4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”
6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.
However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”
I really enjoy this parable, one from the Collection of Parables found in the Classic Bridges I curriculum. Especially with our Lord’s message “to always pray and not give up” but I also like the question posed at the end. So what will my faith look like when the Lord returns? I ask myself this question a lot lately as the birth pains and the prophetic signs of the end times become increasingly apparent around us. So what will your faith look like? What will the Lord find each of us doing when He returns?
Being the CEO of a mission organization with a unique, catalytic approach to reaching unreached peoples on the continents of Africa, Asia and Latin America, I would hope we would be a light in the darkness to His Glory. To see what examples of “faith” that the Lord commends, we need to do a quick tour of the “ancients”, those men and women of faith that He named in the “Hall of Faith” found in Hebrews Chapter 11 (one of my favorite chapters of the New Testament):
Abel was the first martyr in the Bible (murdered by Cain) and also the first shepherd. Not much else is known about Abel, except that he found favor in God’s eyes by offering him a pleasing sacrifice.
Hebrews 11:4 (NIV)
“4 By faith Abel brought God a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead.”
The next “ancient” named in the Hall of Faith is Enoch, the man who walked with God. Enoch so pleased the Lord God that he was spared the experience of death:
Hebrews 11:5-6 (NIV)
“5 By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death: ‘He could not be found, because God had taken him away.’ For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God. 6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
Noah is named as the third “ancient” hero in the Hall of Faith. Noah was known to be a righteous man. He was blameless among the people of his time. This does not mean Noah was sinless and he was definitely not perfect but that he loved God with his whole heart and was fully committed to obeying God. Noah’s life –and his expressing his unshakeable faith in the midst of a faithless society–has much to teach us today.
Hebrews 11:7 (NIV):
“7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that is in keeping with faith.”
Abraham (“Ibrahim” to our Muslim neighbors)
Abraham is mentioned next and with much more than just a brief mention among the “ancients”. A significant emphasis is given to this towering Biblical giant who would be known as the father of the Jewish nation.
Hebrews 11:8-10 & 12 (NIV)
“8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. 9 By faith he made his home in the promised land, like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. 12 And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”
Abraham’s willingness to leave family and all that he had known and depended on, to travel to another distant land that he knew nothing about was a demonstration of faith in our God. Many Missionaries have done this same thing but in varying degrees as many of them also come back (albeit for short-periods) of time to previous family and past surroundings. God honored Abraham’s faith by blessing him with countless descendants.
Hebrews 11:17-19 (NIV)
“17 By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had embraced the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, 18 even though God had said to him, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” 19 Abraham reasoned that God could even raise the dead, and so in a manner of speaking he did receive Isaac back from death.”
Abraham was fully prepared to slay his son while fully trusting God to either resurrect Isaac from the dead, or provide a substitutionary sacrifice. At the last minute, God intervened and supplied the necessary ram. The death of Isaac would have contradicted every promise God had made to Abraham, so his willingness to perform the ultimate sacrifice of killing his son is probably the most dramatic example of faith and trust in God found in the entire Bible.
Sarah, wife of Abraham, is one of two women specifically named among the heroes of faith (the other is Rahab, the prostitute who protected the Israelite Spies). Sarah waited long past child-bearing age to have a baby. There were many times she doubted, struggling to believe God would fulfill his promise. Losing hope, she took matters into her own hands. Like most of us, Sarah was looking at God’s promise from her limited, human perspective. BUT the Lord used her life to unfold an extraordinary plan, proving that God is never restricted by what usually happens. Sarah’s faith is an inspiration to every person who has ever waited on God to act.
“11 And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. “
Jacob, another one of Israel’s great patriarchs, fathered twelve sons who became heads of the twelve tribes. One of his sons was Joseph, a key figure in the Old Testament. But Jacob started out as liar, cheater, and manipulator. He struggled with God his entire life. The turning point for Jacob came after a dramatic, all-night wrestling match with God. In the end the Lord touched Jacob’s hip and he was a broken man, but also a new man. God renamed him Israel, which means “he struggles with God.”
“21 By faith Jacob, when he was dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons, and worshiped as he leaned on the top of his staff.”
The phrase “as he leaned on the top of his staff” is something we need to take note of. After Jacob wrestled with God, for the rest of his days he walked with a limp, and he gave over control of his life to God. As an old man and now a great hero of faith, Jacob “leaned on his staff” in demonstrating his hard learned trust and dependence on the Lord.
Joseph, one of the most well-known heroes of the Old Testament, was an extraordinary example of what can happen when a person surrenders his life in complete obedience to God.
Hebrews 11:22 (NIV)
“22 By faith Joseph, when his end was near, spoke about the exodus of the Israelites from Egypt and gave instructions concerning the burial of his bones.”
Joseph spoke confidently about the coming exodus and how he wanted his bones to be buried – as if he had seen this event already. Joseph had a history of great faith and even after all the terrible wrongs done to him by his brothers, Joseph offered forgiveness and made this incredible statement to them in Genesis 50:20, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (NIV).
And then, Moses (“Musa” to our Muslim neighbors):
Moses takes a major place of prominence in the Hall of Faith (just as Abraham did). Another Towering figure of the Old Testament, Moses’s brief story is inspiring.
Hebrews 11:24-27 (NIV)
“24 By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. 25 He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.”
My favorite phrase is that Moses “saw Him who is invisible”. That inspires to look past this visible realm into the invisible…where the Lord wants us to be, where faith truly begins and when we focus on seeing Him and Him alone.
Moses is also my Dad’s (my earthly father) favorite character of the Bible and my Dad recently stated to me “that Moses not only was patient with Two Million Stiff-Necked Hebrews as they wandered across the desert but Moses intervened for them with God multiple times to ask for mercy for them when God wanted to wipe them off the face of the earth. What an incredibly patient and gracious leader he was! After Jesus, I can’t wait to see him in heaven.”
Although Moses is one of the most inspiring examples of heroic faith in the Bible, he was human just like you and me, plagued by anger management issues, mistakes, frailties and repeating sin and brokenness. However, it was his willingness to obey God, despite his many flaws, that made Moses someone God could use–and wow, did he use him!
And the list goes on of these “ancients” and demonstrations of their faith in the rest of Hebrews 11. It is some great reading and “Storytelling” for all of us and I recommend you finish the rest of the chapter on your own. It is ONLY through faith that a mission organization like SIU continues to spread the “Good News” of the Gospel in making disciples of Oral learners around the world.
So again, what will your faith look like when the Lord returns to fulfill His promise to us? Will you be listed in God’s Hall of Faith where at the end of this chapter (Hebrews 11:39-40 NIV), the Lord states:
“39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, 40 since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.”