Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen. For our ancestors won God’s approval by it.
– Hebrews 11:1 (HCSB)
Ever feel like a failure?
I do, and often. My desk overflows with a never-ending pile of unfinished work. My job as a fulltime caregiver is a challenging one. It never feels like I’m smart enough, talented enough, strong enough, or Christian enough to run the race placed before me each day. I know my faith isn’t based on works, but I can add a hearty “amen” to Paul’s letter to the Romans in which he confesses to the warfare in his soul. Maybe it’s just that misery loves company, but it’s comforting to know I’m not alone in my predisposition to miss the mark. The Bible is filled with examples:
Noah obeyed the voice of God and preserved the entire world but couldn’t hold his liquor.
Abraham trusted God enough to leave his home for Canaan but fled to Egypt during a famine.
Sarah had a miracle child but caused a long line of family problems with her unbelief.
Rahab hid Israel’s spies from their enemies but had a checkered past.
Elijah brought down 400 prophets of Baal but was afraid of one woman.
Jacob wrestled with God but feared his brother Esau.
David killed Goliath but hid from Saul. Even worse, he committed adultery and arranged the murder of one of his loyal soldiers so he could have the man’s wife.
Samson was consecrated to God but fell prisoner to the temptations of a girlfriend.
We know these stories. We know the heroes of Scripture had feet of clay. They made some terrible mistakes.
While their exploits are listed in Hebrews 11, their failings are noticeably missing.
Instead, God lists the things they did “by faith.”
By faith they “conquered kingdoms, administered justice, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the raging of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength after being weak, became mighty in battle, and put foreign armies to flight.” (Hebrews 11:33-35) Some were brought back to life from the dead, some were tortured, mocked, scourged, and imprisoned. Others were stoned, sawn in two, or killed by the sword. And some spent their lives destitute and mistreated for their obedience to God.
These were men and women, utterly human but divinely appointed, of whom “the world was not worthy.” (Hebrews 11:38) The writer of Hebrews assures us who follow in their footsteps that we are part of the great chain of faith, approved by God because we are His children. His sacrifice has cleansed us; His Spirit empowers us to accomplish all He asks of us.
God knew before I was born that I wouldn’t be smart enough, talented enough, strong enough, or Christian enough to run the race He would set before me. No one is. That’s why God offers grace to humanity.
Grace isn’t a license to stray from the path to life, but a gift making the journey possible.
Like Noah, we may have feet of clay, but we have found favor in the eyes of the Lord. (Genesis 6:8) Our best will never be enough, but God’s is.