“And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jephthah, about David and Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.
These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 11:32-12:3)
Maybe you love history. Maybe you think its more boring than watching paint dry.
Whatever you think about this, according to the writer of Hebrews it is actually important Christians should know where they’ve come from, by knowing the stories of those who have gone before them, because this is important.
Firstly, this will motivate us to get rid of the things that will discourage us when we see how they have overcome difficulty and continued to trust God. If you read through the rest of chapter 11 of Hebrews, there is a list here of Old Testament figures who remained faithful and persevered through all kinds of difficult circumstances. But they trusted God and waited for his promises to be fulfilled.
We can also look at the flip side of this- as well as seeing how these people preserved though difficult situations, we can see how they fixed their eyes on what was ahead of them to be able to do this. All of these people never got to see Jesus, the messiah and saviour they hoped for. We live after Jesus, and see how he fulfilled God’s promises. But we also wait for his return, and wait for that. We are also waiting for God to fulfil his promise.
As well as people from the bible, we have 2000 years of history to give us stories of faithful perseverance by Christians: they have endured suffering, travelled the world to take the gospel to those who haven’t heard it, written songs of praise, and so much more. Like these Old Testament believers, the world was not worthy of them. They have allowed their actions to show their trust in God.
This next blog series by Flinders ES will consider the lives of some of these faithful witnesses: people from the bible and Christian history (some of whom you might know and some you probably won’t) to see how they have persevered and how this can encourage us. We should know our own history, to be encouraged by it.
So who even are these faithful people who have gone before us? Stay tuned to find out.