Who makes your list? When we look at Hebrews 11, we are seeing a list of the people this first century Christian preacher thought were the best examples of faith. Today, our ‘the greatest’ list might include someone from the Olympics, like Micheal Phelps, or a past sport legend like Mohammed Ali. I don’t have any sports people on my personal list. I have the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and the singer Paul Simon, who captured my definition for a hero with the lyrics, “When I run dry, I’ll stop a while and think of you.” The Hebrew 11 list is short on architects and sports icons, but it does include the walls of Jericho, Sampson the demolisher of temples, and David who danced half-naked before the Lord (not yet an olympic sport).
The list contains surprises. Unlike our “greatest” lists, it lifts up families and groups of people. You have Abraham and Sarah. Moses’ parents and the anonymous women, who like those under the Egyptian genocide, received children back from the dead. Faith is not the province of the rare individual. To be great in faith does not require one to have an exceptional constitution. Those on the list may not have known that they were doing anything remarkable. They were not put on olympic platforms and given metals. Some were put to death. Others lived their whole lives under persecution for their faith. Many wandered through trackless wildernesses or ended their days in prison cells.
We see opportunity in the Hebrew 11 list. Those of faith are like us. The odds are always in our favor. Consider this, the whole nation of God’s people made the list when it talks about the Exodus and crossing the Red Sea on dry ground.
And then we get to Rahab the Harlot (Hebrews 11:31). It’s not just that she’s a prostitute. She welcomes spies. She’s a traitor to her country. What Hebrews is telling us is that faith is not seen in the greatness of ones accomplishments. It is seen in having a heart open to God and committed to doing what you have discerned during your prayers.
When you hear the word faith bantered about today, it is usually referring to someone who has faith in themselves — the athlete who knows that if they train hard they can get the gold — but Hebrews doesn’t go there. Hebrews says that faith is all about our relationship with God. All of us at some time are going to come to a crossroads where what people say is the good and heroic thing to do will be flat out opposite of what our hearts are telling us is right. This will be our opportunity to make the list.
See also: A Race of Ones Own