Scripture: Hebrews 11:2-6
Today’s #WeWontShrinkBack Tool: Be bold in living out your faith and sharing it with others.
On Dec. 29, just a few days before the new year of 2016 began, I posted this to my blog:
I wrote in my journal, “2016 is a year for open hands.” Call it a goal or a prophecy, but I know that right now, as I enter 2016, God is asking me to keep my hands open. I’m not supposed to clench my fists, gripping everything I know and feel comfortable with; I’m supposed to open my hands, ready to risk, but also ready to receive what God will give me as I walk into a new year and a new season.
I wrote about some things that were coming new for me in the year 2016: new things with the release of my book, new things with my church and job, the new season of being a foster parent, etc. So much new.
I shared that there in my place of anticipation, I thought back to a verse I had studied a few months before: “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the LORD will do amazing things among you.” (Joshua 3:5) I knew that for me, part of consecrating myself for the amazing things God is going to do tomorrow is to empty my hands—to say to God, “Not my will, but Yours be done”—and get ready to receive what God will give. I need to have OPEN HANDS to show faith that God is going to do something new.
I posted it to my blog and then headed to Walmart and Kroger. I bought a sandwich from Penn Station for dinner, then came home and put my groceries away. Later that night, I checked my email on my phone before I got in bed. I was surprised at how many emails I had received already from my friends who had read that blog post. I was even more surprised at how much that post resonated with these friends. They confessed that they had been dreading the changes coming in their lives in 2016. Here are a few of the things they told me:
I sat on my bed and scrolled through the emails. My heart felt heavy for my friends. And then I got to the last email. It was my friend Rachel. After she shared the difficult changes she anticipated in 2016, she wrote out a prayer. I laughed and cried at the same time as I read what she wrote.
“Friend, let’s stand together and DO THIS!!!! 2016 HERE WE COME!!! Let’s PREPARE with OPEN hands! Time to RISK! Time for a new thing! Holy Spirit, help your daughters!!! Tenderly give us the courage and excitement and GREAT EXPECTATION that we need!”
I realized that Rachel’s attitude and encouragement was exactly the same kind of faith that the author of Hebrews was urging us to have. The author tells us to look at the ancients—the men and women who lived by faith in generations past.
“[Having faith] is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11:2
According to the author of Hebrews, faith is a key ingredient to pleasing God. The ancients were commended for having faith… not talent, not beauty, not toned muscles, not diplomas, not big paychecks, not eloquent words or street smarts, not a perfectly organized desk or white teeth. They were commended for their faith.
As chapter 11 goes on, the author lists for us the names of some of the ancients who stuck out to him:
Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses’ parents, Moses, the people of Israel as they walked through the Red Sea on dry land, Rahab, the people of Israel as they marched around Jericho, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the prophets, etc.
These men and women were leaders in their generations. They lived by faith in their time and spread God’s love and truth to the people in their sphere of influence. God used their faith in their time, and now they are being rewarded for all eternity.
As you look at that list of names, maybe it seems unattainable. Maybe it seems like you don’t have the kind of faith it takes to make a difference in your sphere of influence. But these names in this chapter—they weren’t perfect people; I’m sure they didn’t feel like perfect or even courageous. You might be more like them thank you realize. Let me remind you: WE ARE NOT OF THOSE WHO SHRINK BACK… WE ARE THOSE WHO BELIEVE (Hebrews 10:39).
Let me ask you this: Why shouldn’t your name be on the list for your generation?
It starts with little steps of faith. It reminds me of the well-known Annie Dillard quote: “How we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives.” If we live our days with perseverance, confidence in God’s faithfulness, and taking action with our faith, we are pleasing God more than we realize.
Do you remember my friend’s email to me? Her encouragement was full of faith because she was earnestly seeking God for the next year of her life.
Check out Hebrews 11:6.
“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.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Let’s look at the last part of Hebrews 11:6 where it says that having faith means believing that God “rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Believing this would mean that we trust that God sees our situations, He cares about the details of our lives, and like the good, generous Father that He is, He’s eager to reward us when we trust Him and take steps of faith in our lives. Some rewards may happen on earth; the biggest reward is in heaven.
What about you?
Do you trust that God see your situation—in your town, in your family, in your job?
Do you trust that God cares (really cares!) about the details of your life?
Do you trust that God is eager to reward you when you trust Him and take steps of faith in your life?
God bless you!
Hope you can remember & apply our #WeWontShrinkBack tools from Hebrews 10:32-11:6:
I apologize that Day 6 is so much later than Day 5, but my sister's family is in town from Kansas, and I've been doing important things like eating ice cream with my 3-year-old niece. lol
Scripture: Hebrews 10:39-11:1
Today’s #WeWontShrinkBack Tool: Trust God and remember the promise.
