“On Faith” is a series I have been doing at our church’s after school program for Middle and High School students. This week I covered Hebrews 11:29-31.
I began by asking the students, “What is an action that requires boldness?” My favorite answer was this: “Taking on Chuck Norris.” In fact, most of the answers had to do with combat, which is not surprising considering that our after school program has skewed largely to adolescent boys – a fact I contribute to the general awesomeness of the male leaders.
Then I asked, “What is something we do in following Jesus that requires boldness?” The answers were decidedly less violent this time around but still (for teenagers anyway) require a fair amount of courage: Standing up for God when no one else is. Waiting to have sex before marriage. Standing up for someone who is being picked on. Witnessing. Etc.
Interestingly, the stories related in yesterday’s Talk Time had more to do with the answer to the first question than the second – they were stories about battle. But they were also stories about faith, obedience, and courage.
The three stories in Hebrews 11:29-31 all hold together because of their common theme of Israel’s ultimate conquest of the Promised Land. They are also stories of increasing boldness.
The first story is about Israel crossing the Red Sea. The initial response of the Israelites, when the Egyptians approached, was actually fear, not courage, doubt, not faith. God intervened, however, and ultimately turned their fear into faith. Hebrews says that they passed through “by faith.” Still, it’s kind of hard to characterize running away as boldness.
We see boldness more obviously in the story of the fall of Jericho. Here, it’s a smaller group – just Joshua and the armed men. Their actions, walking around the city of Jericho and raising a shout, certainly required faith because, from a human perspective, that’s just no way to take down a city. The boldness here comes from the sheer strangeness of their actions. It comes from doing something conventional wisdom (or peers) say is weird – trusting God.
The third story is the most obvious picture of boldness in faith. It precedes the Jericho story because it’s about one of the citizens of Jericho – Rahab. Rahab demonstrated boldness when she put her life on the line to protect the Israelite spies. She did this because she knew it was actually more perilous for her to oppose the people of God than to risk her life before the officials of the city. Because she spared the lives of the spies, they spared hers and she went down in history as one of the great examples of faith.
There is an interesting observation to be made here about increasing boldness and decreasing numbers. The “least bold” action came from the largest group (the nation of Israel running away from the Egyptians) and the “most bold” action (at least in my estimation) came from a single individual.
Craig Groeschel in Altar Ego (just reviewed) devotes a full one-third of his book to boldness (bold behavior, bold prayers, bold words, bold obedience) and he regularly draws the connection between faith and boldness. He says, for instance, in the chapter on bold words, “You speak boldly about what you believe deeply.” Faith always leads to boldness. Godly boldness (as opposed to human arrogance or recklessness) always comes from deep faith. If you want to be bold, live by faith.