the heir of righteousness by faith
"Hmmm. Big boat, hard work, but not really a miracle."
"I obeyed and went out; Sojourned in the land; Looked for a city; Offered up Isaac."
Someone replied, "For the father of the faith, seems like there would have been a more amazing life!"
"Hey," Isaac chimes in, "listen to this amazing thing! By faith, I blessed Jacob and Esau."
"Are you kidding? That doesn't compare to receiving strength to conceive," said Sarah, "After the fertile time of my life was over."
"Well," said Isaac, "that is amazing and miraculous, Sarah, but listen to this. By faith, I blessed both the sons of Joseph."
There was silence in Heaven for thirty minutes after that revelation!
Joseph finally decides to speak. "Listen to what I did by faith, sticking his chest out! I mentioned the departure of the children of Israel and gave a commandment concerning my bones.
Someone from the crowd said, "How is that noteworthy? That doesn't seem very heroic or miraculous."
Finally, Moses steps out of the crowd to tell his story. Someone states, "Now we are going to hear about some miracles. I heard that this guy engaged in mighty deeds in Egypt...Listen. He is getting ready to speak."
Moses started slowly, "By faith, I was hid; By faith, I refused to be called the son of pharaoh's daughter; I actually chose to suffer affliction; and esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches. than the treasures of Egypt; Did you know that by faith I Forsook Egypt? Did you also know that I kept the Passover?" He then turns and walks away. People are left a little bit bewildered. "He could have told us so much more. He could have regaled us with mighty stories, and this is what he says? He could have at least told us about the mighty Red Sea experience."
"Yes," said Joshua, "it was pretty amazing." It was as amazing as when the walls of Jericho fell down flat."
Just then, a small lady could barely be heard, saying, "By faith, I perished not."
Someone said, "This is getting embarrassing. All of these people keep saying all these things about what faith has wrought in their lives and hardly any of it is worthy of the greatness of our God. Our God is a miracle-working God. He is omnipotent! Can't people tell greater stories?"
Finally, a few people step forward and tell some really great stories!
"Faith stopped the mouths of lions; quenched the violence of fire; and brought the dead back to life!"
"YES! Now we are talking! That's the power of faith!"
And then some other people began to relate their stories, and even though they seemed GREAT, they didn't really rank to the level of miraculous. One subdued kingdoms; Another wrought righteousness; Some others obtained promises; One escaped the edge of the sword; Another said that out of weakness he was made strong; One person told of a time that he waxed valiant in fight; And still, another spoke of when he turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
As the crowd began to dissipate, others could be heard telling of things that they did by faith. It all seemed rather lackluster and discouraging to those of us who know the mighty power of God and refuse to be common, and routine,
"I was tortured.."
"I had a trial of cruel mockings and scourgings"
"I was bound and imprisoned."
"I was stoned."
"I was sawn asunder."
"I was tempted."
"I was slain with the sword."
"I wandered about sin sheepskins and goatskins; I was destitute, afflicted, tormented."
"I wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth."
I close with this thought.
The "miracle" may just be that you keep loving and serving God even if the "miracle" doesn't come. You just keep living by faith, no matter what!
Heroic, don't you think?
(1) John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 166–167.