Hebrews 11 is one of the most remarkable chapters in the Bible. It’s commonly called the “faith chapter” because it summarizes the trials and triumphs of many biblical figures—men and women of great faith. These men and women put their trust in God to be with them and deliver them through all kinds of crises, some life-threatening. Their stories are filled with help and hope—especially for those going through trials (and if you’re not going through trials at the moment, tomorrow is just around the corner!).
The list of heroes in this chapter begins with Abel, son of Adam and Eve, who by faith “brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did.” His offering “gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts.” And “although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith” (verse 4, New Living Translation throughout).
Outstanding among those listed in this chapter is Abraham. Here’s the summary of his story: “It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents . . . Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God” (verses 8-10).
Abraham’s story spans 14 chapters of the book of Genesis. God told him to leave the city that had been his family home for generations and journey to the land of Canaan, the area of modern-day Israel. Abraham obeyed and became a wandering stranger in that foreign land.
His life was one of many ups and downs. He was often close to God, yet at times he relied more on himself, bringing great troubles on him and those closest to him. But most important, through it all he trusted in God and believed God’s promises. Through a lifetime of wandering through a distant land, he was, as we just saw, “confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” His hope, vision and goal was the Kingdom of God.
His wife Sarah was also an example of faith. Verses 11-12 tell us: “It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise. And so a whole nation came from this one man who was as good as dead—a nation with so many people that, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, there is no way to count them.” Like Abraham, “she believed that God would keep his promise.” That belief in God’s promises kept them going through a long life of facing challenges and problems.
Abraham’s example was the pattern for other biblical heroes of faith, which is why he’s often referred to as “the father of the faithful.” Others followed in his footsteps—Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, the biblical prophets and many more.
Through faith they accomplished great things—they “subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (verses 33-34).
But at times things didn’t go so well. “Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented—of whom the world was not worthy” (verses 36-38).
Regardless of how things went for them in this life, “these all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (verse 13). All were like Abraham in this regard. They all knew that life in this world wasn’t the goal or the end of the story. They looked for “a better, that is, a heavenly country,” and “therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them” (verse 16).
We find great lessons in this when we’re dealing with the trials of life. Regardless of how bleak and discouraging things may seem, we have a God who loves us and wants only the best for us (Romans 8:28). His desire is that we all be part of His Kingdom (Luke 12:32).
Look to these examples and hold fast to these words of hope as you deal with life in these troubled times!