Summary: Go For the Gold: Becoming a Spiritual Champion. This is the 1st of 4 on an Olympics theme. Many sources were used including several on Sermon Central
Go For the Gold: Becoming a Spiritual Champion
A great stadium is filled with earlier spiritual champions is the scene the writer of Hebrews paints to encourage you in your efforts. His challenge to “Remember the Crowd” is effective if you know something about who these spectators are. This Sunday we’ll remember many people of faith that have gone before us are part of a great crowd watching us. You are part of a rich tradition with many heroes of the faith.
Remember the Great Crowd of Witnesses
Hebrews 12:1 (NIV)
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses,…”
There were the Ancients
What we see is a moving sea of people – of which a few are mentioned in the previous chapter – Hebrews 11
There were the ancients like Abel who worshiped God from his heart. There was Enoch who walked with God in such intimate fellowship that he never died he just went home with God one day.
There was Noah who worked for God to build a way for humanity to be saved.
There was Abraham who obeyed God and Sarah who laughed and then faithfully submitted herself to God.
There was Isaac who followed in his father’s footsteps and lived faithfully before God.
There was Jacob, the cheater, who wrestled with God, and was both crippled and changed by God from a slippery conniver to a prince among men.
There was Joseph who trusted God even when falsely accused rape and left in jail to rot away.
There was Moses who represented God and shepherded his people even when he considered himself unworthy to stand in His presense.
There was Rahab, a prostitute, who stood up for God and protected his people in spite of the dangers.
There were many, many more
32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.
There were many, many others the Others
“…Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. 37 They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground.”
Some were great. Some were not. Some shouldn’t be on this list with the others.
When we think of their names, we think of lives filled with power and faith. It’s easy to see why they were spiritual champions. It’s not so easy with some of the others like Sarah, who laughed in God’s face when he answered her prayer for a child or Jacob, whose name means "deceiver".
Rahab was a prostitute – That’s like saying a Las Vegas showgirl was a great woman of faith!
And what about Gideon who couldn’t find the courage to follow God’s leading until it was proved again and again?
Barak is mentioned and here is a man who was afraid to go to battle unless Deborah – a godly woman judge – stood by his side.
In the surface, it’s hard for me to understand why God would lead Paul to point them out to us as a great crowd of witnesses to encourage and inspire.
They sure don’t look like champions to me! But then again let us consider…
It isn’t how much faith you have…
God doesn’t grade your faith by objective standards. God doesn’t say, "Everyone has to make an "A" in "Faith 101" in order to be included in the book.”
God doesn’t say to Barak, "David will such a greater man than you...He was a king, you were a coward…you’re off the list!"
God doesn’t say, “I’m going to compare you to every other believer here this morning, and call 2 or 3 of you faithful.”
God doesn’t grade our faith by objective standards. Now, I’m not talking about obedience to His Word. Sin is sin…right is right…wrong is wrong! I’m talking about how much faith we have, not how moral our habits are.
The reason that Abraham and David appear on the same list as Rahab and Barak is that God judges our faith individually.
• He looks at where we began our walk of faith.
• He looks at what obstacles each one of us has faced.