This morning I had the opportunity to read the Bible aloud for the congregation during worship. The passage I read was Hebrews 11:1-19. Over the last few days I read it aloud at home several times, so that I would be somewhat familiar with it and not stumble over any words or phrases as I read. As I did this preparation I found that one phrase, verse 4b, just seemed to linger in mind when I was done reading. It says,
“And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks.”
In looking back to the first part of the verse we see that the author is talking about Abel, whose offering to God in Genesis 4, was found acceptable by God. The intent of the author of Hebrews is that Abel, who has been dead a very long time, continues to “speak” to people of his faith in God. In making his offering he demonstrates that the giving of our best back to God is something that pleases God.
The fuller reading that I did mentions a number of other people from the Old Testament who had faith in God, including Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob. Each one of them was long-dead at the time Hebrews was written, and none of them were perfect models of holy living, and yet each of them, in their own way, continues to bear witness to God.
And that brought this question to my mind:
Who are the people whose lives have testified to their faith and whose examples still speak to me?
Here is one example.
In 1986 or ’87 I had a brief acquaintance with a woman named Trudy. I don’t recall how it came up that she was a Christian but in conversation one day she mentioned that she was going to be praying with another person that day. Again, I don’t recall the specifics, or the timeline, of our discussions over 2-3 days but she knew that I wasn’t a Christian, at least not in anything but the most nominal sense. And the fact is that my faith was so nominal that I didn’t even know it.
As she went off to meet this other person for prayer Trudy said that she “would pray for me.” I don’t recall my response but I do recall what I thought, which was “Whatever. Suit yourself.” The circumstances that brought us briefly together changed and I never saw Trudy again.
Moving forward in time, to October, 2000, God worked powerfully in my life, and faith in him became a real thing, something that remains so today. In the intervening 11 years I have occasionally looked back on my life, to the times before the fall of 2000, and seen places where God had been evident in the circumstances of my life but I was completely inattentive and disinterested. The brief connection with Trudy is one of them.
I have no idea how long she prayed for me, whether it was just that one day or if it became an ongoing prayer of hers. I like to think that she carried on and prayed in the manner that C.S. Lewis describes in Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. Lewis wrote that he was often uncertain how long he should carry a particular prayer concern, but that he was certain that any particular day was not the day to stop praying for that concern.
Trudy was one of those people whose name belongs aside all of the others of Hebrews 11. She was a person who bore faithful witness to her Lord and Savior, and by whose example God continues to speak to me today.
Throughout history there have been people with faith in God, people who have given witness of that faith to those around them. Some of their names are in the Bible, such as the ones I mentioned above. Others are in the history books, such as Augustine, Luther, Calvin and Bonhoeffer. And still others are in the pews, sitting next to us each Sunday.
Who has God placed in your life to shape your faith?
And through you, who is God speaking to?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.