I share this verse in a lot of different contexts and also reflect on it a lot in my own personal walk with God. This idea of entering into the exercise of faith is both a challenge and opportunity. How have I lived? What has been my legacy? Let me now expand this out to the church. We may not be ancient here at GBC but we have been around now for over 50 years and many years before that. How have we lived? What has been the legacy of this place?
For both of us I hope it’s this: living by faith!
After the writer of Hebrews wrote this verse he recounted some of the giants of the faith, people like Abraham and Noah but then he pauses and inserts these verses:
13All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance… 14People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. 15If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. 16Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Faith is often an overused but misunderstood word. It means essentially to relinquish trust in ourselves and give it over to another. Faith, as the text shows, is the medium by how God makes himself known-it moves mountains, heals the sick, changes the course of people’s lives...and it is the means of entrance into the kingdom of heaven. Faith then at it cores is faith in Jesus Christ as the son of God who makes us come alive!
Here’s what I believe the text to be saying to me and anyone else reading it: God does want us to remember our heritage. Yes we learn from it, but it’s there to launch us to greater acts of faith going forward not to rest complacently. This is a call to ACTION!
What is the best legacy we can leave? We see that in verse 16-God was not ashamed of them. Why wasn’t he? What can we learn from these heroes of faith we can apply to our lives? We see:
1. They were never satisfied
They kept seeking a deeper relationship with God. It’s not that things are bad, they just wanted all that God had for them. Christians are made to climb mountains, not sit on them! So let’s go after everything God has for us.
2. They never lost hope
The promises of God are not always realized in this life. They can be confusing and cause people to walk away and become disillusioned. It takes a step of faith. They never gave up. We should live by faith not by sight [2 Cor.5:7], so let’s not get discouraged, stick with it and see God move.
3. They never looked back
We sometimes get a sense of nostalgia looking back, longing for the “good old days”. As with them we should renounce the desire to go back to the way things were settling for the past. The good old days are still ahead! It’s great to reflect and celebrate, but let’s not get bogged down and mired in it- let’s keep pushing ahead, bearing fruit and planting shade trees we’ll never sit under.
How would I sum up? Faith is often translated into the acrostic: Forsaking All I Trust Him. That’s what it means to live by faith. God is definitely not ashamed of those who live this way! The past is important as a measure (trust me, I’m a historian I get this) but it shouldn’t be a pair of handcuffs. May we instead look to build our own legacy, cause a ripple in the pond, longing to see the Lord work marvelously in OUR age and may we be found faithful!