Examples of Living Faith
"Now these things became our examples . . ." (1 Corinthians 10:6).
We are fascinated by the stories of other people. People like to hear other people's reactions to challenges and tribulations. This is obvious when we notice the enormous appeal of inspirational magazines and newspaper stories. When we learn how other people have succeeded, we are encouraged that we can triumph as well.
Because God inspired the Scriptures so "that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16-17), we should regularly study His Word, the Bible. No other book has this same divine approval. The Scriptures contain numerous success stories written for our benefit. The Bible is a record of people who faced challenges and difficulties. Even though they lived long ago, their stories are preserved as timeless examples for us.
Writing to the church in Corinth in the first century, the apostle Paul reminded the Corinthians of important events in Israel's history 1,500 years earlier (1 Corinthians 10:1-10). He wrote, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages have come" (verse 11).
The examples Paul referred to are not archaic accounts concerning irrelevant issues. They are genuine. The Bible doesn't varnish its heroes or sanitize its sinners. It is a record of real people with real experiences, good, bad and everywhere in between. Though the time and circumstances varied, these people dealt with frailties, fears, hopes and desires like those we face throughout life.
Knowing that the people of the Bible experienced needs and sorrows can comfort and reassure us (Romans 15:4). Seeing the results of their decisions helps us learn from their choices.
Let's examine some of the positive examples in the Bible that should encourage us.
The example of Abraham and Sarah
After Abel, Enoch and Noah had lived their lives of faith (Hebrews 11:4-7), God called a man named Abram (whom He renamed Abraham; Genesis 17:5). Abram's life, with that of his wife, Sarai (renamed Sarah; verse 15), deserves our attention because he was "the father of all those who believe" (Romans 4:11). Scripture recognizes Sarah as an outstanding example for wives (1 Peter 3:6). Hebrews 11, sometimes called the "faith chapter," honors both as people of faith.
"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" (Hebrews 11:8-10).
In an early account involving Abraham, we note his obedience. When God asked him to move out of his native country to an unfamiliar land, "Abram departed as the Lord had spoken to him" (Genesis 12:4).
One of Abraham's outstanding traits was his firm belief in God's promises. Even though Abraham was childless, when God told him he would father an heir and his descendants would become as numerous as the stars in the sky, Abraham "believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15:6).
Sarah similarly set an example of faith. "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" (Hebrews 11:11).
What was the result of Abraham's and Sarah's faith? Even though they were old, with Sarah past the age of childbearing (Genesis 18:11), "the Lord visited Sarah as He had said, and . . . Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the set time of which God had spoken to him" (Genesis 21:1-2).
Abraham and Sarah faced many other difficulties. Sometimes their faith wavered. Fearful for his life, Abraham twice made a misleading statement, claiming Sarah was his sister (she was his half sister) instead of his wife (Genesis 12:13; 26:7). When Sarah heard that she would bear a child, she laughed at the idea of someone her age giving birth (Genesis 18:9-12).
Abraham and Sarah weren't perfect, but their lives are shining examples of people growing in faith and confidence in God's promises. They tried to do what God asked as they faithfully waited for Him to fulfill His promises. Because they lived and died by their convictions, "God is not ashamed to be called their God" (Hebrews 11:13-16).
King David's example
Hundreds of years later, another man of faith arrived on the scene. Much has been written about David, both as a young man and later as king of Israel. In general, his life exemplified living faith in God.
As a youth facing the giant Goliath, David had faith that "the Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine" (1 Samuel 17:37). As an adult, God called him "a man after My own heart, who will do all My will" (Acts 13:22).
Like David, each of us must face our Goliaths, lions and bears—the challenges and trials that can overwhelm us. Just as God protected and delivered David, so can we enjoy God's protection. God certainly has the power to intervene for us if we do His will and have confidence and faith in Him. God does not change (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8), so we can be confident in our faith in His power to help us.
Three Jewish lads and a fiery furnace
You have probably read of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego (Daniel 3). These three young men put their lives on the line when they chose not to bow before King Nebuchadnezzar's golden image. Doing so would have been a violation of the Second Commandment (Exodus 20:4-6). Refusing to bow to the image also meant they would be thrown alive into the king's fiery furnace.
Notice their inspiring response to their last opportunity to bow to the image and save their lives: "O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter . . . Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up" (Daniel 3:16-18).
Rather than violate their commitment to obey God, they put their lives in His hands. They did not know whether God would intervene to save their lives or not. They knew God could, but they didn't know that He would. Regardless of the outcome, their living faith convicted them to put God first—a principle Jesus also emphasized during His earthly ministry (Matthew 6:33).
As an example of His power, God intervened to spare their lives. Even though He allowed them to be tied up and thrown into the furnace, the blazing heat didn't affect them at all (Daniel 3:25-27). They walked out of the furnace unharmed.
