(Superiority of Faith - and the Hall of Fame)

December 19th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

- Hebrews 11:3 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

The author concludes his letter to the Hebrews by describing the superiority of faith. He begins chapter 11 by defining faith and then illustrating the definition with examples from the Hebrew Scriptures:

In chapter 12 the author focuses on the importance of discipline, which leads to righteousness and peace – true peace in which the people are in harmony with God and each other. He also advises them to not refuse God, but instead to be thankful. The well-known opening and closing verses from this chapter are shown below:

In the final chapter the author encourages the Hebrews to love and encourage each other and do what is right. He concludes by asking for their prayers.

Reflection and Application

The book of Hebrews is like a newspaper op-ed column that encourages the audience to become mature Christians. Chapter 11 of this book is often referred to as the Biblical Hall of Fame because the author lists, describes, and praises the men and women who best upheld the standards of faith. It’s worth noting that even the all-time all-stars are flawed. Abraham lied on more than one occasion (for example when he represented his wife as his sister), Jacob was known as the deceiver and his son Joseph was prone to self-centeredness and a condescending attitude when he was young (although his brothers gave him a lesson that he never forgot).

We can be encouraged by these flawed Hall-of-Famers. We might find ourselves looking in the mirror from time to time and asking ourselves what could a wretch like me possible do for the all-powerful God? But we ought to look at the stories of these folks and consider how God used them despite or because of their weakness.

In a sermon on December 4th, 2011, the Rev. Sam Schreiner reminded his audience that “Faith is more about the strength of what you believe in then the strength of your faith. Even a weak faith in a strong object will make a big difference in our lives.” Schreiner reflected on the first two verses of chapter 11 and noted that faith is not just wishful thinking but is the confidence in the thing we believe in, which may or may not be visible. He noted that history has been made by people who believed in something they could not see. In addition to the members of the Biblical Hall of Fame he pointed out the vision of more contemporary leaders, such as Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King. Schreiner also observed that believers make better transformational leaders because they can see beyond the current state of affairs. Therefore, he encouraged his congregation to “respond to what we know and follow our faith (1).”

These are all good points. We could use some transformational leaders in the new year who can see beyond our current state. Some leaders like this may appear on a national or international stage, but we also need them on a local level, in our cities and towns and businesses and churches and homes. We need leaders who listen to the voice and wisdom of God in order to foresee problems before they arise and construct solutions that reflect justice and mercy for all. Each of us can be a leader within our own sphere by following our faith and doing what is right, even when “everyone else” is going the other way. We might find that there is a lot of those “everyones” who would rather follow another path but don’t have the courage to lead.

I would like to add Joseph, the husband of Mary to the Hall of Fame. Consider the strength of his faith to believe in something that had never happened before. His young fiancé suddenly became pregnant and claims it was by a divine power. No one in his right logical mind would buy that tall tale, but Joseph had a heart that was open to the word of God and put his faith in something he could not possibly comprehend. He accepted his role of the father of this special family and listened to God’s guidance to protect his family after the birth of Jesus by emigrating to Egypt in advance of a massive slaughter of babies.

Lastly, remember that no leader is flawless, and all leaders need help. The first place to look for help is to Heaven. Joseph accepted help in the form of divine guidance. The author of Hebrews models this humility in his concluding statements when he asks for prayers. We too should be humble and realistic enough to ask for help from the people we work with and to ask others to pray for us.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Who is one of your favorite secular Hall of Fame honorees in music, sports, or other arenas?
    2. What would you say was the criteria for the Hall of Fame members listed in chapter 11?
    3. How would you explain Christian faith to a friend?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, help us to believe in what we cannot see and to be encouraged by the strength of that in which we believe, encouraged by the cloud of witnesses before us.

    Prayer Concern
    New Fathers


    (1) Schreiner, the Rev. Sam, “Believing is Seeing,” Hebrews 11:1-2, Noroton Presbyterian Church, Darien, CT, December 4th, 2011

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Overview of the Book of James and study of James 1-5 (Quick to Listen)

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