As we look at the next two verses in this passage, we see the author gets to my favorite verse and then gives a definition for faith. Because there were no chapter divisions in the original manuscript, these two verses would have flowed together.
“But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved. Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” (Hebrews 10:39-11:1)
In Hebrews 10:39, the author is contrasting shrinking back with having faith. Then he contrasts the consequences of each action: being destroyed (eternity in hell) with being saved (eternity in heaven). I want to pause and say that when the author says “shrink back” here, he is likely indicating the choice people make to place their faith in the things that will make their lives easier and safer—like their money, their government, the ways of their culture that would allow them to fit in—instead of God. This is the big way to “shrink back”; it’s the act of not believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior.
But as I’ve considered the original command and what the author is likely meaning when he says to not “shrink back,” I’ve been convicted that I shouldn’t even have one ounce of that shrink-back mentality in me as I live my daily life. We should not let any insecurity or doubt cause us to shrink back from the full life that God has for us.
Today’s #WeWontShrinkBack tool is Trust God and remember the promise. I’ve used the word trust here because I believe trust is the essence of what it means to have faith. As we’ve already seen Hebrews 10:39, the opposite of shrinking back is having faith.
The author explains more about faith to us in Hebrews 11:1: “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
Let’s look at the two parts of this verse. Faith is…
1.) Confidence in What We Hope for
I met Laura in my first semester of college. We quickly became friends, and I admired her so much for her bold faith. She had passion to teach the Bible, to minister to teenagers, and to use her nursing education to help people who lived in poverty in South America.
Two years later, Laura lost her dad to cancer. It happened so fast. I got an email that Laura sent out to her group of friends in May, giving us the news of his diagnosis and asking us to pray. Then eight short months later, he passed away in January.
The week after she returned to campus after his funeral, I had the chance to eat dinner with her and our friend Lissa in the cafeteria. Now after the emotional whirlwind of the last several months, Laura was forced to adjust to life without her dad. And as if that wasn’t tragic enough, that month she also experienced a betrayal by her closest friend.
I looked at Laura as we picked at our trays of food. I thought about how over the past two years, I saw the undeniable mark of the Holy Spirit in Laura as she overflowed compassion, joy, and perseverance onto her friends. Even now, as she talked, I saw in her eyes some exhaustion—but I also saw the desire to not give up.
As Lissa and I listened to her, we wanted to know how we could help her during this time.
Lissa asked her, “What is it that you need most right now?”
Without hesitation, Laura replied, “Hope.” She nodded, as if agreeing with herself. She looked back up at us. “I just need to remember the hope I have.”
I decided in that moment that for the rest of the semester, I would send Laura a bible verse about hope as often as I could. There is no shortage of verses about hope in the Bible, so I chose several that I thought could encourage Laura. I wrote them on pretty paper that I borrowed from my roommate and then dropped them in Laura’s campus mailbox, week after week.
It was the least I could do. And I think it boosted me with hope as much as it did for her.
The author of Hebrews says in 6:19 that “We have this hope as an anchor for our souls.” If I asked you today, “What is it that you need the most right now?” Would you respond like Laura? Would you say “hope”?
I think of us as having two levels of hope. There’s the major hope, in which we have hope that we will have eternal life through Jesus, and we have hope that Jesus will one day return for His bride (which is the Church).
Then on another level you can be confident in the hope that…
When we are confident in our hope in God, we can continue to live by faith instead of shrinking back.
2.) Assurance of What We Do Not See
In my book in chapter 23, “Money, Money, Money, Tomorrow,” I talk about how it can sometimes feel scary to trust God more than I trust my bank account because “I can see the numbers in my bank statement, and I can see the green dollar bills in my hand, but I can’t see God.” But I think that’s what faith means: having assurance in an unseen God.
I believe Christians are called to be aware of the unseen. But sometimes life feels blurry…. In 1 Corinthians 13:12, the Apostle Paul describes for us how we cannot see the mysteries of God and life on this side of heaven:
“Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me completely” (NLT).
It’s difficult when we don’t see and understand the reasons why things happen in our lives. Yet the LORD allows us to see enough. Consider this:
Paying attention to the ways God works in our lives helps us to have an assurance of what we do not yet see. And when we have assurance of what we do not see, we can continue to live by faith and not shrink back.
P.S. I'll give an update soon on my book sales! It's been so fun to finally have you guys read it! :)
Mary works at Brookville Road Community Church, where she leads children's ministry and women's ministry. She is the author of She Won't Shrink Back: A Story of Building & Believing.