Although our tests may not be as severe, they can seem just as difficult while we are facing them. The example of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-Nego reminds us that God can and does intervene in the lives of those who trust Him (Psalm 37:4-7; 118:6-8; Proverbs 3:5-6).
Reflecting on these examples
A principle of faith in the preceding examples is obedience. Godly belief inevitably leads to doing. This is why we read in James that faith without works is dead (James 2:14-26). Living faith comes by doing what God says is good and right and being willing to accept whatever results may come from our actions.
The examples and testimonies of the men and women we read about in Hebrews 11 show us we can believe God. He does not lie (Titus 1:2), and, as our loving, faithful Father, He delights in providing for us. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures" (James 1:17-18).
God the Father and Jesus Christ have made promises to mankind about Their love, protection and faithfulness (Psalm 33:4; 37:28; 97:10; Proverbs 2:8; 2 Thessalonians 3:3). These promises are sure.
Some may conclude that these examples in Hebrews 11 do not apply to the average person. They may erroneously assume these people were so spiritually strong that faith was an easy matter for them. The reality is that we must build our faith over time.
Our faith initially comes through God's Spirit. Faith is a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22) that God gives us when we repent and are baptized (Acts 2:38). (For more information about these subjects, request our free booklets What Is Your Destiny? and The Road to Eternal Life.) God begins the process of reconciling us to Himself by calling us (John 6:44) and leading us to repentance (Romans 2:4).
The faith God gives us at baptism, however, must be nurtured and developed. We are warned against neglecting our salvation (Hebrews 2:3) and quenching God's Spirit (1 Thessalonians 5:19). God expects us to have faith, and our works (efforts to do God's will) show that we have it (James 2:20). We have a responsibility to make sure our faith grows (2 Peter 3:18).
God also plays a role in the development of our faith. We cannot create faith or make it grow entirely on our own. This is why the Bible tells us we must have "the faith of Christ" (Galatians 2:16; Philippians 3:9, both King James Version). As we noted in the previous chapter, believing in God means more than mere acknowledgment of His existence. Faith is a relationship with God that deepens and matures over time.
More examples of living faith
Several other, lesser-known biblical figures demonstrated faith in God. Their examples are also inspiring and show that God does not show partiality (Acts 10:34). All of us, no matter what our circumstances, can develop living faith.
Matthew 8 contains two excellent examples of faith. First, a leper was healed after saying to Jesus, "Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean" (Matthew 8:2-3).
In another case, Christ offered to go to a Roman officer's home and heal his servant. The officer's faith in Christ's healing power was so strong that He knew Jesus didn't have to be physically present for the servant to be healed. "Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed," he told Jesus (verse 8). The centurion's faith impressed Jesus so much that He said, "Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel! . . . Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you" (verses 10-13). The officer's servant immediately recovered.
In another example a woman who had "a flow of blood" for 12 years approached Jesus to ask for healing (Matthew 9:20). She believed all she needed to do was touch Jesus' clothing. Jesus responded by saying, "Be of good cheer, daughter; your faith has made you well" (verse 22). This woman, too, was immediately healed.
Still another example of faith occurred when two blind men came to Christ for healing. He asked them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They responded, "Yes, Lord." Jesus touched their eyes and said, "According to your faith let it be to you." The men's blindness was healed. (Matthew 9:28-30).
As we have seen, many examples of faith during Christ's life dealt with healing. Even in our secular society in which God is often overlooked, life-and-death matters command our attention. Although we may seek the best medical service possible, our lives are still ultimately in God's hands. As the apostle Paul said, "... in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
Although Christians are advised to call the elders of the Church when they fall ill (James 5:14-15), it is also wise to seek medical advice and help. There is nothing wrong with seeking professional care when we are sick. Luke, the traveling companion of Paul and author of the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts, is called "the beloved physician" (Colossians 4:14).
Jesus Himself acknowledged the need for physicians in caring for our health (Matthew 9:12). In the example cited above of the woman with the flow of blood who was healed when she touched Jesus' garment, Luke adds the detail that she "had spent all her livelihood on physicians and could not be healed by any" (Luke 8:43). Jesus did not withhold healing or condemn her for having gone to physicians; on the contrary He commended her faith.
Though the resurrection is a sure biblical promise, we must remember that this life is temporary and no one can escape death (1 Corinthians 15:22; Hebrews 9:27). In comparison, our faith bears eternal significance. This is why Paul said, ". . . We walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7) and "The just shall live by faith" (Romans 1:17; Galatians 3:11; Hebrews 10:38).
At the end of the faith chapter, Hebrews 11, we find that we, too, can share in the future promised to these outstanding examples of faith: "And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (verses 39-40). We can share being "made perfect" with these remarkable people of faith. The next chapter will help you understand how this can take place.
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